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Official: Water crisis not impacting FLETC; Warnings continue against using Artesia city water before boil order is lifted

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The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is supplying bottled water for drinking and purified water for dorm rooms for students while the city of Artesia remains under a water boil order. A spokesperson for FLETC said training has not been impacted by Artesia's water crisis. (Jeff Tucker Photo)

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A spokesperson for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center says a citywide water boil advisory in Artesia has not impacted operations at the FLETC facility in Artesia, and alternate water sources are being utilized to continue basic and advanced law enforcement training at FLETC’s 1,340-acre facility in the northwest Artesia.

“It’s normal business happening,” said Christa Crawford Thompson, communications officer for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. “We’re following the guidelines of the county, whatever they’re saying.”
Crawford Thompson said city water in Artesia first tested positive for E. coli on July 13. After a second positive test on July 14, the Artesia Water Department issued a boiled water notice on July 15.
“FLETC advised students and staff to follow safety protocols for water usage regarding showers, etc.,” Crawford Thompson said. “FLETC is supplying bottled water for drinking and gallons of purified water — reverse osmosis treated — for dorm rooms.”
When asked how FLETC cadets and staff were coping, Crawford Thompson said: “We’re following the protocol issued by the city.”
Crawford Thompson noted state and city authorities have been testing Artesia’s water and have introduced chlorine into the city water system. Officials said daily testing will continue until there have been two consecutive days of clean test results.
“FLETC will continue to advise students and staff to follow the safety protocols and boiled water notice until the city confirms that the water is safe,” said Crawford Thompson. “There are no impacts to FLETC training.”
Despite some media reports to the contrary, state officials said Thursday it’s too soon for Artesia residents to shower, wash clothes or otherwise use water from the city’s water system without first boiling it for one minute to kill bacteria and other organisms.
“Our stance is still to boil it,” said Brandi Garcia, the southern area supervisor of the New Mexico Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau. “I don’t know how safe it is to water the grass or anything like that. With the Drinking Water Bureau, our concern is only for human consumption. So from our standpoint, it’s always boil the water for everything, until that boil water order is lifted.”
The NMED advised residents to drink bottled water or to boil water before drinking, cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, feeding a baby, brushing teeth, preparing drinks, making ice and providing drinking water for pets.
Garcia said showering with city water was not still recommended.
“Including everything, yes,” she said. “We’re advising boiling water for all use.”
Garcia said Thursday that Artesia’s water tested positive for bacteriological contamination again on Wednesday when chlorine was introduced to the water system. Samples received Thursday will be the first set of samples since the chlorine was introduced into water storage tanks.
“The results that got back (Wednesday) were still positive for E. Coli,” she said. “Now these are the first set of samples that are chlorinated, they’ve been introducing chlorine into the system. So we’ll see what these come out like. We’re still waiting on those results.”

Garcia said as of Thursday afternoon, Artesia has not had a single day since Saturday when no bacteria was found. She said the NMED won’t lift the boil water order until there have been two consecutive days of no type of bacteria coliform or E. coli in the Artesia distribution system.
Garcia said she has been in contact with FLETC regarding the water crisis.
“I think they were more concerned with how long the water had been positive and if they needed to notify people who have been at the campus before, maybe like a week or two before, about their positive results to see if anybody had been sick from that,” she said. “But I haven’t gotten any reports that somebody has. They’ve been in contact with me and we’ve been discussing, just basically kind of giving them an update on what’s going on.
“I’m not sure at all how they’re managing.”
Garcia said the bacteriological contamination was initially found in the city’s water system near the FLETC, on the north side of Artesia. The water boil warning was extended to nearby Morningside, which also has tested positive for E. coli and fecal coliforms.
Morningside is an unincorporated community on the northern border of Artesia, west of U.S. Route 285. The boil water advisory was extended to the Morningside, since the Morningside Water Users Cooperative receives all of its water from Artesia’s municipal water system.
The Artesia water system serves about 14,000 people. The Morningside Water Users Cooperative serves 358 people. Both public water systems are in northern Eddy County.
The water boil advisory does not extend to the Artesia Rural Water Cooperative or any other surrounding water systems. No water problems have been reported in Roswell. While Roswell and Artesia share the same aquifer, there are no pipes connecting the water systems of the two cities.
There have been no reported illnesses related to the Artesia water crisis. Fecal coliform, or E. coli bacteria, can make people sick and are a concern for people with weakened immune systems.
The Artesia Water Department said in a drinking water warning posted on the city’s website Saturday that it anticipated resolving the problem within a week. The Water Department said it has switched to an alternate drinking water source, and increased sampling to determine the source of the contamination.
The Artesia Water Department said bacterial contamination can occur when increased runoff enters the drinking water source, such as following heavy rains. It can also happen due to a break in the distribution system pipes or because of a failure in the water treatment process.
The NMED said the presence of E. coli in water indicates that the water may have been in contact with sewage or animal wastes, and could contain disease-causing organisms. The NMED said most strains of E. coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. However, a positive test for E. coli in the drinking water supply may indicate the presence of dangerous strains of E. coli or other disease-causing organisms.
Interim editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.