Af­ter Ran­chos wa­ter fail­ure, ‘don’t bother us any­more’

The Taos News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Cody Hooks chooks@taos­ The Taos News

Fol­low­ing a week­long wa­ter out­age in Ran­chos de Taos that left up to 750 peo­ple with lit­tle or no wa­ter, the lead­er­ship of the small wa­ter sys­tem is keep­ing quiet about de­tails sur­round­ing the out­age.

The is­sue started with a pump fail­ure Sun­day (Sept. 16) and lasted un­til ap­prox­i­mately the fol­low­ing Sun­day (Sept. 23), ac­cord­ing to the spokesper­son for the New Mex­ico En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment.

Lo­cal lead­ers of the wa­ter sys­tem were far less avail­able to talk about the is­sue.

The Taos News re­peat­edly at­tempted to con­tact Bern­abe Struck, ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Ran­chos de Taos MDWCA. An un­named fam­ily mem­ber pro­vided some de­tails dur­ing the out­age, but Struck never re­turned phone calls re­quest­ing com­ment.

When The Taos News again tried to call Struck Tues­day (Sept. 25), a per­son at his num­ber di­rected a reporter to call “the state” or the as­so­ci­a­tion’s lawyer and then hung up. When a reporter called back to ask for the at­tor­ney’s name or num­ber, the per­son said, “Don’t bother us any­more.” The phone line ap­peared to be dis­con­nected af­ter that.

The Taos News reached Jesse Miera, the cer­ti­fied op­er­a­tor of the wa­ter sys­tem, Tues­day with fol­low-up ques­tions about the out­age. He said the wa­ter was re­stored and a wa­ter test came back with clean re­sults. But he would not elab­o­rate on the re­sults of the test and then hung up on the reporter.

How­ever, the state re­sponded to a re­quest for de­tails.

The en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment was alerted of the is­sue by a “com­plaint from a cus­tomer that the wa­ter sys­tem was not re­spon­sive to their calls and they had wa­ter pres­sure is­sues,” ac­cord­ing to spokesper­son Katy Dif­f­endor­fer.

“A sub­mersible pump in one of the three wells that pro­vide wa­ter to the Ran­chos de Taos MDWCA wa­ter sys­tem failed,” she wrote in an email. “Due to the lack of op­er­a­tion of one of the three sup­ply wells… the re­main­ing two wells were un­able to meet cus­tomer wa­ter de­mand, and as a re­sult, por­tions of the Ran­chos de Taos MDWCA wa­ter sys­tem ex­pe­ri­enced low wa­ter pres­sure or wa­ter out­ages.”

The sys­tem serves 750 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to state records.

The out­age bears re­sem­blance to the near-cri­sis that be­fell the town of Taos ear­lier this year when a mu­nic­i­pal pump failed. The El Prado wa­ter dis­trict twice had to open its sys­tem to the town, so wa­ter lines didn’t de­pres­sur­ize.

But un­like the Questa wa­ter cri­sis dur­ing Dec. 2016, when prac­ti­cally the whole vil­lage was with­out wa­ter for a month, some busi­nesses in the Ran­chos de Taos area got by on what lit­tle pres­sure they had. The Trad­ing Post Cafe strug­gled to keep up with the dishes be­cause of the low pres­sure; Del Norte Liquors only needs wa­ter for its bath­room and clean­ing, so wasn’t crip­pled by the week­long is­sue.

Ac­cord­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment, a re­place­ment pump was in­stalled Fri­day at the sys­tem’s sec­ond well. State records show the well is lo­cated near the junc­tion of state Roads 68 and 518. That well is 185 feet deep and pumps 40 gal­lons per min­utes.

An­other well is lo­cated near the Gi­ant gas sta­tion in Ran­chos, while a third is lo­cated near La Mo­rada Road in Ran­chos de Taos.

Dif­f­endor­fer said the mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal test col­lected Satur­day (Sept. 22) came back neg­a­tive for bac­te­ria and that wa­ter pres­sure was re­stored by Sun­day af­ter­noon. As of Tues­day morn­ing, a vol­un­tary pre­cau­tion­ary boil ad­vi­sory is still in place but may be lifted soon.

State records in­di­cate the Ran­chos wa­ter sys­tem had a com­pli­ance is­sue in March with the ground wa­ter rule, a fed­eral stan­dard meant to “re­duce dis­ease in­ci­dence as­so­ci­ated with harm­ful micro­organ­isms in drink­ing wa­ter,” ac­cord­ing to the EPA. The wa­ter sys­tem was in com­pli­ance by May.

Cody Hooks

The Ran­chos de Taos MDWCA sys­tem serves 750 peo­ple. One of three pumps in the sys­tem failed Sept. 16 and ser­vice was not fully back to nor­mal un­til the fol­low­ing Sun­day (Sept. 23).

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