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The emergency order says AV Water Co. has not made enough progress in restoring safe drinking water to Harvest Gold customers

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FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Environment Department has announced it will fine AV Water Co., the operator of the Harvest Gold Drinking Water System, for every day past state-imposed deadlines that the company is not in compliance.

The environment department announced today that it has issued an emergency order because of the company's lack of progress in restoring safe drinking water to Harvest Gold customers, according to a press release from the NMED. The emergency order was signed and issued Friday, according to department spokeswoman Allison Scott Majure.

The emergency order imposes a $1,000 per day penalty on AV Water for each of the NMED directives that is not accomplished by deadline.

Those fines would be in addition to the $676,000 the company currently owes in penalties for 15 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act that NMED officials discovered earlier this summer, according to the press release. Two of the violations date back to a 2015 inspection that found five significant deficiencies, according an administrative compliance order issued alongside the emergency order. The other violations were found during an inspection on June 2.

AV Water attorney Germaine Chappelle said crews are working on upgrading Harvest Gold's pressure filter. She said customers may be without water during the process, and residents with reverse osmosis filters should take them offline while crews are working.

Chappelle said turbidity levels in the Harvest Gold system are currently 0.32 Nephelometric Turbidity Units. The drinking water requirements are 0.3 NTU.

"We are very close to being in compliance," she said.

Harvest Gold customers, who live in a small subdivision between Bloomfield and Blanco, have been on a boil water advisory since the first week of June due to high turbidity levels in their water.

A boil water advisory was issued the same day for the AV Water's Morningstar system. An NMED inspection discovered 29 violations in the Morningstar system, which serves Crouch Mesa.

The boil water advisory for Morningstar was lifted earlier this month after AV Water connected to Farmington's system and shut down its water treatment plant. Prior to the interconnection to Farmington, NMED issued two emergency orders for the system in June and July.

Majure said an emergency order for Harvest Gold was not issued at the same time because the two systems had different issues, and the interconnection to Farmington was available for Morningstar.

She said NMED officials thought AV Water would address the sufficient deficiencies identified in the Harvest Gold system during a June 2 inspection. But when AV Water did not show adequate progress, the emergency order was issued, Majure said. She said the interconnection to Bloomfield was the key factor in the emergency order.

As of Sept. 2, the Morningstar system had $131,000 in fines levied against it, according to NMED documents.

While the Morningstar system is no longer on the boil water advisory, it still has to address several of the 29 significant deficiencies found in the system during a June 2 inspection. The inspection also found 21 significant deficiencies in the Harvest Gold system.

The emergency order for Harvest Gold sets several deadlines and requirements including:

  • AV Water must replace the "leaking and corroded" 210,000-gallon water storage tank with an approved tank. Engineering plans and specifications for the new tank must be submitted to NMED by Oct. 7. After the NMED Drinking Water Bureau approves the plans, the company will have 45 days to get the new tank operating. 
  • The company is required to complete construction on an interconnection to the city of Bloomfield. The interconnection engineering plans must be submitted to the Drinking Water Bureau by Oct. 14. After the bureau approves the plans, AV Water will have 45 days to complete the connection and begin pumping water from Bloomfield to the Harvest Gold customers.
  • After the interconnection is complete, AV Water must disconnect the drinking water system from the Harvest Gold subdivision surface water treatment plant.
  • AV Water must submit a distribution system sampling plan and a system flushing plan to the Drinking Water Bureau by Nov. 10.
  • Within three days of completion of the new storage tank and the interconnection to Bloomfield, AV Water must have an approved independent third party flush the system. Within three days of that, a third party must take water samples from various locations within the Harvest Gold system.
  • AV Water is required to send out at least weekly public notifications to Harvest Gold customers. These notifications must include information about the status of the boil water advisory, storage tank replacement, Bloomfield interconnection and disconnection of the current water treatment plant.
  • AV Water must coordinate with the city of Bloomfield to prevent negatively impacting Bloomfield customers while constructing the interconnection.

"All New Mexicans need and deserve access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water," said Environment Department Cabinet Secretary Butch Tongate in the NMED press release. "Harvest Gold’s continued intransigence in restoring their water system’s Safe Drinking Water Act compliance is unacceptable. The department will continue to hold Harvest Gold accountable, as well as doing all we can to ensure that the more than 500 users are as informed as possible."

Chappelle said the company has been working to fix the identified problems with the system. She added some of the issues NMED has identified may be fixed by connecting to Bloomfield’s system.

"All we can continue to do is work hard to fix the issues," Chappelle said.

Bloomfield City Manager Eric Strahl confirmed AV Water has been in preliminary talks with Bloomfield about the interconnection.

“We don’t have any problem with helping out in that regard,” Strahl said.

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

Harvest Gold water system violations and fines

Water storage tank: $150,000 fine for holes caused by rust, bullet holes and leaks plugged with sticks at a water storage tank

Raw water storage pond: $240,000 fine for overgrown vegetation

Plumbing: $31,000 fine for a cross connection that could cause raw water to contaminate treated water

Labeling: $24,000 fine for inadequate labeling of chemical tanks, which could lead to the wrong chemicals being used to treat water and a $24,000 fine for not labeling all pipes and lines to display what type of water is in the pipe or line and which direction the water is flowing

Record keeping: $13,000 for not properly calibrating equipment to test turbidity and chlorine, and document levels at required intervals

Measurements: $13,000 for not properly calibrating and maintaining equipment that analyzes chlorine, and not reporting the lowest daily concentration of chlorine on a monthly report

Backwash: $24,000 fine for not having proper and consistent criteria to monitor backwashing of two pressure filters

Monitoring: $24,000 fine for not properly monitoring turbidity, as well as inadequate record keeping and reporting

Turbidity: $24,000 fine for not having equipment that continuously monitors turbidity levels and not providing daily downloaded turbidity readings

Leaking infrastructure: $24,000 fine for not submitting documentation of repairing leaking ports and connections on the pressure filters

Chlorine: $24,000 fine for not submitting documentation showing the residual chlorine levels in drinking water entering the system were consistently measuring at least 0.2 milligrams per liter

Equipment: $24,000 fine for not providing documentation of turbidity and chlorine monitoring after installing new equipment

Data: $24,000 fine for not providing documentation verifying daily temperature and pH monitoring

Monthly report: $13,000 fine for not submitting an operating report for August

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