Manager: Source of contamination still a mystery

By Kevin Baird

CMI staff writer

kbaird@cnjonline.com

The source of contamination remains a mystery, but the New Mexico Environment Department has lifted the boil-water advisory it issued last week for the Roosevelt County Water Co-op, according to co-op General Manager Clarence Smith.

The advisory, which asked co-op customers to boil water for five minutes before drinking, cooking, dishwashing and bathing, was lifted before noon Monday.

“We still don’t have any idea what could’ve caused the positive sample,” Smith said, “but we’re happy the samples came back clean over the weekend.” Smith said this case is hard to understand because the chlorine residual was at the right level, “and the chlorine combats anything that gets into the distribution lines.”

The co-op will be required by the NMED to conduct five water sample tests in September compared to the normal standard of four per month. Smith said every month the locations of these tests change.

On Aug. 6, a routine water sample, conducted about four miles east of Portales at N.M. 88, exceeded the maximum contaminant level for E. coli.

The sample also tested positive for total coliform, a plant-based organism that an indicator of bacterial contaminates, since total coliform feeds on bacteria, according to Brandi Garcia, compliance officer for the Environment Department. “Total coliform is not usually harmful,” Garcia said.

Although Portales supplies the co-op with water, Smith said contamination in the co-op’s grid cannot affect Portales’ water because there is 65 pounds of pressure carrying water in the distribution lines away from the city.

Garcia said the sample tests are sensitive and errors are common, so more tests were run on Wednesday to confirm the possibility of contamination.

Smith said the water boil advisory was not issued until Thursday afternoon because the co-op and NMED were waiting on lab results. He said the co-up was not able to call and inform customers until Friday morning because the co-op’s phone lines were busy answering questions about the water-boil advisory.

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