Magdalena implements strict fines for water restriction violations

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Magdalena Marshall Larry Cearley received mixed greetings Friday afternoon as he distributed a newly passed ordinance from the Magdalena Village Council.

“Most people are glad to see (the restrictions),” Cearley said. “I haven’t seen anyone out her watering their gardens or their yard, or washing their car. Maybe a few are doing a load of laundry.”

The restrictions in the ordinance – to not use water from the village water system for watering lawns and gardens, watering livestock and pets, washing vehicles, or washing clothes – were already in place since June 6, when the village well went dry. However, they were not formally in place, and there was really no way to enforce them.

“All the city could do was ask you to stop,” said Cearley. “There was really no repercussion if you didn’t.”

That has changed drastically with the new ordinance. These acts will now be accompanied by a stiff fine. The first offense is $250, and $500 per incident following the first fine. According to Jerry Wheeler, Emergency Management Coordinator for the Socorro County Office of Emergency Management, a judge could determine it was appropriate to skip the first offense fine and immediately fine a resident $500 for even a first violation.

Swamp cooler utilization was not included in the restrictions, but residents are asked to conserve their use as much as possible. Wheeler said once cooler pads are wet and the reservoir is filled, the coolers actually do not use a great deal of water. He asks that residents to use non-potable water to get their swamp coolers back in operation.

Wheeler shared data collected and calculated by the Drinking Water Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department. According to this data, Magdalena has approximately 350 households, which use an estimated average of 114 gallons of water per day. This includes an estimated 20 percent loss in water due to leaks, spills and other loss or waste. Wheeler shared these general facts about water use:

• Flushing the toilet takes an estimated 5 gallons of water (depending on the toilet).

• Taking a 3-minute shower will use 10 to 15 gallons of water.

• Washing an average load of laundry requires an estimated 40 gallons of water.

Wheeler suggests residents “get a five-gallon bucket” and keep it filled with non-potable water and next to the toilet for use in flushing the toilet, rather than using water from the village system for that purpose. The village is still acquiring non-potable water and making it available to residents for their use in watering their livestock and pets, washing clothes, and other such needs.

The village is employing its water conservation plan that was set forth on Wednesday, June 12, with the help of Joe Savage and his team from the Drinking Water Bureau. The plan calls for water to be pumped from the Steers tank (from the well at the high school) into the village system between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. every evening, intermittent or continuous pumping of water from the Spears Well into the system, and measuring water levels in the Trujillo Well – which was the village’s main water supply until it went dry on June 6 – so that when water is present from the well naturally replenishing itself water can be pumped into the Steers tank for holding.

Residents are asked to continue to employ the conservation methods already being regarded, including using bottled water to drink and for food preparation, as necessary. Bottled water is still being distributed at the fire station in Magdalena from 8 to 10 a.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. every day.

“We hope people will join us for the water fair on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Joe Savage, District IV Area Manager of the Drinking Water Bureau said. “We are offering a great service to residents of the community with this fair.”

Residents can have their private wells tested during the fair, but need to sign up with the villagecllerk, Rita Broaddus, by calling (575) 854-2261 . Savage said information collected will be made available to the public, but individual names and addresses will not be disclosed.
“The information is being collected as a service to the community and its residents for planning and conservation purposes,” Savage said. “The state or local government does not have any intent for broader use of this data.”

Mid- to long-term plans continue to unfold for the village. The village has submitted an application for a $100,000 emergency Community Development Block Grant, which is to be considered by the CDBG committee on Monday.

“We hope to know something Monday afternoon or Tuesday,” Broaddus said.

The $100,000 will be utilized to rehabilitate the Benjamin Well and deepen the Trujillo Well, Wheeler said. Engineers working with the village have recommended the rehabilitation efforts in place of drilling a new well, because it will be more expedient and more cost effective. A new well may still need to be drilled in the near future.

“The Benjamin Well was drilled in the 1960s,” said Wheeler on Friday evening. “It went down about 180 feet, and had a water level of 26 ½ feet from the surface at that time. The water level was checked on Thursday and it is at 27 ½ feet – not much of a drop for several decades. Very promising,” Wheeler said.

He said the well was taken off line years ago, because it was thought that there were some casing problems. They have checked the well and found the casing is intact, but that the screen used to filter the water was clogged with scale. The plans include ensuring the casing is good, cleaning the filter and other rehabilitation efforts, and bringing the well back online.

“In its day it was producing 130 to 140 gallons per minute, and we hope it will produce at that level again,” Wheeler said.

Danielle Fitzpatrick of Magdalena is organizing a group of volunteers to distribute information door-to-door in the village during the emergency period. Contact Danielle at 575-418-7029 if you are interested in volunteering.

Messages and alerts are being sent to Magdalena Village residents’ email addresses, cell phones and home phones through Socorro County InfoNet. Residents must sign up to receive alerts. Go to http://www.socorrocounty.net/ and select “Emergency Management” from the menu on the left under “Departments”, then select the link in the box with “CODERED” above it.

The Magdalena Village Council is holding regular public information meetings every Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m. until further notice. Meetings will be held at the Village Hall, unless otherwise specified in meeting notices and posts. The meeting to determine whether or not to hold the Old Timers Reunion will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 17, at the Madalena High School gymnasium.