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Crouch Mesa water flush begins

Brett Berntsen
bberntsen@daily-times.com
Daryl Gore of the Flora Vista Mutual Domestic Water Association opens up a fire hydrant to flush out the AV Water system on Monday  in Crouch Mesa.

FARMINGTON – The AV Water company has started flushing its pipes in Crouch Mesa, but residents will be responsible for completing the last step in the process needed to end a months-long boil advisory.

Company representative Germaine Chappelle said crews began flushing water mains in higher-elevation neighborhoods such as Star Heights this morning, and will continue working their way across AV Water's service area. After supply lines are purged, she said residents will be notified to turn on their taps to finish the flush.

The company’s rural Morningstar water system, which serves about 6,400 people in Crouch Mesa, has been under a boil advisory since May 25 due to treatment plant failures. AV Water has since abandoned the facility, and connected its lines to the city of Farmington. But before the advisory can be lifted, crews must completely rinse residual water from the system.

While the end is in sight, concerns remain over how to coordinate the final steps.

“My worry is that people are going to flush before they’re supposed to, and waste all that water,” said Kalee Chivers Grothe, an organizer of the Animas Valley Water Protesters Facebook group, which was formed in response to the boil advisory.

She said that throughout the episode, AV Water has not provided customers with adequate information.

Speaking this morning outside his Star Heights home — in clear view of a crew working on AV Water’s upper storage tanks — Randy Bodine said he was not notified the flush was taking place.

“I was about to wash my dishes but my water was barely a trickle,” he said. “The lack of communication has been the biggest issue with all of this."

Rick Mitchell of the Flora Vista Mutual Domestic Water Association checks the level of chlorine residual and turbidity at a house near a fire hydrant that was opened to flush out the AV Water system on Monday  in Crouch Mesa.

Bodine said he often sees engineers working on the tanks from his back porch, but never receives information or updates from AV Water.

Chivers Grothe said the company has started relying on the protest group to disseminate information, rather than taking action themselves.

“It made it that much easier for AV to be lazy,” she said. “They’re doing anything they can not to spend another dime.”

Chappelle said the company is posting notices advising residents when to begin flushing their homes on public mailboxes in the neighborhoods. She said the company attempted to recruit volunteers to hand out the flyers door-to-door, but there was a lack of turnout. The flyers advise residents to run cold water through their faucets for five minutes, and hot water for 15.

“It’s pretty simple,” she said.

Spreading that simple message, however, may prove more complicated.

“People are having a hard time wanting to volunteer for what they see is AV’s responsibility,” Chivers Grothe said.

For more information on the boil advisory, visit the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management's website at http://www.sjcoem.com/.

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

Daryl Gore of the Flora Vista Mutual Domestic Water Association opens a fire hydrant to help flush the AV Water system in July in Crouch Mesa.