Future uncertain for Harvest Gold water system

Blanco Mutual Domestic Water Users Association sent a letter to the PRC highlighting concerns its board has with taking operational control of the Harvest Gold water system

Hannah Grover
The Harvest Gold subdivision, as seen Sept. 2, east of Bloomfield is still under a boil advisory.
  • Blanco MDWUA is concerned with taking operational control of the Harvest Gold water system.
  • Funding received to connect Harvest Gold to Bloomfield cannot be used on a private system.
  • The PRC will discuss Harvest Gold's water system during a public hearing Wednesday in Santa Fe.

FARMINGTON — Residents of the Harvest Gold subdivision east of Bloomfield have been on a boil water advisory for more than 230 days, and there is no sign of it being lifted soon.

The advisory, which was sparked by high turbidity levels, prompted the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to launch an investigation. One possible solution would be connecting to another water system, such as the nearby Blanco Mutual Domestic Water Users Association. Last week, the PRC issued an order scheduling a public hearing for Wednesday about Blanco taking operational control of the water system, which is currently owned by AV Water Co.

In a letter dated Monday, Larry Martinez, board president of the Blanco association, informed the PRC it cannot take operational control of Harvest Gold until various concerns are addressed.

By transferring operational control to Blanco, the PRC hoped to get customers off the boil water advisory as soon as possible. Blanco was awarded $85,000 in state funds to build a pipeline connecting Harvest Gold to Bloomfield. The pipeline has been referred to as an immediate fix that would later be followed by a permanent solution that would connect Harvest Gold into Blanco's system.

However, Blanco's general manager and operator Lloyd Ayliffe said this will not be possible as long as AV Water owns the system. He said Blanco will not be able to take ownership of the system until certain steps are taken that will ensure fixing the Harvest Gold system will not compromise Blanco's existing system.

"Those people need help, but I don't know how we can do it," Ayliffe said.

One reason Blanco cannot take operational power of the system and build the pipeline is that AV Water is a private water company.

"We went, we got the grant and everything, but we can't spend that money on private property," Ayliffe said.

He said Blanco would also need to have funds in place for both parts of the project, including connecting Harvest Gold to Blanco, before it agreed to take over the Harvest Gold water system.

While the immediate fix is funded, the second part of the project does not have funding and is estimated to cost between $400,000 and $500,000. Ayliffe said Blanco is a small water system that cannot afford to take out loans or spend that much money. The San Juan County Commission has approved reauthorizing capital outlay funds to pay for the project, but the governor and state Legislature will have to approve the request. Ayliffe said that process could mean Blanco would not be able to start work on the connection until 2018.

Blanco stated in its letter that it is concerned about operating a system that is not in compliance with New Mexico Environment Department regulations.

"The Blanco Water System is willing to take on the Harvest Gold Water System, but would only be able to do so if the system can be funded to return it to an operational and compliant system," Martinez stated in the letter.

Ayliffe said there are also mortgage and lien issues with the Harvest Gold system that could prevent Blanco from taking ownership from AV Water.

The letter states Blanco would prefer to have AV Water out of the Harvest Gold system "as soon and as much as possible" and that AV Water would need to continue to pay for Cascade Bottled Water Co. to deliver water to each Harvest Gold residence.

AV Water contracted with Cascade in December to deliver bottled water to Harvest Gold residents. AV Water and Cascade representatives confirmed deliveries are still taking place.

The PRC will meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday  in Santa Fe. The meeting can be viewed live online at nmprc.state,nm.us.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.