Water system customers experience another outage

Conditions at troubled Harvest Gold treatment plant lead to interruptions in service

Hannah Grover
Filters at the Harvest Gold water treatment plant in the Harvest Gold subdivision east of Bloomfield have become clogged, leading to another disruption in service for customers.
  • Water service in the Harvest Gold subdivision has gone out several times over the past few months.
  • Residents of the subdivision have been on a boil-water advisory since June.
  • The system's former operator helped restore service after a disruption in April.

FARMINGTON — As temperatures climbed during the first weekend of May, residents of the Harvest Gold subdivision once again found themselves without water.

Apple Orchard Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association board chairman Ammon Burton said the filters at the treatment plant have become clogged, and the pump overworked and tripped the breaker. The newly formed Apple Orchard is negotiating with the AV Water Co. to take over ownership of the Harvest Gold water system.

Customers of the Harvest Gold water system have been on a boil-water advisory since June due to high turbidity levels. Turbidity is used to measure the cloudiness of the water.

While the water service has gone out on several occasions over the past few months, representatives of the New Mexico Rural Water Association, which has been helping the troubled Harvest Gold system, decided not to work on the water treatment plant during a visit Tuesday.

"It's such a mess that if he tried to do any work on it, it would just fall apart, and we would be out of water completely," Burton said.

New Mexico Rural Water Association Executive Director Bill Conner said the water treatment plant is in bad condition.

"Our involvement is just trying to make sure they have water at least to flush their toilets," Conner said.

Conner said Harvest Gold residents will still need to boil water and drink bottled water until their system is connected to the city of Bloomfield's infrastructure, and the boil-water advisory is lifted.

A rural water association officials says the Harvest Gold water treatment plant is in such bad condition that his group is simply trying to make sure residents have enough water to flush their toilets.

The city of Bloomfield received money from the state to build a connection to the Harvest Gold water system, but it cannot spend the money to build the connection until ownership of the infrastructure is transferred from AV Water to Apple Orchard. AV Water attorney Germaine Chappelle said she spoke to Apple Orchard's attorney, and she believes the two entities soon will come to an agreement for the transfer of the assets. That transfer ultimately will have to be approved by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

In the meantime, Burton said some options for the Harvest Gold system include installing temporary pipes or hauling water to the tanks. But the only access to the tanks is a rough dirt road that crosses board treasurer Peggy Hogan's property.

When the water service was out at the beginning of the month, Apple Orchard managed to restore it prior to a visit by representatives of the rural water association. The mutual domestic consulted with the system's former level three operator, Jose Grijalva, to restore the service.

AV Water fired Grijalva from his position in October after a New Mexico Environment Department report alleged he had falsified turbidity readings. Grijalva said he was using equipment that did not properly work because the company had not bought new machines, despite his warnings that it could lead to compliance issues.

Despite no longer working for AV Water, Grijalva said he knew something needed to be done for residents. Because he practically built the system, he said he knew how to fix it and restore water to the residents.

"I've been taking care of them for 30 some years, and I'm still helping people," Grijalva said when reached by phone Friday.

Grijalva said he received a phone call from residents who were without water, which prompted him to help.

"I built this place," Grijalva said. "I could show them every valve."

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