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