AV Water looking to Farmington to end problems

Brett Berntsen
The Animas Valley Land and Water Company building is pictured on Monday in Crouch Mesa. The company that provides water to some of its residents has not been able to fix a problem that has required they boil drinking water.

FARMINGTON — The AV Water company is looking for an alternative source of drinking water for its nearly 7,000 customers, after system failures have resulted in a series of boil advisories that have stretched on for more than two weeks.

Farmington Public Works Director David Sypher said the company approached the city asking to tap into its water system. Sypher said a connection was built between the two systems after the Gold King Mine spill, and he will meet with company officials on Tuesday  to the discuss details of an agreement.

AV Water Operations Manager Thomas Barrow declined to comment for this story, but told The Daily Times last week that problems at the company’s aging treatment plant continue to produce cloudy water. He said he didn’t know what was causing the problem. AV Water owns and operates the Morningstar and Harvest Gold systems, which serve Crouch Mesa and areas of Bloomfield.

A New Mexico Environment Department inspection turned up 29 significant deficiencies at the Morningstar operation that could pose a threat to public health. Inspectors found 21 deficiencies in the Harvest Gold system. Issues included improper treatment and filtration systems, incorrectly labeled chemical tanks, and a lack of operations and maintenance plans.

Ruben Salcido, an engineer with the city of Farmington, said AV Water is attempting to "short-circuit" its treatment plant and distribute city water through residential supply lines. He said the company needs to make infrastructure improvements before they can route water across their entire service area, however.

The situation has sparked frustration from customers, who have complained of a lack of transparency on the part of the company.

Crouch Mesa resident Marie Brown said she was not notified by AV Water of the original boil advisory issued on May 25. Instead, she heard about it through Facebook. Brown said she has filed formal complaints with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

Homes dot the hillside along Road 390 Monday in Crouch Mesa. The company that provides water to some of its residents has not been able to fix a problem that has required they boil drinking water.

Carlos Padilla, the PRC's spokesman, said that his office has received several critical comments on the company's pricing and management practices. He said the NMED has been dealing with communication issues.

“We are in touch daily with the system, and have advised them to work to improve communication with their customers,” NMED Spokeswoman Allison Scott Majure said in an email. She said the department also provides information on its website for procedures to observe during a boil water advisory.

Brown said it's frustrating paying for water she can't drink, and worries that connecting with the city will cause the company to raise prices even more.

“They don’t care,” she said. “I mean the owners."

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