Funding sought for Harvest Gold connection

Hannah Grover
  • The Blanco Mutual Domestic Water Users Association wants to take over the Harvest Gold water system.
  • Blanco officials want the county's support in going after funding to connect Harvest Gold to their system.

AZTEC — The residents of a small subdivision east of Bloomfield have been on a boil-water advisory for 195 days, and local officials are looking for funds to help provide them with clean water.

Harvest Gold subdivision resident Peggy Hogan talks about the water tanks located above her home Oct. 11 east of Bloomfield. Customers of the troubled water system have been without clean water for much of the year.

A representative from the Blanco Mutual Domestic Water Users Association attended the San Juan County Commission meeting tonight to ask for county support in going after federal and state funds. Lloyd Ayliffe, the operator for Blanco, said the mutual domestic water users association is interested in purchasing the Harvest Gold system from the troubled AV Water Co. The Harvest Gold system is one of two systems that AV Water owns. Both systems were issued a boil-water advisory in June.

County Operations Officer Mike Stark told commissioners that residents in AV Water's Morningstar system — which serves Crouch Mesa — are now getting clean water. The boil-water advisory for Morningstar was lifted in September after that system was connected to Farmington's water system.

Blanco officials have proposed a similar solution for the Harvest Gold subdivision. They are asking the New Mexico Finance Authority for the money needed for the initial fix — the construction of a pipeline to the Bloomfield system and a pump house.

San Juan County is sending a letter to the NMFA voicing the commission's support of Blanco's request. The New Mexico Environment Department has also sent the NMFA a letter, and on Wednesday, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission passed a resolution supporting Blanco's request.

Ayliffe said Blanco also will need the county's support for the second step — applying for Community Development Block Grant funds. A mutual domestic water users association is not eligible to apply for the federal funds, but the county can.

"We need to, and we are coming together as a community," Ayliffe said prior to the meeting.

Ayliffe said Blanco officials are willing to take on the Harvest Gold system, but not if it will put the association in jeopardy. That is why they want sufficient funding in place before the system is transferred so the association can fix the Harvest Gold system.

"We don't want to throw away one system to fix another," Ayliffe told commissioners today.

If Blanco receives funding from the NMFA, Ayliffe said the construction will take one to two weeks. He said some of the factors that could lengthen that estimate include how long it will take to get a pump delivered and working with the Farmington Electric Utility System. After that connection is complete, the Harvest Gold residents will have a steady water supply from Bloomfield.

Ayliffe said the project then will enter part two, which is the connection of Harvest Gold to the Blanco transmission line that runs between Bloomfield and Blanco. That connection would allow Blanco to fully incorporate Harvest Gold into its system. The residents of Harvest Gold would be asked to pay a $25 one-time membership fee.

The Harvest Gold water treatment plant would be demolished, and its storage pond would be back filled. The rusted, corroded Harvest Gold water storage tank would be demolished, and meters at all Harvest Gold homes would be replaced.

Since Blanco officials began working to take over the system, Ayliffe said he has visited the Harvest Gold facilities on nearly a daily basis and become familiar with the system.

Prior to the meeting, he said there are multiple factors leading to high turbidity within the system.

The first problem is the water source. Harvest Gold is fed completely off the Bloomfield Irrigation Ditch. Ayliffe said that does not necessarily present a problem, except for when there is a ditch breach like the one that occurred earlier this year.

After the water goes through the head gate and into the Harvest Gold system, it enters a storage pond, which is unlined. Ayliffe said the water picks up turbidity in the earthen pond.

At that point, it enters an old treatment plant, where a coagulant is injected to remove turbidity. Ayliffe said the coagulant is injected right before the water goes through the filtration system, and there is no place for the sediment to settle out of the water.

"I don't think (Harvest Gold residents) ever had any decent water," he told commissioners.

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