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County declares emergency after boil advisories

Brett Berntsen
bberntsen@daily-times.com
A  sign for the Animas Valley Land and Water Co. building is pictured on June 13 in Crouch Mesa.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County issued a declaration of emergency today  on behalf of the Morningstar and Harvest Gold water systems, which have been under a boil advisory for more than two weeks.

The declaration will help speed up efforts to provide affected residents treated water from the city of Farmington, according to a press release from the county's Office of Emergency Management.

The city also stated today in a press release that it has authorized an emergency agreement to provide bulk water and will vote on a long-term contract Tuesday.

The two systems, owned and operated by the AV Water company, serve about 7,000 customers in Crouch Mesa and areas outside Bloomfield.

A boil water advisory was issued on May 25 after a faulty valve recirculated dirty-looking water into customers' homes. That alert lasted six days and was lifted after tests showed the water was not contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as E. coli. Days later, however, the New Mexico Environment Department issued another advisory, which has been in place since June 3.

AV Water's Operations Manager Thomas Barrow said the company's aging treatment pant is continuing to produce cloudy water. Linking the system to the city would circumvent the problem, he said.

"This is going to be a permanent thing," Barrow said. "We're not going to be able to make repairs fast enough, and it would cost a whole lot more than the plant is worth."

During inspections on the Morningstar system, the NMED found 29 significant deficiencies that could pose a threat to public health. Inspectors found 21 at Harvest Gold. Problems included improper treatment and filtration systems, incorrectly labeled chemical tanks and a lack of operations and maintenance plans.

A connection point between AV Water and the city was established after the Gold King Mine spill. Barrow said the company is working as fast as possible to install the necessary pipes and equipment to route city water throughout its service area. He said the project is pending on engineering designs and authorization from the NMED.

The NMED provides information on how to proceed during a boil advisory on its website, env.nm.gov.

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.