Monday meeting to focus on wastewater treatment plants, pollution

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Officials involved in a recent study that found significant levels of bacteria that indicate the presence of human waste in San Juan County rivers are hosting another public outreach meeting Monday evening, this time to discuss municipal plants that discharge treated waste into rivers.

"For the most part, we don't expect wastewater treatment plants to be a real contributor" to the fecal contamination, said Melissa May, a San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District natural resource specialist.

May's organization and the San Juan Watershed Group partnered in the two-year study of the San Juan and Animas rivers, which was presented in late February, to identify land-use practices contributing to river contamination. Both are local agencies.

In 2013 and 2014, human feces bacteria was the most common bacterium at sample sites in the county. The study's results have never been found elsewhere in the state, Geoffrey Smith, a New Mexico State University professor who worked on the study, said in February.

The meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the Farmington Civic Center is intended to serve as an opportunity for the public to learn about how municipal wastewater treatment plants operate to dispel myths that the plants are contributing to the fecal pollution in the rivers, May said.

Monica Peterson, laboratory director for CH2M Hill OMI, the company contracted to monitor Farmington's wastewater treatment plant, said the plant does exceed EPA requirements for discharging salt — but that would not contribute to the river's fecal pollution.

"That's a different parameter," she said.

Peterson is one of the scheduled speakers at the meeting, which is the second of three May hopes to have.

The first meeting was in early April, and more than 30 people attended to talk about how septic systems or illegal waste dumping could be causing the fecal pollution.

The third meeting May hopes to have will be to discuss how pollution from the agricultural industry could reach the rivers. That meeting has not been scheduled.

May said the meetings are intended to help the public understand what could be polluting the rivers.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.


What: Public outreach meeting

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St.

Speakers: Barbara Cooney, with the New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau; Monica Peterson, CH2M Hill OMI laboratory director; Peter Nathanson, with the environment department drinking water bureau; and Ruben Armenta, with Bloomfield's drinking water treatment plant.