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Water boil advisory lifted in Artesia

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The New Mexico Environment Department late Monday afternoon lifted a water boil advisory order for the city of Artesia and nearby Morningside.

For more than a week, residents of Artesia and members of the Morningside Water Users Cooperative have been advised to boil water after E. coli bacteria was found in the Artesia municipal water system on July 15.

The New Mexico Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau lifted the boil water advisory order shortly before 5 p.m. Monday after testing from consecutive days indicated Artesia’s water was again safe to drink.

“The New Mexico Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau provided technical support to the Artesia Municipal Water System and Morningside Water Users Cooperative and subsequent samples collected from the water system were negative for bacteriological contamination,” NMED communications director Allison Scott Majure said in a news release Monday. “The Artesia Municipal Water System and Morningside Water Users Cooperative will be required to maintain a regular monitoring schedule to test the distribution system for the presence of total coliform and E. coli.”

The NMED issued the water boil advisory order after bacteriological contamination that exceeded the maximum contaminant level for E. coli was discovered in drinking water in Artesia’s water system. The bacteriological contamination was initially found near the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, on the north side of Artesia.

A communications officer for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers said the citywide water boil order did not impact operations, and alternate water sources were utilized to continue basic and advanced law enforcement training at FLETC’s 1,340-acre facility in the northwest Artesia.

City water in Artesia first tested positive for E. coli on July 13, said FLETC spokesperson Christa Crawford Thompson.

“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.”

After a second positive test on July 14, the Artesia Water Department issued a boiled water notice on July 15.

The water boil warning was extended to nearby Morningside, an unincorporated community on the northern border of Artesia, which has tested positive for E. coli and fecal coliforms. The Morningside Water Users Cooperative receives all of its water from Artesia’s municipal water system. The advisory applied to the 14,000 customers served by the Artesia water system and 385 Morningside Water Users Cooperative customers. Both public water systems are in northern Eddy County.

Chlorine was introduced into water storage tanks in the Artesia water system Wednesday, as daily testing occurred. The Artesia Water Department said it switched to an alternate drinking water source, and increased sampling to determine the source of the contamination.

The NMED had said the water boil order would only be lifted after two consecutive days of tests indicated no type of bacteria coliform or E. coli in the Artesia distribution system.

Consumers of water at the Artesia municipal water system and Morningside Water Users Cooperative were advised to boil water for 1 minute before drinking, cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, feeding a baby, brushing teeth, preparing drinks, making ice and providing drinking water for pets.

The presence of E. coli indicates water may have been in contact with sewage or animal wastes, and could contain disease-causing organisms. Children, the elderly and immuno-compromised individuals are at an increased risk for illness.

No water problems were 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.

Interim editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.