Picacho Hills Utility faces hefty fin...

Picacho Hills Utility faces hefty fine, owner may lose control of c...

There are 16 comments on the Las Cruces Sun-News story from Aug 18, 2010, titled Picacho Hills Utility faces hefty fine, owner may lose control of c.... In it, Las Cruces Sun-News reports that:

State regulators voted last week to levy a fine of between $1 million and $1.5 million against the privately owned Picacho Hills Utility Co.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Las Cruces Sun-News.

MovingAlong

Ruidoso, NM

#1 Aug 19, 2010
If this fine is upheld, this fine of 1-1.5 million dollars, those customers on the companies roles can expect a hefty increase in their rates. It always gets down to the pocket bottom and that is the customer!

This is one of the downsides of any gov't levying a $$ fine. We, the customers always end up getting the short stick/screwed by this action.

That is not to say that some action shouldn't be taken against companies that mess up. The fact is our pockets are getting smaller each month and there has to be a better way of dealing with such issues!
Water Water Water

Albuquerque, NM

#2 Aug 19, 2010
I say this is a golden opportunity for the City of Las Cruces to acquire a water utility with substantial water rights. Might even have a willing (compelled) seller.
Abigail Pedrick

Barnstead, NH

#3 Aug 19, 2010
The Rio Grande should not be polluted. That's a flowing health risk. How can well fertilized grass be a health risk? Keep off the grass!
Fred Flushing

United States

#4 Aug 19, 2010
By the time the litigation gets finished, the City of Las Cruces will have annexed the entire Picacho Hills area.
To heck with acquiring just a water utility and water rights, go after the plum tax base!
And we can all drive to prison on visiting days to see all the administration of Picacho Hills Utility. They've all been living off the receipts for years and no one took the lid off their septics until now! Horray!
not a drop to drink

Albuquerque, NM

#5 Aug 19, 2010
Abigail Pedrick wrote:
The Rio Grande should not be polluted. That's a flowing health risk. How can well fertilized grass be a health risk? Keep off the grass!
If the gray water is high in nitrates and is used to water the golf course the nitrates could leach into the area aquifers that are used for drinking water sources. That is the most likely reason. I do wonder how just piping it into the Rio Grande is more environmentally sound: aquatic life, fish and downstream neighbors use the Rio's waters. Utilities and industry with effluent are allowed to discharge a set amount of pollutants per permits they are issued. Fines are issued when levels are exceeded. Does the state do random sampling of the pond to have a certified lab test for these levels?

This is a good resource to understand the effects of nitrates to your health.
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/crops/00517...

Since this is a desert climate, there really should be ways to allow gray water for purposes such as this. Many courses do this elsewhere. A release of the levels found for the last few years for right to know purposes would be important to the public. This sounds like a government shakedown because funds area low. Maybe this money will be used to bail out the NMSU football debt.
something is fishy

Tijeras, NM

#6 Aug 19, 2010
sounds very fishy to me
El Paso

Santa Fe, NM

#7 Aug 19, 2010
This brings creedence to the idea of "Flush twice, El Paso needs the water."
Jean Valjean

Rio Rancho, NM

#8 Aug 19, 2010
first Jornada water and now picacho hills utilities. Here come the big dogs, you better get some protection if they haven't targeted you yet.
lord

Placitas, NM

#9 Aug 19, 2010
first Jornada water and now picacho hills, lets see if moongate water is next on there list to take control of.
a better solution

Las Cruces, NM

#11 Aug 19, 2010
El Paso wrote:
This brings creedence to the idea of "Flush twice, El Paso needs the water."
Juarez needs that "effluent pipeline ... tak[ing] gray water to the Rio Grande" a lot more. That's cleaner than any drinking water available down there. And I'm sure Uncle Sugar would be more than willing to pay for the extension and any fines incurred by the utility, as jobs stimulus funding.
Joseph

Albuquerque, NM

#12 Aug 19, 2010
What a bunch of malarky! PRC do your home work. This type of water has been used for years and is now being used on golf courses. Painted Dunes in El Paso and Silver City Golf Course are examples. Now Sonoma Ranch will be using the outflow from the new waste water plant just past Mountain View Hospital. This water in the future will also be used in city parks and elsewhere.
CARTIST

Las Cruces, NM

#14 Aug 19, 2010
Abigail Pedrick wrote:
The Rio Grande should not be polluted. That's a flowing health risk. How can well fertilized grass be a health risk? Keep off the grass!
The problem is that when it is used on the golf course, one- its stealing water basically. Two and more importantly, the health risk is incurred when the grey water is atomized during spraying... put the nitrates into the air is bad.

Since: Jan 10

Las Cruces, NM

#15 Aug 20, 2010
Could someone explain just how dumping high nitrate gray water into the Rio Grande makes more sense than using it locally. It would seem to have MORE access to the aquifers in the river than it would in one localized spot.
not a drop to drink

Albuquerque, NM

#16 Aug 20, 2010
BGrubb wrote:
Could someone explain just how dumping high nitrate gray water into the Rio Grande makes more sense than using it locally. It would seem to have MORE access to the aquifers in the river than it would in one localized spot.
This area uses underground aquifers as its water supply to the public, not surface waters. Underground sources contaminated by nitrates can be very expensive to treat to meet epa standards for levels of allowable nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, etc.

From reopure.com/nitratinfo.html :

One potentially large source of nitrogen pollution of groundwater is the application of nitrogen-rich fertilizers to turfgrass. This occurs on golf courses and in residential areas. There are five fates for this nitrogen once it is applied to turfgrass. It may be:
1) taken up by plants
2) stored in soil
3) lost to atmosphere
4) lost to groundwater
5) lost to runoff (Bocher, 1995)

Many studies have shown that most of the nitrogen, about 30 to 50 percent is taken up by the plant. According to an United States Golfing Association study only one to two percent of the nitrogen is leached beyond the root zone (Bocher, 1995). This finding may be slightly biased because this is the result that the USGA desires. Also, this result may occur only when the nitrogen fertilizer is applied carefully and properly. Certain circumstances could lead to more of the nitrogen leaching to the groundwater. Six main factors affect nitrogen leaching:

1) nitrogen rate - One study showed that at one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, no leaching occurred.
2) nitrogen source - Slow-release fertilizers are a nitrogen source that can reduce the chance of leaching.
3) application timing - In late fall, plants take up less nitrogen and there is a greater chance for leaching to occur.
4) irrigation practices - The more irrigation that takes place the greater the chances for nitrate leaching.
5) soil texture - The sandier the soil the more chance for nitrate leaching.
6) age of site - Younger sites usually have less organic matter and need to be fertilized more therefore increasing the chance of leaching.(Bocher, 1995)

It goes on to promote ways to prevent nitrates from entering the water supply when gray water is used for turf grasses:

Based on the six factors affecting nitrate leaching in turfgrass, seven practices can be adopted by turfgrass managers to help prevent the leaching of nitrates. One of the most important steps is to limit the amount of nitrogen applied; "Use slow-release nitrogen sources, or low rates of soluble nitrogen applied more often, where possible"(Bocher, 1995, p. 66). Also the turfgrass manager should be very cautious about adding nitrogen during periods in which the ground is not yet frozen but the grass is not growing. The manager should avoid over-irrigation, which increases the chance of nitrate leaching while doing nothing for the plant. Effort should be made to reduce the amount of nitrogen applied to older sites and collect drainage water instead of allowing it to drain into a river or stream. Finally, the turfgrass manager should use zeolite amendments. Zeolite is, "a mineral with a high cation exchange capacity that can hold on to things like potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium or ammonium" (Bocher, 1995, p. 66). Most of these steps of prevention are even more important in areas of sandy soil. By following these steps the turfgrass manager will greatly reduce the chances of nitrate leaching into groundwater. If proper measures are taken, the fertilizing of golf courses, and athletic fields will not result in nitrogen pollution of groundwater (Neal, 1995).
not a drop to drink

Albuquerque, NM

#17 Aug 20, 2010
The problem per the state regulators:
The utility has a permit specifying a discharge into the Rio and commingling of the utilities funds with Mr. Blanco's other businesses funds. This may have something to do with the volume of water in the Rio due to irrigation by farmers who are alloted a maximum to uses each year. Or another local permitee was granted the right to discharge waste into the river with a high levels of another contaminate because the discharge would be blended in the Rio with the Utilities discharge, making it fall into allowable guidelines. Or the state regulators are bending to the desires of the politicians and local governments to set the stage that allows the take over of another revenue source for their own gain. Why learn to budget wisely when you can throw your weight around and push a small business man out of the way?

The NM Independent has a few details the Sun left out:
http://newmexicoindependent.com/61496/picacho...

It would be a miracle if the regulators would just focus on the commingling of funds to issue a fine, re-issue a permit allowing the use of gray water for the golf course and require records be kept for levels of contaminants prior to application and levels in monitoring wells around the property. There are only 800 customers for PHU, the fines are out of line.

Since: Jan 10

Las Cruces, NM

#19 Aug 23, 2010
not a drop to drink wrote:
<quoted text>
This area uses underground aquifers as its water supply to the public, not surface waters. Underground sources contaminated by nitrates can be very expensive to treat to meet epa standards for levels of allowable nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, etc.
This is all interesting but avoided the question I was asking so I will rephrase as simply as possible: How does dumping this gray water which will be used by those downstream protect the aquifers? If anything this practice would seem to SPREAD rather than limit the contamination.

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