BLOOMFIELD — A $2-million project that was to provide water to the city during emergencies has become a political tennis ball between a city official and a state senator.

City Manager David Fuqua called the Second Source water project a failure and a waste of taxpayer money in a recent television interview.

"It's a poor use of tax payer money and a bad decision," he told Larry Barker, a television reporter.

State Sen. Steve Neville, who represents the area and successfully passed legislation to fund the initial part of the project, said the conclusion that the project is a failure in not accurate because the project is not complete.

"My whole point," said Neville, who obtained $500,000 for the project from the state, "is that the project wasn't finished. It was a potential project sidelined by economic forces rather than incompetence."

A report by the office of the state engineer to the Water Trust Board seems to back Neville. The report said the project is neither broken nor finished.

Second Source, the report contends, is incomplete and hampered because of a poor economy that dried up necessary funding to complete the job that would guarantee citizens of Bloomfield a reliable source of water in the event of an emergency.

One such emergency inspired the project in the first place. It started twelve years ago with a rock slide that cut off water to Blanco Irrigation Ditch, or Citizens Ditch, the city's primary source of water, and nearly emptied the city's only raw water reservoir in the process.


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Plans were drawn up and a project to supply a back-up source of water was pursued.

Because it was too expensive to pipe water six miles away from above Largo Wash, Second Source was devised as a means of collecting water from the San Juan River, and increasing water storage to 60 days supply.

When the project was first bid in 2005, the lowest bid amount of $2.5 million was greater than the million or so the city had to spend. Then, in the following year, the Environment Department issued the city a violation for insufficient turbidity standards at the water treatment plant. This cost the project both time and money, over 5 million.

By 2009, enough funding through capital outlay money was assembled and the project was rebid. Once again, the lowest bid one that only allowed for construction of major component parts of the project, the pump station and transmission piping was approved, but the scaled back bid greatly reduced the size of a diversion pond.

As a result, concerns over the diversion pond's ability to pump quality water were raised by the city's superintendent for water operations, John Eckley. High turbidity levels were a primary issue, and Eckley wanted meters installed, though funding was not available at the time.

Funding from the Water Trust Board for this phase was applied for in 2010 and to include the completion of the settling pond. But in spring 2011, Fuqua withdrew the city's application for $1.6 million to complete the final phase of the project, citing the city's unwillingness to incur more debt.

Fuqua could not be reached for comment after repeated attempted to reach him.

Currently the city's potential emergency water supply remains short of completion. The report urges implementation of the second phase of the project, which will be up to city government and the availability of funding.

"The Water Trust Board is a logical source," Neville said. "If Bloomfield asks for my help, I can try to pursue legislation in January. Things are getting a little bit better."