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Water Authority Agrees to EPA Terms

Water Authority Agrees to EPA Terms

The EPA settlement with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority includes a fine and a new pipeline that will be used to irrigate many features of the Valle del Oro Wildlife Refuge.

 

New Pipeline, Fine Settle EPA Case Against Water Authority

BY ABQ FREE PRESS STAFF

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority has agreed to pay a $33,500 fine and build a $400,000 pipeline to a South Valley wildlife refuge in a settlement with the EPA over a 2015 spill that sent 6 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande.

The pipeline will run from the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant on Second Street Southwest about 4.5 miles to the 570-acre Valle del Oro National Wildlife Refuge, also on Second Street, the EPA said.

Reclaimed water carried by the pipeline will be used in the refuge to irrigate: landscaping along a bike path on Second Street running from Rio Bravo Boulevard to the refuge’s entrance; parks and street median projects in the area; and landscaping at Mountain View Elementary School.

ABCWUA spokesman David Morris said the pipeline will cost $400,000 and must be completed by June of 2018.

The spill occurred on Feb. 27, 2015, when a power surge during a storm knocked out electricity to a pump and a sewer-lift station at the treatment plant at 4201 Second St. S.W.

After power was restored to the lift station, the pump station didn’t work, causing partially treated sewage to overflow out of massive concrete retention ponds, onto the ground and into the Rio Grande.

The spill caused high levels of E. coli contamination in the river, and was a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

At the time, ABCWUA Chief Operating Officer John Stomp said the spill occurred because of poor equipment maintenance. Two water utility employees lost their jobs as a result.

After the spill, the EPA ordered the ABCWUA to install backup equipment so as to prevent another power outage and spill.

The reclamation plant treats 55 million gallons of sewage a day.

(Photo credit: publichealthnm.org)

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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