Blanco ditch undergoes algae maintenance

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — The Bloomfield Irrigation District completed routine maintenance to prevent algae growth in an irrigation ditch in Blanco on Tuesday, but the resulting discolored water drew concerns from a resident.

Priscilla Curry talks about the discolored water in an irrigation ditch next to her home in Blanco on Tuesday.

Stacy Dodd, office coordinator for the Bloomfield Irrigation District office, said the change in the appearance of the water was scheduled to last only a few hours, but the discolored water alarmed Blanco resident Priscilla Curry.

Curry said the water appeared emerald green and had a chemical odor Tuesday morning, and when she looked at the water, a couple of dead trout flowed with the current.

"You could smell it, and you could see it. … I've been here 17 years and never seen it this color," Curry said adding she worried that ditch users would use the water for agricultural and livestock purposes.

Dodd said the irrigation district office received three calls about the appearance of the water. But since the maintenance is done on a regular basis, a majority of local residents know what to expect, she said. Dodd also said the office contacts Bloomfield about the work because the ditch feeds into that town's water supply.

Discolored water runs through an irrigation ditch in Blanco on Tuesday after the water was treated with a chemical that inhibits the growth of algae.

Bloomfield City Manager Eric Strahl said city personnel were notified on Monday about the work.

"Those types of notices go to the superintendent at the water treatment plant. We received the notice yesterday, so we shut our head gates," Strahl said on Tuesday.

As part of the maintenance, the irrigation district uses Applied Biochemists Clearigate, an algaecide manufactured by the Lonza Group, to control algae production.

Bloomfield Irrigation District board chairman Andrew Dean said the chemical is not harmful to fish or livestock.

"We've been using this for years," Dean said on Tuesday.

He added the maintenance is completed three times a year, usually in May and in the summer and fall.

Blanco resident Priscilla Curry shows a photo of a dead fish she photographed Tuesday in an irrigation ditch near her home.

Both Dean and Dodd said the chemical is used because algae and moss can plug the ditch and cause uneven water flow.

"Our purpose is providing water for irrigation. We won't be putting anything in the ditch that's harmful," Dodd said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.