Construction underway on Crouch Mesa water crisis fix
FARMINGTON — Construction is underway on a pump station to provide Crouch Mesa residents with clean water from the city of Farmington and end a boil advisory that has plagued nearly 7,000 people for more than a month.
According to an update issued today by the AV Water company, which owns and operates the rural Morningstar and Harvest Gold water systems, crews have finished pouring concrete and will finish the facility by July 15. The deadline comes at the demand of the New Mexico Environment Department, which has issued an emergency order imposing a fine of $1,000 per day on the company if repairs are not made in a timely manner.
AV Water customers have been experiencing turbid, or cloudy, tap water since May, due to problems at the company’s treatment plant. The resulting boil advisory has sparked public outcry, which has spread across the state. Gov. Susanna Martinez announced today that the NMED has launched a new website to provide information and address concerns about the situation.
"Every New Mexican deserves access to clean drinking water," Martinez said in a press release. "This issue remains a top priority for our Environment Department and they will continue to stay on top of this."
By purchasing and distributing bulk water from Farmington, AV Water can bypass its problematic treatment plant. Relief from the boil advisory, however, will not come immediately. Once the pump station is completed, the water system will still need to be flushed thoroughly, inspected by an independent third party and tested for microbial contamination.
"Only after these fundamental water quality and safety criteria are met, can the boil water advisory be lifted," the NMED’s Deputy Secretary Butch Tongate said in the press release.
But some affected residents say simply restoring drinking water won't erase the hardships they've endured.
Frustrated AV Water users have banded together to form a protest group that is looking into taking legal action against the company. Kalee Chivers Grothe, one of the group's organizers, said members have gathered hundreds of formal complaints. Grievances range from price gouging and a lack of transparency on the part of the company, to possible health impacts from coming into contact with contaminated water. She said problems have existed with the water system for years, but the recent episode will hopefully compel people to demand change.
"It takes a crisis for people to jump on board," she said.
The company's general manager, Fred Whistle, declined to comment on the water situation and referred all questions to the update the company issued.
For more information on the boil advisory, visit the NMED's new website, env.nm.gov/dwb/avwer.htm.
Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.