City has been having problem with total organic carbon for years

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BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield officials expect the city's drinking water to be in compliance with state and federal regulations this year, according to Public Works director Jason Thomas.

Thomas updated the City Council about the issues the water system has been having with total organic carbon during Monday's meeting.

Total organic carbon is a measure of the organic molecules — which are derived from living organisms — in the water. Thomas said organic carbon is found naturally in all surface water.

“It has no health effects itself,” Thomas said.

But organic carbon can be a precursor for disinfectant byproducts like trihalomethane and haloacetic acid. Trihalomethane and haloacetic acid are not dangerous in the short term, but long-term exposure can cause health problems. They are associated with the use of chlorine to disinfect water.

One way the city removes organic carbons from the water is by using a filter system. It installed new filters in 2007. The filters consist of anthracite, silica sand and garden sand. But Thomas said the filters have not been removing enough of the organic matter from the water system.

The filters only removed the required federal amount of organic carbon in eight of the 108 months from the time they were installed in 2007 through the end of 2015.

The New Mexico Environment Department issued the city a notice of violation in 2016 in regard to the situation. The NMED notice was followed by an administrative order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bloomfield has until the end of 2019 to fix the problem. It has tried various methods to address the issue, including increasing the coagulants added to the water. The coagulants are intended to make it easier to separate the organic matter from the water.

Thomas said from November until February, Bloomfield’s system met the required removal ratio of total organic carbon.

Bloomfield is not the only local system struggling with the level of total organic carbon in its water. The water systems that serve the Lee Acres and West Hammond areas also have received notices of violation from the environment department. Those two systems use water from the Lee Hammond Water Treatment Plant.

The city of Bloomfield also has been working to address high levels of trihalomethanes in the north portion of the system. Thomas described that part of the system as the area north of the “B hill,” a hill located north of City Hall adjacent to U.S. 550 with a giant B painted on it.

“We’re really close to being in compliance,” Thomas said.

He expects both the trihalomethanes and the total organic carbon issues will be resolved this year.

In other news, councilors went into closed session at the end of their Monday meeting.

They met with County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter and lawyer Germaine Chappelle to discuss the joint effort being made by local entities to prepare for the closure of the San Juan Generating Station. The local entities are working to have a united front in terms of legislation, the abandonment process in the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and the economic diversification efforts.

City Attorney Ryan Lane said city officials will continue to discuss those efforts. He said there is power in unity and “it’s an issue that affects us all.”

Members of the City Council also met in closed session with the lawyers representing Bloomfield in a lawsuit against the city of Farmington regarding the acquisition of electric utility infrastructure.

Lane said the main purpose of the closed session was to update the two new councilors and the new mayor about the case.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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