Letter To The Editor: The Worth Of Water
By JEANETTE SALAZAR
As a former federal employee of natural resource management agencies for twenty-seven years, I learned to regard water as our most valuable resource for our society’s health and survival. New Mexico’s three-year drought and poor economy have challenged us as residents to seek clean and safe drinking water in the most conservative and economical way possible. Nineteen of Valley Estates’ sixty-eight homeowners, including my family, did just that.
In early 2012, we connected to Espanola City’s 8” water line installed throughout Valley Estates in 2009 for fire suppression purposes. By hooking up to this line, we optimized its value because we avoided further consumption of water contaminated with almost twice the Maximum Contaminant Level of uranium allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the Well Report and subsequent lab results, the Valley Estates Mutual Water & Sewer Association, Inc. has been delivering this uranium laden water since 2005 when the well was constructed to replace a well polluted with dangerously high levels of nitrates. The State allowed the Association to continue using the new well after it received an affidavit dated March 31, 2005 regarding an Emergency Ground Water Application from James E. Corbin, PE, then-agent for the Association. Based on information and belief, Mr. Corbin falsely testified the new well was providing drinking water acceptable to the New Mexico Environmental Department.
Connecting to municipal water also spared us from being party to a forthcoming $240,000 grant of public money and encumbering our homes to an attendant twenty-year government loan of $60,000 to treat the uranium and replace some of the Association’s aging infrastructure, not including its 6” asbestos cement water line or meters. We also dodged the requirement, according to the Association’s Preliminary Engineering Report (PER), of paying at least $75 monthly for 6,000 gallons of water once construction begins – a fifty percent increase to its monthly water rate of $50. In stark contrast, a report I prepared and provided each Valley Estates homeowner and renter, as well as city and state officials, shows we met our goal of obtaining a sufficient supply of safe and economical water from the City for all our needs, including outdoor use. Specifically, it reveals the following: (a) In 2014, the City had no water quality violations or arsenic in the wells serving Valley Estates, putting to rest rumors to the contrary; (b) fifteen of the nineteen homes used a monthly average of 5,442 gallons and daily average of approximately 75 gallons per person, at an average cost of $57.06 per month; and (c) two of the remaining four homes with the City not averaged in 2014 incurred about the same usage/costs as the others during the prior five months. The last two homes have since sold and, according to their new owners, are averaging approximately the same amounts each month this year.
All homeowners getting their water from the City would generate much needed revenue for our city that provides all our other services, including public safety, sewer treatment, and garbage collection. And, most importantly, it would avoid the proposed waste and duplication of our state and federal monies usable elsewhere by communities lacking access to an adequate supply of potable water or by the City, helping thousands of residents, rather than just forty-nine. After all, the City was party with Valley Estates and other entities to the Espanola Valley Regional Collaboration, established in a May 23, 2010, Memorandum of Understanding, under which the PER was initially authorized to “work together to…investigate and analyze the existing water systems and related water sources, and propose specific courses of action and costs for improvements…” Lastly, I quote Thomas Fuller (1732), “We never know the worth of water until the well is dry.”