Fluoride Action Network

Cuatro Villas: Wells contaminated with fluoride, arsenic and uranium

Source: Rio Grande Sun | City To Provide Cuatro Villas Water, Gets Snubbed on Sewer | SUN Assistant News Editor
Posted on January 22nd, 2009


Over 100 households in La Puebla will have access to safer drinking water in the new year when the Cuatro Villas water association completes its first pipeline.

Work crews are scheduled to begin construction Jan. 19 of a 12,000-foot water line connecting the city of Espanola’s water system to end users in La Puebla. The line will run along State Road 76 and construction will affect the flow of traffic, Cuatro Villas President Martha Quintana said.

“At the last meeting we had with the engineers, they expect it to be done by April,” Quintana said.

By that time, the association hopes to have worked out agreements to buy water from the city, Quintana said. Espanola Mayor Joseph Maestas said the process involves negotiating a bulk-rate price for the water and dealing with the issue of water-rights transfers, which are generally required of anyone connecting to the city’s system.

In the case of Cuatro Villas, the issue will likely be dealt with on an individual, case-by-case basis, Maestas said.

The city is dealing with separate water issues of its own, including wells that are contaminated with arsenic and fluoride and pockets of city residents that have been waiting for years to be hooked up to the system. The City Council is about to weigh a significant utility rate hike, the most recent in a series of increases advertised as a way to address mounting operational costs. (See related story, page AX.)

Uranium Contamination

Quintana said Cuatro Villas’ current pipeline project will accomplish two goals — for one, the association is required to provide cleaner water to La Puebla, which is currently the only community in Cuatro Villas’ service area with a central water system. High uranium levels in that system prompted a notice of violation in 2006 from the state Environment Department, and Cuatro Villas committed to fixing the problem in 2009, Quintana said.

According to a 2006 water-quality study, uranium levels in Cuatro Villas’ two wells were more than eight times the allowable limit for drinking water.

Tests on individual wells in other parts of the association’s service area give varying results, Quintana said. Some wells are fine, while neighboring ones show contamination.

“Because there’s really no community water source, it’s hard to say what testing really amounts to,” Quintana said.

That’s why in the long run, Cuatro Villas aims to bring all its users onto a regional system, Quintana said. The association was created as a public entity in 2006 to provide water for the communities that lie to the east and southeast of Española in Santa Fe County — Arroyo Seco, Sombrillo, Cuarteles and La Puebla.

Quintana said secondly, the State Road 76 pipe will have manifolds to provide hook-up access where there are clusters of users in Cuarteles, which has 40-odd member households.

The pipeline project is being paid for with $2.5 million in grants and loans from the County, the state Water Trust Board and the legislature, Quintana said. The cost of a fully self-sufficient regional water system has been estimated at $21.3 million, according to a Cuatro Villas release. ..