Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Thomas Garcia
Staff Writer 

Recent rains get mixed results


August 9, 2017

Recent rainfall has beneficial impacts for the area irrigation district, but it has resulted in concerns for the city of Tucumcari over a possible contamination of the water table.

Between July 31 and Aug. 3 a total of 1.81 inches of rainfall was reported near Tucumcari, said Andrew Church, meteorologist, National Weather Service Albuquerque.

Church said the bulk of the rainfall, 1.18 inches, was recorded on Aug. 3. He said on July 31, .63 of rainfall was reported north of Tucumcari.

Church said the increased rainfall has helped offset a dryer July. He said for Tucumcari reported only .50 inches of rain in July, compared to 1.11 inches in July 2016.

“For the Arch Hurley Conservancy District the inflow of rain is a huge benefit for the region and the irrigation district,” said Franklin McCasland, the district’s manager.

McCasland said the conservancy board of directors has allocated 8 inches of water per acre of farmland, that is being released on a demand basis by the irrigator. He said the rain fall helps to reduce the amount of irrigation water requested while helping the inflow to Conchas Lake the districts sole source of irrigation water.

McCasland said the inflow of acre feet from August’s rainfall has eclipsed July’s total inflow at Conchas Lake. He said in July a total of 2,545 acre feet flowed into the lake, compared to 1,984 in July 2016. He said from Aug. 1-3, 3,458 acre feet flowed into Conchas.

McCasland said the year to date total of inflow at Conchas Lake is 32,268 acre feet, this time last year there was only 20,989 acre feet of inflow. He said the Current elevation of Conchas Lake is, 4,173.1 acre feet.

While the rain had an agricultural benefit for the region, it caused the sewer lines near the intersection of Route 66 and Date Street to overflow and create a spill in the city’s Powell Addition.

Along with sewage, an unknown amount of a so-far unidentified petroleum product was released, said City Manager Jared Langenegger.

Langenegger said after a week of on-site evaluations and meetings with the New Mexico Environment Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the City is nearing a resolution for the petroleum and sewage spill. He said the spill had the potential to impact residents in the Powell Addition, which includes residents living west of U.S. Highway 54, north of Route 66, east of Date Street, and south of and adjacent to Laughlin Avenue.

Langenegger said officials with the EPA Region VI office toured the Powell Addition on Thursday visiting with residents impacted by the spill. He said air samples around the impacted area were collected and officials identified surface contamination that will be removed by the City of Tucumcari.

Langenegger said local well water tested negative for coliform and e-coli. He added that EPA representatives said on-site well water contamination by petroleum products was highly unlikely due to the spill’s limited nature.

The source of the contamination has not been identified despite a thorough investigation by the Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau and Petroleum Storage Tank Bureau.

Langenegger said the spill heavily impacted the Tucumcari wastewater treatment facility; however, no discharge of the substance from the plant was detected. He said the city’s wastewater treatment plant can process 1.2 millions gallons per day, on average the city only uses half of that capacity.

There are two sections used to process the city’s waste water department and staff alternates sides throughout the process. Langenegger said the contamination was caught on one side of the plant and contained. He said the EPA has taken samples from the wastewater treatment facility for testing and identification of the substance. Once samples have been analyzed, arrangements will be made for a contractor to remove the substance from the facility, Langenegger added.

“The precautionary restrictions that were put in place were to ensure the safety of our residents until we could determine the level of impact,” said Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield.

Residents with health concerns related to the spill can contact the state Department of Health Epidemiology and Response hotline at 505-827-0006.

Individuals with further questions regarding the incident may contact Langenegger at 575-403-5669.


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