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Village of Chama moves to fix beleaguered water system

The village of Chama’s water treatment plant is operating at less than half of its capacity, and residents have been ordered to boil water before using it. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The Chama Village Council held an emergency virtual meeting Thursday night to discuss the plan to restart the village’s failing water plant, nearly a month after residents were told to boil their water.

Nicole Mangin, whose company MEC Tech Services has taken over operational control of the Chama Water System, told councilors they are currently waiting on parts from manufacturers but expect repairs to be made in the next two and half weeks.

Once they receive parts and supplies, the village will begin rehabbing the two filter pods in the plant, both of which aren’t working properly due to mechanical failures. The rehabbing process is expected to last two to four days and residents will receive mailers of the exact date, Mangin said.

Mangin said the plant will not produce any water while it is being repaired.

“During that time of rehab, it’s going to be imperative that village residents conserve as much water as possible,” she said.

Councilor Scott Flury asked if residents were already succeeding in conserving water, to which Mangin responded that in some cases residents were using more water than average.

Mangin said the National Guard will most likely have to haul additional water from nearby communities to ensure the system has enough supply.

“There is a danger of us losing fire protection and pressures in the distribution system,” she said.

The National Guard has been delivering thousands of gallons of clean water from water systems in Tierra Amarilla and Dulce since the boil water advisory was first issued. This, in large part, is to provide the Chama Water System with a consistent supply, since the plant’s production of water is down 64%.

Along with rehabbing the entire system, the village will also need to reconcile multiple past violations before the boil water advisory is lifted.

The New Mexico Environment Department confirmed Tuesday that Chama never reconciled eight violations from 2017 and 2018, all for failing to notify the public of separate water violations.

Mangin estimated that rehabbing the plant and correcting these violations will take multiple weeks, and that the boil water advisory will not be lifted until the second week of June.

She said the village is fortunate it won’t take longer.

“It’s almost a miracle,” she said, adding this kind of project usually takes several months. “We’re going to get this done in the next two to two and a half weeks.”

Chama Mayor Billy Elbrock previously said in the past the village had little oversight of the water plant, which was found to have major malfunctions, missing supplies and a lack of documentation from previous operators.

Councilors agreed that needed to change.

“From here on out, there’s gotta be oversight,” Councilor Matthew Gallegos said. “We just can’t go through this again.”

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