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NM water utility hit with $1 million fine

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State regulators have ordered a Farmington-area water utility to pay a $1 million fine for issues that have left many of its 7,000 customers under a boil water advisory since June.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to impose the penalty on Animas Valley Water, and ordered it to supply water to the customers whose systems have been most severely affected.

“AV Water (is ordered) to immediately provide safe and potable drinking water—bottled or otherwise—to all Harvest Gold residents, imposes a $1 million fine, and gives the water utility company 30 days to pay the $1 million fine,” said PRC spokesman Carlos Padilla in a statement.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Information from the New Mexico Environment Department shows the issues began on May 22 when the agency received numerous customer complaints about water quality in the Bloomfield and Crouch Mesa communities. Subsequent investigations revealed multiple issues with the Harvest Gold and Morningstar water systems run by AV Water, including a malfunctioning valve that allowed backwash water to enter the distribution system. The NMED found high levels of sediment in the water system, which can indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms, according to the agency.

AV Water has been supplying its customers with water from the city of Farmington since July 22. Though the boil water advisory for Morningstar customers was lifted in September, the advisory for Harvest Gold customers remains in effect.

NMED has issued multiple notices of violation to AV Water over the past six months.

AV Water has consistently told regulators it is acting appropriately under the circumstances and is making a good-faith effort to rectify the problems.

Earlier this month, the utility requested the PRC allow it to transfer ownership of the Harvest Gold system to Blanco Mutual Domestic Water Association. The hearing on the transfer was postponed after AV Water said in a filing that Blanco needed more time to discuss the transaction.

The hearing has not been rescheduled.