Albuquerque Spills 6 Million Gallons of Sewage into Rio Grande
On March 11, 2015, Charles S. Leder, P.E., Plant Operations Division Manager of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority addressed the Isleta Tribal Council concerning the 6 million gallons of sewage that spilled into the Rio Grande on February 27th.
Leder explained that they are taking action to look at what went wrong. He said, “We apologize that we did not do our job. We were not prepared.”
Leder said that their job is to purify the waste water so that it is consistent with Isleta’s water quality standards. He said, we put out “good quality effluent.”
He said that they had several issues with power.
According to Leder, the conditions of the river are “back to normal” in terms of the bacteria.
Ramona Montoya, Director of the Isleta Department of Natural Resources Environmental Compliance Division, told the Council that on March 9th they lifted the “water advisory” that they issued based on their testing results.
Council Member Ulysses Abeita asked whether they tested the vegetation and the fish. Montoya said they did not.
Council Member Fernando Abeita questioned why there was a delay in getting notice out to the community about the spillage into the river. He asked Leder why they did not immediately inform the news media so notice could get out.
Leder responded, you bring up a good point about notification and there is room for improvement to allow people to get notice.
Council Member Verna Teller couldn’t understand why Albuquerque was not prepared. She said, “You should have been prepared.”
Leder replied that there were issues with a power outage from PNM. But, we are committed to correcting those problems.
Teller asked, “Don’t you have a backup system?”
Leder explained that they their internal switching did not perform the way they expected.
Teller said, “I’m not satisfied with your explanation.” The contaminated water impacted everyone down the river and you should have been here the very next day.
Leder said, “Our apologies for not being prepared. We are willing to work with tribal staff to have better communications for notifications procedures.”
Leder invited the Tribal Council to tour the waste water facility. He said, we want to be a good neighbor. It’s not fun to come here before you. But, we are committed to making sure that this doesn’t happen again.
Governor Torres told the Council that the Water Authority is cooperating with Isleta and they are answering Isleta’s questions.
Tribal Attorney Pablo Padilla is still in the process of determining what recourse the Tribe may have against Albuquerque. He was also drafting a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Governor Torres said that they gave notice to the community through the Tribe’s website and POI’s intranet email system.
He also said that Vernon Abeita is requesting permission to use social media like Facebook to provide emergency notice to the people. Governor Torres said that he was going to give Vernon the okay.
Council Member Betty Lente told the Governor that the Tribe needed to start using the news media to get notice out to the community immediately. Especially, in an emergency situation.
Sewage River Update
At the start of the discussion, Governor Eddie Paul Torres told the Council to limit their discussion to just 10 minutes with Mr. Leder. It made no sense why he wanted to limit the discussion because this is a critical issue.
The discussion went beyond 10 minutes. But, the discussion was superficial at best.
There was no specific mention of the E coli that was discovered in the river.
There was no mention of whether there are any long term adverse affects to our health, the health of the river, the vegetation or to the fish.
Apparently, we need not be concerned, since our Environmental Department lifted the water advisory that they issued.
But, if the river is precious and sacred, then why don’t we have a lawyer that specializes in Environmental Law advising us on how to best protect our interests to the river? Instead, we are relying on our general counsel.
Albuquerque’s profuse apologies for sending us 6 million gallons of their sewage and a tour of their treatment plant is not sufficient.