Crouch Mesa water flush postponed

Brett Berntsen

FARMINGTON — The final flushing process needed to end a two-month-long boil water advisory affecting Crouch Mesa residents has been postponed.

Work continues on a water project Thursday at the Animas Valley Water Company in Crouch Mesa.

The AV Water company, which owns and operates the rural Morningstar and Harvest Gold water systems, will begin purging its pipes early next week, according to General Manager Fred Whistle. The company's nearly 7,000 customers have been under a boil advisory since May 25, due to problems at AV Water's aging treatment plant. The company has since abandoned the plant and constructed a pump station to provide customers with water from the city of Farmington. Crews must thoroughly flush all the remaining water from residences before the boil advisory can be lifted, however.

AV Water anticipated starting the process this week, but that plan was pending approval from the New Mexico Environment Department. The delay comes after the company failed to meet a July 15 deadline set by the NMED for the construction of the pump station. That deadline included fines of $1,000 for each day the project wasn't completed. AV Water applied for a deadline extension, but was denied.

NMED spokeswoman Allison Scott Majure said that fines are accruing. She said settlements will occur later in the process.

Kalee Chivers Grothe, a leader of the Animas Valley Water Protesters group formed in response to the situation, said the delay in the flushing schedule is disappointing for residents.

"You see that little glimmer of light, and then it all goes black again," she said.

Chivers Grothe said that while the flush will address the Morningstar system, which serves roughly 6,400 people in Crouch Mesa, the 500 residents on the company's Harvest Gold system near Bloomfield will remain on a boil advisory. During an inspection of the Harvest Gold treatment plant in early June, the NMED found 21 deficiencies, including improper filtration methods and chemical treatment of drinking water. Chivers Grothe said AV Water is waiting on the delivery of a new filter for the plant.

An Animas Valley Water Company plan to flush the pipes serving its customers in Crouch Mesa has been delayed.

"Then, they have to turn around and flush the system," she said. "We’re not even close."

After the inspection, the company had 45 days to draft a plan addressing the problems. Now that that deadline has also passed, Chivers Grothe said the state needs to start holding AV Water accountable. She said simply issuing fines won't necessarily benefit residents.

"Where does that money go?" she said. "At the end of day, we are the ones that suffer."

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