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This Weekend

Celebrate New Orleans with Music

Weekend PicksFriday, August 28, 2015 by SFR

Slices of Wonder

Works that engage packaging design and ad culture.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Step into this Chris Pratt filled corner of the Marvel Universe.

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Bike MS: Pedal Los Pueblos

This two day charity ride raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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ZozoFest

Watch as they unveil this year's design of Zozobra, check out the Zozo-themed art show inside Sanbusco, put all the gloom you want to ditch inside that papier-mache bastard and then check the live entertainment under the water tower. Nice.

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A Salute to New Orleans: 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

The Iguanas and Les Gens Bruyants pay tribute to the always awesome New Orleans.

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Joe West and the Santa Fe Revue Gospel Brunch

It's brunch, it's gospel, it's not a half bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Boil Water in Las Campanas

Roughly 400 residents of luxury subdivision urged to boil water for five minutes to kill possible E. coli

Local NewsFriday, August 28, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

A high-end housing community on Santa Fe's west side is reeling as the state has advised roughly 400 residents who live in Las Campanas to boil their water, at least until tomorrow evening. Officials are working to determine whether E. coli is making the water dangerous to drink, the state Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau tells SFR.

Wayne Jeffs, a compliance officer with the water bureau, says so far no one in the community 10 miles west of Santa Fe has fallen ill, and a few more samples have been taken by the Las Campanas Water and Sewer Association. The results should be back sometime Saturday afternoon.

The boil advisory was issued late Thursday afternoon after a routine test conducted on Monday discovered a microbiological contaminant that indicated there might be E. coli in the drinking supply, Jeffs says.

On Wednesday, more water samples were taken, and the results came back Thursday morning, identifying the contaminant as E. coli, according to Jeffs.

Jeffs says the contamination may have been brought on by stagnant water in some of the water lines, or there could have been a false positive during the sample process. In any event, he claims that the water bureau is trying to get to the bottom of it; in the interim, he says the bureau is “erring on the side of caution.”

This advisory only applies to the drinking water from the Las Campanas Water System and does not extend to any other surrounding water systems, Jeffs says.

Concierge Nancy McDermott says this afternoon that the Club at Las Campanas shut down its food and beverage service to be on safe side, but the golf course is still open.

City officials say their municipal water supply has not been contaminated. Recent water samples have so far yielded clean results. Although the city sells water to Santa Fe County, which then provides water to the Las Campanas Water System, city officials say there has been no indication that the bacteriological contamination originated from city water sources, according to a press release issued today. 

Consumers of the Las Campanas Water System are advised to boil the water for five minutes before drinking, cooking, dishwashing and bathing, according to a press release issued by the state Environment Department. 

The presence of E. coli in water, the press release says, indicates that the water may have been in contact with sewage or animal wastes and could contain disease-causing organisms.

Most strains of E. coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, according to the state. However, a positive test for E. coli in the drinking water supply may indicate the presence of dangerous strains that could cause severe gastrointestinal illness and, in rare cases, death.

Children, the elderly and immuno-compromised individuals are at an increased risk for illness, the state said.

UPDATE: As of late Saturday, the water boil was lifted after test samples taken Friday concluded that the water was clean and safe to drink.


Morning Word: Solar Levy Dropped

PNM's 15.8 percent rate hike request no longer includes fee for photovoltaic panel usage to offset grid infrastructure costs

Morning WordFriday, August 28, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Solar Levy Dropped
The state's investor-owned utility filed a 15.8 percent residential rate increase request with the Public Regulation Commission in Santa Fe on Thursday. PNM has decided not to request fees from homeowners who rely on rooftop solar panels for their electricity. If the utility gets a fuel charge reduction and cuts other costs, residents could eventually be hit with a 7.9 percent hike.

Clean Water Act Blocked
New Mexico and 12 other states successfully got a judge in North Dakota to block implementation of the Clean Water Act, which was supposed to go into effect today. New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn welcomed the news: Regulating a state’s most precious resource, water, from Washington DC is both ineffective and wrong. Local oversight, local control and local communication lead to the most effective protection of our arid state’s waters, streams, and tributaries.”

School Board Punts
Thursday morning's school board meeting to consider the future of Luis Valentino, the new Albuquerque Schools superintendent, didn't end with any personnel decisions. Instead, the panel decided to push their discussions to next week. It's New Mexico, and the board's inaction has us asking the age-old question: Mañana?

Straw Poll
We missed this earlier, but Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, won the Curry County Fair straw poll. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina rounded out the top four. Carson won a similar poll in Roosevelt County. It might not matter. Results from the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Joe Biden, who's said to be considering entering the Democratic primary, beats all the GOP candidates in general election matchups in the voter survey.

Bank Boom
On the same day that Wall Street saw its best two-day rebound, a new report show community banks in rural parts of the state are giving more residential and commercial loans. That could be a good sign for the economies in eastern and southern New Mexico.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction
The Santa Fe Climate Change Leadership Institute wants city and government leaders to impose a $2 fee on monthly water bills to create a fund aimed at reducing carbon and methane gas emissions. Here's how it would work, according to the nonprofit: Those funds could be used for more solar installations, community gardens, home weatherization programs, low energy loans to help residents transition to renewable energy and education programs informing people how they can reduce their carbon footprint.

New Mexico Film
Denzel Washington, who has filmed movies in New Mexico before, is headed back to the Land of Enchantment to star in the remake of The Magnificent 7 with Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt and Peter Sarsgaard.

Lady Lobos Win
It was close, but the University of New Mexico's women's soccer team beat in-state rival New Mexico State University for the fifth consecutive time. The 1-0 victory was the first for new head coach Heather Dyche.

Have a great weekend. Come back to see what's new on Monday.

Water for Roads

Water for Roads: San Ildefonso governor accuses Santa Fe County of 'inability to act in good faith'

Local NewsThursday, August 27, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

San Ildefonso Gov. James Mountain, whose pueblo is at the epicenter of a roads dispute that has now put an entire water delivery system in jeopardy, on Thursday accused Santa Fe County Commissioners of acting irresponsibly with the recent decision to withdraw $30 million of the county's funding toward the project.

The county's financial obligation is part of a 5-year-old federal court settlement from a case known as Aamodt. But Commissioner Henry Roybal wrote in a resolution that it was “imprudent” for the county to invest in a water delivery system while the legal status of all roads in the county are in limbo, as they pass through all four pueblo territories.

Other commissioners agreed with Roybal, passing the resolution on Tuesday in a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Miguel Chavez the lone dissenter.

Speaking out for the first time since the county's action, Mountain, in an interview with SFR, says, “It shows their inability to act in good faith. I don’t know what the county’s line of thinking is, but I do know that the settlement agreement is a separate matter versus the trespass matter, and the county  appears to have intertwined the two, which is very inappropriate.”

Now, instead of getting on track and preparing for the construction of a long-awaited water delivery system that will bring potable water to the entire Pojoaque Valley, the four pueblos and the thousands of non-native residents who live within or on the periphery of the pueblo boundaries will either have to wait or run the risk of never actually receiving water.

“There is that potential,” says Mountain, 42, a graduate of Los Alamos High School and now in his second term of governor for San Ildefonso, which has a population of just under 1,000.

Yet the county is still holding out hope that a compromise can be met without having to take the matter to court, and now the ball is in the court of the four pueblos at hand: Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque.

The question most paramount, in the eyes of the county, is whether property values will decline in those pockets where the ownership of roads are under dispute, something that the county is contending has occurred already in El Rancho, a small community that sits east of San Ildefonso.


The entire confusion, and the subsequent devaluation of property values, started occurring a little over a year and a half ago, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs wrote a letter to the county, accusing it of trespassing every time residents used County Roads 84 and 84B—essentially access roads to the small community of El Rancho, just east of the pueblo's boundaries.


That assertion unleashed a chain reaction of events that led to a reduction in property values, which in turn spawned an uneasy housing market in which lenders will no longer write mortgages, because the roads that lead to the properties can no longer be insured due to their legal limbo.

While county officials have long maintained that they have the rights of way to the roads under the decades-old Pueblos Land Act agreement, the contingency being that they always maintain them, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior contend that the roads have belonged to the pueblo as far back as the late 1600s, during Spanish rule.


And they now want them back. They'd like to rename them.  They simply want the county to acknowledge the fact that the pueblo is the rightful owners if they want cost-free access to the roads, something that will last in perpetuity.

But instead of accepting these conditions, which were presented to the county last week, the county said they'd first like to protect further declining property values across the Pojoaque Valley by coming to a compromise over all county roads, not just those in San Ildefonso.


Such a rejection was not handled well by San Ildefonso officials, who walked away from the negotiations, which led to the drafting of the resolution that was passed two days ago. The measure drew a packed county chambers, the majority of whom were El Rancho residents who testified about their financial problems and the losses they've incurred as a result of the legal dispute over ownership.

"We need to protect taxpayer dollars and need security of roads before this big investment," Commissioner Liz Stefanics tells SFR, in explaining why she voted for the resolution.

What's more, the county may now need to save money to pay for the legal costs that will certainly arise from the standoff between the county and San Ildefonso.


But to Mountain, the way he sees the situation, he's just protecting the sovereignty of his pueblo.


"You have to define the borders of your property, if you're interested in prosperity and future investments," he says, although he did not say the pueblo, a nongaming tribe, was contemplating adding a casino at some point in the near future.

Held hostage and certainly in limbo now is the water itself. The Pojoaque River has seen better days, Mountain says. And those who have first dibs on water rights are the four pueblos, which was acknowledged in a federal court settlement five years ago. Santa Fe was a party to that agreement, which was, by design, obligated to help the pueblos financially while helping its Pojoaque Valley residents as well.



Morning Word: Insurer Pulls Out of Health Exchange

Blue Cross, Blue Shield will drop 35,000 individual policies

Morning WordThursday, August 27, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Two and Done 
There have been plenty of signs this was coming, but now it’s official: Blue Cross, Blue Shield said Wednesday that after just two years, it is pulling out of the New Mexico Health Exchange after the company's request to jack rates up 51.6 percent was rejected by the state’s insurance superintendent on Aug. 8. The insurer says it lost close to $20 million covering its health policies here last year. The departure means about 35,000 customers will have to find a new provider by the first of the year.

Decision Possible by New Year 
James Fenton at the Farmington Daily Times reports that commissioners at the Public Regulation Commission want to make a final decision on what to do with the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s request to require more coal to burn at its San Juan Generation Station by the end of the year, and they’ve set up a new hearing schedule to keep the case on track. Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy says, “We need to make some tough decisions.” Environmentalists who’ve crunched the numbers don’t think it should be that hard to require PNM to move to renewable energy sources, which they say have already proven to be cheaper and more reliable.

No matter what decision regulators make, PNM plans to refile its earlier incomplete rate increase application. If it wins approval, it could boost residential rates 16 percent. Other media outlets have reported it’s a 12 percent increase, but they don’t account for the utility's plan to cut the rates for its one big 30-megawatt industrial user—likely Intel.

Before any of this happens, the commissioners need to find a replacement for Vince Martinez, who resigned as the agency's chief of staff. Steve Terrell over at the Santa Fe New Mexican says it looks like former state legislator Bob Perls wants the top job.

Warning Signs Ignored
An internal government reports shows Environmental Protection Agency officials and state regulators in Colorado ignored early warning signs of a potential toxic chemical blowout at the Gold King mine more than a year before this summer’s spill into the Animas River.

Martinez Jailed
Accused of breaking the terms of his pretrial jail release, former APS Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez is behind bars in Colorado. Colleen Heild reports agents with the Rocky Mountain Safe Street task force arrested him at a relative’s home in Denver. A district court judge there is expected to hold a hearing to see if a higher bond should be set or if the accused child predator should stay locked up until trial.

Puppet Show
ABQ Free Press Editor Dan Vukelich isn’t one to mince words when he writes a commentary or analysis piece. On Wednesday, he wrote the mess at APS “provides a window into a disturbing statewide effort by Gov. Susana Martinez and the state Department of Education to bypass local school boards and implement policy directly through local school administrators.” Vuk also talked to APS board member Steven Michael Quezada, who said his three years on the school board have been a wake-up call to the lengths the Martinez administration will go to end-run the board legally empowered to supervise its superintendent. “I thought that if we brought someone from San Francisco, they wouldn’t have a political agenda, a dog in this thing,” Quezada said. “My hope was to separate politics from education. Maybe it was ignorant on my part to think that.”

Quezada and the other board members will consider what actions, if any, they'll take against APS Superintendent Luis Valentino tonight at a special meeting. Some parents are pushing them to terminate the brand-new boss.

Courthouse Auction
In foreclosure, Jackalope’s real estate and other property were auctioned off in Santa on Wednesday. Global Holdings, which has close ties to the iconic store, acquired the assets for $4.8 million on Wednesday. ABQ Business First’s Mike English writes the auction marks the end for the business under the ownership of Charles H “Darby” McQuade, who founded Jackalope in 1979 and built a thriving retail company with locations in Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Albuquerque. McQuade has lately been in poor health.

Farewell to a Hero
New Mexico is mourning the loss of a Bataan Death March survivor. Ed "Milt" Hern passed away Sunday at the age of 97 in Las Vegas, NM. Hern, who was one of 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers held captive by the Japanese in World War II. He was a prisoner for more than three years. His funeral is scheduled for Friday.

“You’re Fired.” Well, Maybe Not.
More than 1,100 people are urging Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden not to fire Officer Dominique Perez after a judge said there was probable cause to try him and retired officer Keith Sandy on murder charges. More than 1,100 people have signed a petition supporting Perez. The two men are accused of killing homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia foothills. Boyd’s family believes Perez, who has been on administrative leave since the shooting in 2014, should be fired, “so that the public may see that no one is above the law."

Cruces Mayor All But In
Political analyst Heath Haussamen is cutting through the political theatrics and reporting that it's clear that longtime Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima is all but running for re-election this fall. Miyagishima has been lining up support for months; now all that's left is filing for the fall campaign.

Meanwhile, it doesn't look drivers snagged caught on camera speeding or running red lights won't have to pay their fines after all. Some 15 months after the Redflex program was halted, the City of Las Cruces says it's stopped trying to collect almost $3 million in fines.

Feelin’ Lucky?
New Mexico Lottery officials say they’re seeing a big increase in scratcher ticket sales despite a decline in revenue from those dreamy multimillion-dollar Powerball and Mega Million games of chance. Keep scratching; 30 percent of the money, by law, goes to help fund college tuition scholarships.

What a Wish List Says about a City

Soccer is still a big winner as city councilors adjust state funding requests to include more than recreation

Local NewsWednesday, August 26, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

City councilors on Wednesday night faced the dilemma of all wish list writers: Ask for what you really want (or perhaps need) or ask for what you know you're likely to get.

Santa Fe's governing body finally landed on a list of official Infrastructure Capital Investment Projects that they all agreed on, but not without what one councilor called a "tortured process."

The list the City Council adopted and prioritized included more than 70 items and totaled $159,118,144 in projects as basic as $1 million in citywide facilities updates and as niche as a $50,000 lightning-protection system for a library. Next, it goes to state legislators and lobbyists to work their magic to see if some of these projects can be brought to fruition. 

The state asked the city to put their top priorities in the top five slots on the list, but that designates little more than figureheads. Still, as the list passed the Public Works Committee, there was tinkering in those top spots. The Finance Committee punted it with no recommendation after a split vote. So its arrival before the full City Council brought debate about what to rank at the top of the list, and what that said about Santa Fe and its priorities.

“There's not a single issue in our top five that deals with poverty, there’s not a single issue…that addresses spending money on infrastructure that's going to help develop business,” Mayor Javier Gonzales said.

Three recreational centers made it into the top five items for the city, he noted, while nowhere were there projects that might meet the needs of the city's poor or fringe populations, like young children and the homeless, or the very real need of supporting economic development so those young children grew up able to find jobs in their hometown.

“At some point we have to start investing in infrastructure that helps our most vulnerable and helps grow our economy,” Gonzales said. 

Councilor Joseph Maestas had also voiced concerns over listing projects that have already seen significant funds considered, or which aren't through the design phase, and the absence of millions of dollars' worth of deferred maintenance needed throughout the city.

The Finance Committee has also been advised against taking on any new debt, and therefore the council shouldn't prioritize a project that might need a bond to fund it if the city needs to forgo any bonds over the next several years, Maestas said.

“I'm just not sure I can really support this ICIP as presented,” he said. “What I'd like to see is a mix of infrastructure improvements, and I'd like to see some of these improvements that apply citywide.”

They looked at putting forward a list of five projects that would make a statement but expected those would likely be thrown out, Councilor Chris Rivera countered.

“It's better to go for money for projects that will be worked on than to have a list of five that will be thrown out because there's no sponsor for any of them,” Rivera said. 

With improvements to soccer facilities at the Municipal Recreation Complex a big contender for the top spot, Rivera and Councilor Patti Bushee defended soccer as a form of economic development, calling it the fastest growing sport in America and noting that tournaments have been seen to generate revenue for the cities hosting them. 

“We know it’s a wish list,” Bushee said of the ICIP, “as it goes over to our delegation, but we do hope they take note, and it's my understanding we may have a supporter or two over there in terms of the soccer complex.”

Regardless of the projects the city names as its top five, Bushee pointed out, sometimes none of those items see funding and the state goes for something else altogether, like last year, when funding was given for the airport. The soccer supporters already have some financial pledges, she said, adding, “I think we're on the right track in terms of outdoor recreation…I understand that we have a lot of infrastructure and needs, but I think these will be looked at favorably by our legislators.”

Public Works Director Issac Pino assured councilors that what matters for a project is that it's on the list and is assigned a number, and he echoed that legislators often go deep within the list to select projects for funding. 

“I can’t emphasize enough that it doesn't matter if it's number 50 or number three,” Pino said. 

If that's the case, Councilor Peter Ives asked, why have items been moved? He called the process "tortured" and added that he couldn't support the list, “just because so much sausage has been made here.”

The council split over accepting the list as presented, with Ives abstaining, and Bushee, Bill Dimas, Carmichael Dominguez and Rivera in favor, Signe Lindell, Maestas, and Gonzales against. The motion required five votes to pass, and so it failed.

If council wasn't able to approve an ICIP, none of the projects would get legislative attention, and the deadline to submit is Sept. 2, allowing little time for revisions.

Councilors then scrambled to make adjustments to those top five positions, shuffling an additional $890,000 needed for the Southside Transit Center down the list in favor of $1 million in fiber optics to entice business development (No. 2), and bumping off $3 million in upgrades to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center ice rink for $1 million in citywide facilities maintenance (No. 3). In the end, the No. 1 spot still went for soccer, specifically a $10 million project to renovate soccer fields and add an indoor soccer field. No. 4 is $3.5 million for improvements to West Alameda Street drainage, and the last slot is for $5 million for the second phase of development at the Southwest Activity Node Park. The vote for that list saw unanimous approval. 

Children in soccer jerseys took up the seats in the front rows of the meeting Wednesday night as councilors considered the list.

Pilar Faulkner, lobbying on behalf of the Rio Rapids Northern Banditas soccer team for girls under 12, stepped outside the city council meeting after the vote to tell the girls what just happened, explaining how councilors from different districts were essentially fighting over who got slices of the pie. 

“I try not to ask you girls to come out here too often,” Faulkner told them, “but if you hadn’t been here tonight, we may have been kicked off the list.”


Morning Word: Super Last Ditch Effort

Governor orders schools to complete background checks

Morning WordWednesday, August 26, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Follow the Law
Joey Peters, the New Mexico Political Report journalist who broke the original news stories  that have sent the Albuquerque Public Schools district into a scandal-ridden tailspin, now has school officials scrambling to justify why they didn’t conduct a background check on suspected child predator Jason Martinez before hiring him for a six-figure deputy superintendent’s position. With an arrest warrant now out for Martinez, Peters reports that Gov. Susana Martinez is directing schools around the state to make sure they are in compliance with state criminal background check laws.

Last-Ditch Effort
After telling the Albuquerque Journal editors he made a mistake hiring Martinez, embattled APS Superintendent Luis Valentino tells KOB4 that he wants to “clean up his image, repair his relationship with the community and stay at his job as superintendent.” The television station says it will broadcast their interview with Valentino tonight, but it might just be too late. School board members plan to meet tomorrow to decide whether to give him another chance or to terminate his contract before something else pops up. If the board does decide to fire Valentino, he may not be be in line for a golden parachute like the $350,000 contract buyout that former superintendent Winston Brooks received when he resigned under pressure.

Top Cop
Two former state police officers, including a retired deputy chief, and a child protection specialist working for the United Nations in Africa, want to be Santa Fe’s next police chief. Interim chief Patrick Gallagher told the Santa Fe New Mexican he hasn’t decided if he’ll apply for the position, which opened after Eric Garcia retired under pressure this summer.

Push Back
Officials at the New Mexico Human Services Department say they’re going to delay new work requirements for adults receiving food stamps. People opposed to the strict new work rules  have said there are not enough jobs “or meaningful training opportunities in the poverty-stricken state.” The delay may help 60,000 people find employment before the new rules are implemented Jan. 1.

Dirty Water
SFR reporter Elizabeth Miller, who traveled to the Animas River to check out the toxic spill, has a long cover story and reports that strict federal rules would probably not have saved the river from the Gold King Mine sludge. Back in Santa Fe, Miller also discovered the Santa Fe's own drinking water source is pretty clean compared to other New Mexico cities.

Information Pothole
The New Mexico Department of Health continues to shield information about the state's licensed medical marijuana growers. Hundreds of pages of documents reviewed by SFR on Tuesday were either completely blacked out or heavily redacted. We did learn that 10 of the 23 nonprofit growers have received approval to grow 450 plants at a time. Some producers say limiting the number plants is an outdated model.

Johnson Offended
Former New Mexico gov. Gary Johnson says he’s offended when presidential candidates use the term “anchor babies.” He says what's “even more offensive is the absurdity of people named Bush, Trump and Clinton trying to decide what’s offensive to immigrants.” Johnson says voters should be focusing on the $18 trillion federal debt and “other real” issues.

Trapping Opposition Grows
Carol Clark reports that an overwhelming number of New Mexicans who value coyotes’ iconic wilderness status are expressing their opposition to coyote killing contests and unregulated trapping, especially since domestic dogs are often snared in the same traps during family hikes along local mountain trails.

Show of Support
At Santa Fe’s Academy for Technology and the Classics charter school, students are rallying behind a 16-year-old classmate who is headed to Houston for cancer treatment for the second time. Jaiden Patel, who battled cancer as a toddler, says he’ll battle his disease “by thinking positive and thinking of all the things that I have ahead of me.”

Living Props
Seven large cypress trees that were used as props on the Independence Day sequel set here this summer will live on in New Mexico. Movie makers donated the trees (worth about $10,000) to the Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Department after production wrapped recently.

Drink Up

How Santa Fe’s city water quality compares 


Local NewsWednesday, August 26, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Nestled up the hillsides past the Audubon Center and beyond the reaches of the Dale Ball Trails is a stretch of forest that’s been mostly closed to human traffic since 1932. This infrequently accessed 17,200-acre piece of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains feeds the Santa Fe River and a series of two reservoirs that are a major source of water for the city of Santa Fe.

The results, from a water quality manager’s perspective, are nice. “Santa Fe’s water supply is actually really clean,” says Alex Puglisi, environmental compliance specialist with the city’s Public Utilities Department.

The drinking water for more than 80,000 city residents is drawn from a few main sources: the Santa Fe Watershed, groundwater wells and the San Juan-Chama diversion from the Rio Grande. Each has its own set of issues, but the concerns, on the whole, are manageable, Puglisi says, and he should know: It’s his job to make sure the water meets federal standards. With repairs to the reservoirs fed by the Santa Fe River Watershed bringing that source back online, the last year has seen the Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant supply an increasing amount of the city’s water, though it’s one of several options.

The Santa Fe River runs downhill into a series of two reservoirs, McClure and Nichols, which are nearing the end of a multiyear process to rebuild historic dam infrastructure. Nichols was totally drained and has since been refilled. Earlier this year, after storms in May, it was at 98 percent capacity, water just below the spillway. Now it’s 60 percent full. McClure, which is almost five times the size of Nichols, holding 1.02 billion gallons to Nichols’ 218 million, has been totally drained for repairs. How quickly it will refill is a question mark, Puglisi says, but the hope is that with the predicted high precipitation of an El Niño winter coming, they’ve timed it just right.

Forests near Nichols Reservoir have been thinned to prevent wildfire.
Elizabeth Miller

 

When he talks about what he is concerned about with that source, it’s not what you might expect. The municipal watershed at the headwaters of the Rio Grande Watershed, having been closed to the public for more than 80 years and surrounded by wilderness and land held by the Nature Conservancy and Audubon Society, is threatened by very little in the way of contamination, according to Puglisi. 

“There’s no mining, so that protects us from things like Gold King,” he says.

The big thing the city is watching for, with no mines and no human settlements upriver, is wildfire. Before it was closed to the public, the area was logged, and the resulting regrowth came in thick groves of trees, now all about 70 years old. Were a forest like that to burn, it would be the kind of out-of-control, overly hot blaze that’s become known for blasting past  fire breaks to burn homes and, at times, kill firefighters. The damage to the water quality would be severe.

To avoid that scenario, the Forest Service has hand-thinned the ponderosas on 5,500 acres of hillsides surrounding the reservoirs. That work breeds its own questions, like what effect chemicals and ash from cutting, piling and burning trees might have on the reservoir’s water. They’re monitoring for that, as well as the amount of total organic carbon coming out of the watershed.

In heavy rains, sediment carried down eroding arroyos may increase turbidity to levels that exceed what drinking water standards allow, and there’s some question as to how thinner trees might affect that.

Below Nichols, a pipe carries water from the reservoir to the water treatment plant, where drinking water is treated, per federal requirements, with fluoride, chlorine and sodium carbonate to make it slightly more alkaline to prevent corrosion in copper and lead pipes. The city just completed a test of copper and lead required every three years; results are pending.

In addition to surface water from Santa Fe River, processed through the Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant, the city gets Rio Grande surface water (through the San Juan-Chama project) that’s treated at the Buckman Direct Diversion facility and Tesuque Formation aquifer groundwater accessed through seven wells within city limits and 13 wells in the Buckman well field northwest of town.

The city’s tests of its wells and of the river water from both sources show levels of contaminants that are well below the toughest goals set by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Naturally occurring levels of arsenic, fluoride and radioactive contaminants all need monitoring, Puglisi says.

The 2014 water quality test shows most of the city’s water sources coming in below the maximum contaminant level goal, an unenforceable target that takes into account sensitive populations like infants, elderly and those with compromised immune systems, and the maximum contaminant level, the enforceable standard for public water systems.

Arsenic, likely from volcanic geology in the area, appears in levels that can be treated by mixing higher arsenic wells with water from other wells. Radioactive contaminants also appear in the water coming from the Rio Grande through the Buckman transfer and in the city well field. The EPA has stated a goal of providing water with no traces of gross alpha, gross beta, radium or uranium but tolerates low levels of each in an effort to set standards that cities can afford to meet, and Santa Fe’s water comes in well below those marks.

The radioactive contamination found in water from wells within the city limits, wells in the Buckman Road area line and the Buckman Diversion from the Rio Grande—in varying amounts, they’re all below the maximum contaminant level set by the EPA—comes from naturally occurring uranium ores.

But Nuclear Watch New Mexico says that may not always be the case. Some of the more soluble, faster-moving contaminants, chromium and high explosives among them, have already been found in the aquifer that serves Santa Fe, Los Alamos and portions of Española, and they arrived far faster than Los Alamos big-wigs said they expected. And a plan currently working its way through the New Mexico Environment Department calls for capping and covering 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and hazardous waste situated above the aquifer, saying that it would take thousands of years for contaminants to migrate. They’ve been found in springs along the Rio Grande after just 60 years. They’ve also been found 200 feet deep.

“As late as 1996, the head of Los Alamos’s groundwater protection plan was publicly saying that groundwater contamination was impossible from the laboratory because the overlying volcanic tuff was, and the word that he used, was impermeable, and the Pajarito Plateau is without exaggeration one of the most geologically complex places in the world, and it’s highly fractured,” says Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and board president for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. “For the head of Los Alamos’s groundwater contamination plan to say groundwater contamination is impossible is completely untruthful.”

Regional monitoring wells have also shown contamination.

“It may be below the [maximum contaminant level], but still, they’re there, and so our feeling is that if this stuff hits the aquifer, then it’s kind of too late,” says Scott Kovac, also with Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “We’ve got to remove the source so it doesn’t keep seeping that way.”

Though the Buckman wells are 1,000 feet deep, they may be some of the first places contaminants, if they move, are found.

Often, when the city tells people something like there’s no evidence that Los Alamos is the source of the radium and uranium found in trace amounts in the water, not even they seem to believe it, Puglisi says. So when there are storms in Los Alamos, they shut off intakes at the Buckman Diversion, which draws from the Rio Grande near Los Alamos, just to preserve Santa Feans’ peace of mind.

“Not that we’re saying there’s something coming down, but there was such a concern when Buckman was built,” Puglisi says.

With the rain increasing sediment, the water quality drops anyway.

McClure Reservoir has been drained for repairs. City staff hopes a wet winter will soon refill it.
Elizabeth Miller

 

For the Santa Fe River, the biggest problem is us. By the time the river passes under Guadalupe Street, it’s seen notable increases in the level of contaminants from human and animal wastes and refuse.

The city is in the third phase of brownfield tests on the water that drains into the river, and it has found some surprises along the way, including chemical remnants likely from dry cleaners.

“We’re trying to get a bit of a definition of what we’re looking at and how extensive it may be,” Puglisi says. “As we’ve gone through every phase, we’ve found more questions to answer.”

The $120,000 in brownfield assessment work is being done through the New Mexico Environment Department and an EPA contractor. The contaminants they’re now finding are not thought to be a threat to any of the wells yet, he says, but they’ll continue tracking their location.

The city has been scaling down its use of wells, once run almost to capacity all the time, and examining how their use affects the level of contaminants coming from them. They’ve noticed some variations so far in the levels of contaminants coming from wells where pumps have just been turned on or wells where they’ve been pumping water for a while, but they aren’t announcing conclusions from that research yet. Wells are sampled quarterly, each quarter testing for different constituents, but always for tritium. If they’re going to see something coming down valley from Los Alamos, tritium would likely be the first marker of that, Puglisi says. 

Rotating some wells out of use is a luxury afforded by decreased water consumption in a city that has shed millions of gallons from its average peak days. When the demand was near 18 million gallons a day, the wells had to run all the time, at almost peak capacity. The Buckman Diversion was built in part to slow the draw on those wells. With high use now just 14 million gallons a day, they have the option to turn elsewhere, Puglisi says: “Conservation has almost expanded the portfolio of options.”

7 Days

08.26.15

7 DaysWednesday, August 26, 2015 by SFR
1

NEWEST BILLY THE KID PHOTO ALLEGES OUTLAW DUG CROQUET

He doesn’t always play lawn games, but when he does, they’re old-school.

2

BILL SUPPORTS HILL

What we really want to know is whether either one of them has an account on Ashley Madison.

3

GOATSCAPING CLEARS BUCKMAN WEEDS

Economic development, Old West style.

4

VIRAL VIDEO SHOWS DRIVERS DOING DONUTS ON I-25

Cops want help identifying them. Were they cream filled? Glazed?

5

STOCK MARKET PLUNGES

The bear market is replaced by the goat market.

6

STATE PEN INMATES ARE BACK TO WORK AFTER ROAD-CREW ESCAPE

New rules require even brighter jumpsuits.

7

VEHICLE BURGLARIES SPIKE

So just go ahead and leave your purse on the seat.


Street View

08.26.15

Street ViewWednesday, August 26, 2015 by SFR
Getting gas at Smith’s is apparently becoming a lot more dangerous.


Send shots to streetview@sfreporter.com or share with #SFRStreetview for a chance to win free movie passes to the CCA Cinematheque.

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