Talon News - Good Local News

WATER - IT ALL BEGINS AT THE RIVER

 

Andrew Galloway at Control Panel.

Photos and Story by David Edward Albright, TALON

"It all begins at the river," Andrew Galloway said, referring to the Animas River---the 'source of Aztec's water'. The Superintendent for both the Water and Waste Treatment Plants, Galloway heads a five man department that works four-ten hour days, but covers the facilities for seven days. "I started at the bottom and worked my way up", he said. Now, after seven years as "Chief Operator", he's at 'Level 4', with all water treatment certifications.

The Aztec Water Treatment Plant is comprised of four plants---all housed in the same facility just north of the city on Highway 173. The first plant, built in the 1960's, called the 'Clarifyer', utilizes a 'rapid sand filter, which is about 5 feet thick with various sizes of gravel and sand. Here liquid alum is added to coagulate the mud and particulates, making them heavier than the water---so they will drop to the bottom. Andrew said to picture a "microscopic net that bonds the particles together". The water then passes through a concrete walls with holes and on to the next stage.

Built in the late 1970's, Plant 2 uses a 'traveling bridge filter' and various cells to clean the mud from the water. Both plants---though older technology---more effectively handle turbidity (mud) than the more modern plants. They are used more in the spring and summer with more muddy water. However, their water production capacity is considerably lower than Plants 3 and 4, built in 1996. These use 'multi-media filters', combining silica sand, garnet sand and charcoal. They can produce over two million gallons in 24 hours.

"There's something new everyday...something may not be functioning so you've got to figure it out", Galloway said of his biggest challenges. There's often mechanical or equipment issues and regular maintenance. The computerized system installed about six years ago enables much improved monitoring of levels and quality---and less driving to the reservoirs. There are three reservoirs, with the one at Tiger Park known as #3 the newest built in 2009. It's tower is 30 feet tall and when we met it had a water level of about 28 feet, holding approximately 56 million gallons. The East or Blanco Tank holds about 2 million gallons and the West Tank about 1 million. There are two tanks at the Aztec Airport which hold 250 and 500 thousand gallons, along with a 'West Tank'---with one million gallon capacity. "The biggest issue is getting water to the plant...and the river dictates how much you can get. It all starts at the river...so if the river is running full and fluid---everbody's happy", Galloway said.

The twelve inch pipeline---built in 2002 between Aztec and Bloomfield---is operational if needed. Galloway said, "There's been a time or two when Bloomfield and Aztec have gotten water from each other." Water from the Bloomfield Treatment Plant would be pumped to Aztec as part of a contingency plan.

As of July 2, 2018, Aztec implemented a Stage 2 Water Shortage Emergency, which will remain in place until further notice. The mandatory policy, with all details, is posted on the City of Aztec website: http://www.aztecnm.gov/. Warning notices followed by penalities will be assessed to water bills for repeated violations.

Today the Animas River is flowing at only 154 cubic feet per second in Aztec, which is below the 25th percentile, at 208 cfs. TALON spoke with Galloway today and he said of the river, "it's higher now because of the rains we got, but it's still below average". Galloway doesn't foresee any serious problems with adequate water supply for the City of Aztec. "Right now we're dealing with ash coming down from the 416 Fire." He said the ash is not causing as many problems as he thought it would. Of operations at the Plant, he said, "It's been good...we have Number 1 Reservoir completely full, Number 3 is full...so we're full pretty much all the way around."

 

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