Failures at state and city level led to no notification of toxic water in Española
March 08, 2019 10:43 PM
ESPAÑOLA, N.M. — City leaders in Española say an expedited test shows the water is safe to drink tonight.
That test was ordered after a notification arrived at Española City Hall on March 6, telling them they had unsafe nitrate levels in their drinking water back on Nov. 27.
The notification was a part of a quarterly review by the Drinking Water Bureau and was more than three months late.
"Normally, these acute data results are the highest priority,” said Stephanie Stringer, the Drinking Water Bureau Chief with New Mexico Environmental Department. “This is the first one that we've ever missed since I became bureau chief."
Federal guidelines dictate notification must be sent 24-hours after detection of dangerous drinking water. The NMED is the oversight agency for around 1,100 water systems. The NMED is also responsible that those water systems, like Española, adhere to federal guidelines.
However, both the city and state officials said they missed correspondence from the lab that tested water back in November.
"That's inexcusable if you ask me," said Ella Martinez who lives in Española. "Why did it take it so long to find out what the problem was?"
Martinez runs a daycare in Espanola, and the notice posted said the water was particularly dangerous for infants. High nitrates in the water could cause serious illness or even death in young children.
“We're doing the best we can to recognize all the mistakes that we made in the past," said Española mayor Javier Martinez. He said the city should’ve followed up when they didn’t receive the water test results in November and the notice they sent out was less than clear.
Española Public Works Director Steven Trujillo took personal responsibility for not following up on the November results. However, he said that calling on missing results has never been part of the protocol and this is the first compliance gaff of this severity in a decade of working with Española.
Trujillo said the city tested the water in January and found there were safe nitrate levels. However, he also said there’s no way of knowing how long dangerous water was being delivered between Nov. 27 and early January.
Both Española and the Drinking Water Bureau have implemented weekly safeguards to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Mayor Martinez said new and expecting mothers who want to be extra cautious can receive free bottled water from City Hall or the Women Infant and Child Center while supplies last.
Updated: March 08, 2019 10:43 PM
Created: March 08, 2019 08:58 PM
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