No violation notices mailed yet by New Mexico Environment Department

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Environment Department has not mailed violation notices to uncertified septic pumping companies operating in San Juan County despite previously saying the notices would be sent last week.

Liquid waste program manager Jim Vincent had told The Daily Times he planned to mail the violation notices to the remaining uncertified companies by the end of last week. But department spokeswoman Allison Scott Majure said in an email Wednesday the notices had not been mailed. Majure said that many septic pumpers in the county are not publicly listed, and contacting them is difficult. But Vincent expects to mail or hand deliver the violation notices next week, she said.

The Environment Department wants to contact all the septic pumpers simultaneously, which is why Vincent hasn't sent the violation notices, she said. Vincent is working with local agencies and officials to update the companies' contact information, she said.

On June 15, the Environment Department reported that only nine of the 23 septic pumping companies it had identified in the county were certified. But its initial report in mid May — that only two of the 22 companies that had been identified at that time were certified — drew a strong response from two septic company owners who were not included on that list.

Anthony Wiggins, owner of A-1 Septic, and Glenn Lanham, owner of AG Septic & Toilets, say they are certified and have been since 2013. The Daily Times has obtained copies of their certifications, both dated from 2013.

Majure said in an email Thursday that the environment department compiled the preliminary list of 22 septic pumpers from phone book listings, citizen referrals and local agencies. Since then, some septic pumpers have contacted the Environment Department to share their certification materials, she said.

"The fact that preliminary list compilation may not have captured each pumper's current status was expected and is part of the overall process of ascertaining compliance levels," she said in Wednesday's email.

The Environment Department has confirmed that Lanham is certified, but it is waiting for more paperwork from Wiggins to confirm his certification, Majure said in a phone interview Thursday. Wiggins said Thursday that he has mailed the needed application paperwork to the department.

"I've had all my ducks in the row for a long time," he said last week. "But they keep putting my stuff in the paper, making it sound like I'm a bad guy or something."

In August, a judge found Wiggins and his brother, Alex Wiggins, guilty of illegally dumping septic waste on government property on Crouch Mesa. Anthony Wiggins described the incident on Wednesday as a "big misunderstanding," saying they had only dumped gray water, not sewage.

The brothers admitted in plea agreements that they dumped "septic" waste between February 2013 and April 2013 on the land.

U.S. District Judge William Johnson ordered the brothers to pay more than $2,000 to clean the land and sentenced them each to a year of probation.

"There isn't a regulation that tells us or governs our oversight to provide differential treatment — meaning treatment different than anyone else — (to people who're) applying for certification," Majure said in a phone interview.

The Environment Department is aware of the Wiggins' brothers conviction, she said.

Vincent said in May the Environment Department has been causal in enforcing the requirement for certification since it was created in November 2011. But, he said in May, it won't be anymore, because a recent study identified significant levels of a bacteria in the San Juan and Animas rivers that indicate the presence of human feces. Leaking septic systems and illegal sewage dumping are possible pollution sources, officials associated with the study have said.

Anthony Wiggins said the Environment Department has been mismanaging the certification program.

"It's just a program they put in place in 2011 and barely now (officials are) just realizing what needs to be done," he said last week.

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