Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie




Jacque Ritchie

Tele Varelas collects drinking water from his neighbors, Sammy and Liz Gonzales, at #3 County Road 4906. Donations of drinking water are dropped off at the Gonzales' and residents of the neighborhood can take up to two cases at a time.

On Monday, July 10, Jason Thomas of Bloomfield Public Works department reported they have broken ground on a new pump station that will provide clean water to the Harvest Gold subdivision. Located off CR 4906, Harvest Gold is approximately five square miles and is home to around 500 residents. The neighborhood has been on a boil-water advisory for over a year. Bottled water donations from the community have kept the HG residents afloat. SJC Emergency Manager Mike Mestas said in a recent update, "We have a great community and a lot of generous people in our county who care about you."

Mestas also expressed condolences to the family and friends of Robert (Bruce) Childers. Childers (76) a prominent SJC homebuilder, passed away on July 6, as a result of an accident. Childers had been active in resolving area water problems for many years. According to Mestas update, "His memory will live on as he continues to contribute to the community by way of water donations in his name."

The Animas Valley Water Association (AVWA) originally owned Harvest Gold water system and water treatment plant. The source of the water and subsequent problems is, according to Mestas, ditch water from the San Juan River. "There was never any chemical contamination," said Mestas. The problem was "soil and mud" in the water. This led the NM Environmental Department (NMED) to downgrade the water quality to below drinking water standards. NMED told AVWA they needed to upgrade the system for better filtration. AVWA declined to do so. NMED levied fines AVWA declined to pay the fines. The AVWA was a privately owned entity that made it ineligible for public funds to resolve the problems. The Public Regulatory Commission stepped in and was able to broker receivership of the Harvest Gold water system to the newly formed quasi-public entity Apple Orchard Mutual Water Users Association (AOMWUA). Because of the publicly-owned status of the AOMWUA they became eligible for emergency funding. Mike Mestas filed an Emergency Declaration for relief on behalf of the affected residents on June 20.

The estimated bill of $184,000 for the new water system is being paid for by emergency funds from the state Board of Finance. The funds are provided to the Bloomfield Public Works department for construction, and hook-up to Bloomfield City water, pumps, installation and water quality testing.

While waiting for the water system project completion, Mestas is working to secure emergency funding through the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a 2,000 gallon tank to temporarily provide residents with potable water.

Sammy Gonzales has been a Harvest Gold resident for 32 years and is the newly installed vice-president of the AOMWUA. On living with the boil-water advisory Gonzales said, "It's frustrating because drinking water shouldn't be bad, especially in these times, I mean we're in the 21st century, so I'm like, really? But you know it is what it is. It's getting fixed." As for the future, Gonzales said, "We have water coming soon so, the future is good, everybody's gonna be happy. We're gonna have good, clean drinking water." Gonzales is grateful to all folks that have stepped in on behalf of the residents at Harvest Gold, "Thanks to SJC emergency response people, Mike Mestas and all his crew that has done such a fantastic job for all of us."


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