Diver: Tank cleaning could prevent water trouble

A Farmington water storage tank cleaner says frequent cleaning is necessary to prevent boil-water advisories

Hannah Grover, hgrover@daily-times.com
Russ Caskey, with contractor JCH, works July 22 on a new pump station for the Morningstar water system.
  • Bill Donahue of CW Divers says he found several inches of sediment in Morningstar water system tanks.
  • The Harvest Gold water system may not have been treated over the past few months.
  • The American Water Works Association recommends cleaning tanks every three to five years.








FARMINGTON — The owner of a Farmington company that cleans water storage tanks around the Southwest says regular tank cleaning could help prevent boil-water advisories.

Bill Donahue, owner of CW Divers, said frequent tank cleanings are essential to prevent sediment building up in the systems.

"If you have a good, clean tank, you have good, clean water," Donahue said. "That's what it boils down to."

Donahue was one of the tank divers who cleaned the AV Water Co.'s Morningstar water system's tanks in August as part of system flushing operation that helped get a four-months-long boil-water advisory lifted. The boil-water advisory was triggered by high levels of turbidity, which is a measurement of the cloudiness of the water.

Connecting to the city of Farmington's water system allowed the company to abandon its water treatment plant, and Souder Miller & Associates flushed the lines. During the flushing process, CW Divers cleaned the tanks.

Donahue said there are few regulations requiring companies to clean their water tanks. Donahue said he found several inches of sediment at the bottom of Morningstar's tanks.

"They were certainly in need of cleaning," he said.

Donahue said the sediment in the bottom of the tanks had the potential to grow bacteria, which would require additional treatment. As additional chlorine is added to treat the water, the levels of total haloacetic acids and total trihalomethanes increase.

In fact, the Morningstar system shows violations for total haloacetic acids and total trihalomethanes, according to the New Mexico Environment Department's website. The most recent violation occurred in July.


Donahue said the sediment in the tanks could have led to turbidity issues in the system, which prompted the advisory.

"You'll never get the distribution system clean until the storage tank is clean," he said.

He said the frequency of tank-cleaning operations depends on the system. If there is a lot of iron manganese present, the tank may need to be cleaned yearly. He said a system should not go more than five years without a tank cleaning. The American Water Works Association, which has guidelines for water systems, recommends cleaning tanks every three to five years.

AV Water attorney Germaine Chappelle said the tanks were inspected a couple of years ago, but she does not know if they were cleaned.

Donahue said August was the first time in more than two decades that he had been asked to clean the water storage tanks for AV Water, and he has never cleaned the tanks in the company's other water system, Harvest Gold.

It is unclear whether the Harvest Gold subdivision's drinking water has been being treated over the past couple of months.

Chappelle said when the other water system, known as Morningstar, was placed into receivership due to AV Water not paying off a loan, all the employees, equipment and supplies needed to maintain Harvest Gold's system were taken away.

While the operator had intended to continue working at Harvest Gold on a volunteer basis, he was later told he could not, Chappelle said.

 A couple of weeks ago, Chappelle learned that no operator had been working on the Harvest Gold system. She said she contacted the New Mexico Environment Department and worked to find an operator. A New Mexico Rural Water Association operator evaluated the system last week, Chappelle said.

The water company has been providing residents with bottled water after being ordered to do so by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Chappelle said the PRC also has issued an order preventing the company from collecting bill payments, which has placed a financial strain on the company.

Chappelle said AV Water is committed to getting its assets transferred to a newly formed operator, the Apple Orchard Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association, which is made up of residents of the subdivision.

"We really need to get the transfer done so that we can make progress on all the other issues," she said.

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