Leak detection companies investigate Chama water leak

·2 min read

Jun. 24—Two leak detection companies arrived in the northern New Mexico village of Chama this week to assess a water system failure which has left businesses and more than 1,000 residents without consistent water.

Taps in Chama ran dry on June 20, after what village officials think was a break in the main water line that started 10 days earlier.

Water service has been sporadic since then.

Matthew Gallegos, Chama's mayor pro tem, said that recent rainfall has complicated the situation.

"You get more mud, dirt and solids in the water that we have to deal with," Gallegos said. "In years past we were able to deal with that because we had storage in the tank. We had a safety net."

A leaky system interferes with the process of treating water from the Rio Chama.

"We couldn't make water fast enough to deal with leaks and consumption," Gallegos said.

One leak detection company is surveying the system on the ground. Another did aerial flyovers on Friday.

Rio Arriba County issued a disaster declaration this week because of the Chama water crisis.

The county also requested Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham followed with an executive order on Thursday declaring a state of emergency.

The order directs $450,000 to the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"This disaster is of such magnitude as to be beyond local control," the order reads, and the community needs more help.

State money can fund housing, health care, food and transportation "until the situation becomes stabilized."

The village has $800,000 in capital outlay funds for water system improvements.

About $130,000 of that money is funding the aerial surveillance work, according to the state Environment Department.

KCSI Aerial Patrol, which typically works to stop large leaks in the oil field, is flying over 8,000 acres in Chama.

The company is using thermal imagery, satellite data and the flyovers to pinpoint changes in topography or moisture that the leak may have caused.

Local and state agencies are delivering emergency water supplies to the village.

Some hotels and restaurants have partially reopened.

The capital outlay money may also help the village find a long-term fix to its aging water infrastructure.