Motion for AV Water Co. hearing fails

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — Despite having the boil-water advisory lifted on Crouch Mesa and receiving assurances that the boil-water advisory will soon be lifted in the Harvest Gold subdivision, frustrations continue to brew among AV Water Co. customers.

Kalee Chivers Grothe, general manager of Dino's Mart and a leader of the Animas Valley Water Protesters, displays one of the water filters the store recently changed on Wednesday in Crouch Mesa. Turbidity issues have plagued AV Water Co. users for several months.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission heard updates today during a meeting in Santa Fe about the water systems, which were placed under a boil-water advisory in June. But a motion to hold a hearing in October to discuss issues with the company failed, and that did not sit well with at least one AV Water customer.

Kalee Chivers Grothe, an AV Water customer who oversees the Animas Valley Water Protesters — a group of AV Water customers who have come together to demand improved service — said she was at a loss for words after she heard the motion fail.

"It feels like it started all over again," she said. "This was just a big stab in the back."

Commissioners Patrick Lyons and Karen Montoya voted against the motion. When reached by phone, Lyons said he does not believe the PRC staff provided commissioners with enough information, and there will likely be a hearing in the future.

"I wanted to give staff a couple more weeks," Lyons said.

One of the problems Lyons cited during the meeting today was the staff's suggestion to levy fines against AV Water if the company has issued inaccurate bills to customers.

"When did we start fining people on if?" Lyons said during the meeting.

While Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy said she agreed with Lyons about the lack of information, she urged commissioners to approve the proposal to set an October meeting.

"I, for one, am not concerned about the fines," she said. "That's not going to solve anything."

She said commissioners should focus on solving the issues AV Water customers are facing, such as the boil-water advisory that Harvest Gold subdivision residents are still living under due to turbidity issues in their water.

Vera Pierce, a resident of the Morningstar subdivision and an AV Water Co. customer, discusses her water bill with Kalee Chivers Grothe, general manager of Dino's Mart, on Wednesday in Crouch Mesa.

During the meeting, AV Water Co. attorney Germaine Chappelle said the turbidity levels in the Harvest Gold system have decreased, and she hopes to have the boil-water advisory lifted in the next couple of weeks.

In addition to the turbidity issues that led to the boil-water advisory for the two systems, AV Water Co. customers have complained to the PRC about high bills and issues with water pressure.

Concerns about water pressure led Bernie Volz to place a regulator on his line. He has pictures of the water pressure at the meter reading 164 pounds. His regulator keeps the pressure in his lines at 50 pounds.

Chappelle said the sprawling Morningstar water system, which serves Crouch Mesa, and the variety of terrain the system crosses leads to water-pressure issues.

She cited the Anasazi Estates subdivision on Crouch Mesa as an example of an area that has high water pressure due to terrain. She said the water gains velocity as it goes down a steep hill to reach the subdivision. The smaller size of the distribution pipes from the main line also leads to increased pressure, she said.

Chappelle said the company is developing a deficiency report that will outline the infrastructure problems that need to be addressed, and it will prioritize projects for the Morningstar and Harvest Gold systems. She said a similar report was done two years ago.

“Quickly interconnecting to Farmington solved a lot of problems that had previously been identified,” Chappelle said.

In July, the AV Water Co. began to pump water from the city of Farmington to the Morningstar system, which allowed the company to close its water treatment plant.

“The water that customers are now receiving on the Morningstar side is the best they’ve ever seen,” Chappelle told the PRC during the meeting.

She said the AV Water Co. is looking at connecting the Harvest Gold system to the city of Bloomfield system and closing its water treatment facility for Harvest Gold.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.