Chama water leak located; repairs begin

·3 min read

Jun. 25—CHAMA — Officials in the village of Chama say they have found the source of a water leak that has paralyzed the Northern New Mexico community for several days.

Mayor Ernest Vigil said Friday an independent contractor — American Leak Detection of Albuquerque — found the problem shortly before noon Friday. A news release from the state Environment Department said the effort was aided by aerial flyovers from a contractor, KCSI Aerial Patrol, Inc., which used special technology to help identify the leak's location.

The leak, which has left the town of about 1,000 people largely without water for since Monday, was discovered in the vicinity of Satter White Sawmill on the west side of the village, Vigil said.

"I feel very relieved," he said.

But Chama is not yet out of the crisis. Vigil said it's possible there is more than one leak in the system.

Though a local contractor, Arriba Concrete and Construction, agreed to repair the issue that was diagnosed by the Albuquerque company, work was just beginning late Friday afternoon. Company owner Randy Pettingill, along with a couple of workers, were attempting to diagnose the problem.

"We don't know where it is or what's in there yet," Pettingill said.

Asked how long it would take before repairs are made, he replied: "That depends on what's wrong with it."

Pettingill said much could depend on whether parts are available for the repair. Without them, a fix will be delayed until at least Saturday, he said.

The state of New Mexico has been assisting Chama during the crisis, delivering both potable and nonpotable water to the Rio Arriba County town, which depends on tourist dollars as a key source of revenue.

The state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has delivered 20,000 gallons of potable water to the village since June 10, when local officials first realized there was a leak in one of the lines. Bottled water also had been sent to the town.

Though repairs were in sight, Vigil said he's worried state agencies would stop delivering water before the crisis is over.

"I'm concerned if they will still bring water," he said.

The crisis already has affected the town's tourism business and likely will lead to the cancellation of some planned summer events, Vigil said. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad has postponed scheduled running until July 1, according to its website.

Chama resident Amy Staggs, who runs two businesses and a youth outreach program in the area, said Friday she was happy to hear the leak source was discovered.

Still, she took advantage of a tanker of water parked outside City Hall to obtain 14 gallons for her family and dogs.

She said while the water shortage has "definitely impacted" traffic into the village and negatively affected local businesses that could not operate without water, she's seen villagers, local police, and fire agency staffers and others organize to help residents — including hauling water for the elderly.

"There's nothing like seeing the village of Chama come together," Staggs said.

Others in town said they have survived the water crisis well by helping neighbors and sharing water resources.

"Its been pretty tough," said Kimberly Hise, a real estate agent in Chama. "But we made it work. We saw some great locals step up with providing water. But I'm definitely concerned about the elderly — the elderly make up a high percentage of our village."