Hearing postponed for Harvest Gold water system

Hannah Grover
Water tanks on a hill in the Harvest Gold subdivision as seen on Monday in Bloomfield.

FARMINGTON — Days before a Public Regulation Commission hearing scheduled to determine a transfer of ownership of the Harvest Gold water system, AV Water Co. asked for and received an extension.

AV Water attorney Germaine Chappelle said the Blanco Mutual Domestic Water Users Association’s board wanted more time to consider taking over the system, which has been under a boil water advisory since the beginning of June.

She said Blanco MDWUA wants to make sure the New Mexico Environment Department will work with it toward ensuring compliance with drinking water standards if it takes over the water system located east of Bloomfield.

The hearing was initially planned for Wednesday following the PRC’s weekly meeting in Santa Fe, however it has been postponed. The date for the new hearing has not yet been set.

AV Water had already informed Harvest Gold customers about the hearing and announced plans to begin flushing pipes in the Harvest Gold subdivision to reduce high turbidity levels, which caused the boil water advisory. Miriam Browning, a resident of Harvest Gold subdivision, said an electronic sign was placed near the entrance to the subdivision letting residents know about the hearing.

The notice about the flushing and the hearing was delivered on Friday, according to Chappelle.

Robin Stephens, another resident, said he received a notice on his door either Thursday or Friday that informed him of the public meeting.

While the notice states that the company hopes to begin flushing the lines this week, Chappelle said AV Water is still awaiting NMED’s approval of the flushing plan. The environment department had not approved the plan as of this afternoon.

The subdivision’s water treatment plant has been testing within state-allowed turbidity levels for the past 20 days, according to the notice delivered to customers.

In a notice provided to Harvest Gold residents on Friday, the company said it is hopeful the boil water advisory will be lifted within the next few weeks.

The flushing plan takes into account the system's limited water storage capacity. Chappelle said the company has limited storage because the main tank was removed from operations earlier this year. That tank had holes in it that had been plugged with wooden boards.

The limited storage also led to low water pressure over the weekend.

Due to rain that raised turbidity levels in the Bloomfield Irrigation Ditch, which feeds the Harvest Gold system, AV Water closed the head gates to the pond. This meant that the residents had to rely on the limited storage and many customers reported water shortages.

When Stephens went to wash his hair at about noon Sunday, he said there was barely a trickle of water from his faucet and the water smelled rotten. When he drove to the water treatment plant, he saw a truck parked outside and people were working at the plant. A few hours later, the water was back and the smell was gone, but Stephens remains frustrated.

"It's back up and running, but it's just one more thing," he said.

Stephens said he will try to attend the PRC hearing about the transfer depending on his work schedule.

He said he is concerned about the water and how it may affect his wife, who has a compromised immune system.

"We're coming up on six months and we still don't have drinkable water," he said.

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