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Water mystery confounds Artesians

Artesia resident Wiley Rountree asks city leaders about treatment options during a town hall meeting Thursday night. City leaders were updating the community after E.coli was found in the water earlier this month. (Mike Smith Photo)

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State officials have told those in charge of Artesia city government the source of tainted water discovered earlier this month may never be found.

That was the word given by Mayor Phil Burch during a town hall meeting Thursday evening at the Artesia Recreation Center.

The meeting was held in response to a boil water alert that was issued on Sept. 16 after E.coli was found in a water sample. That prompted city personnel to clean out the system and send samples daily to a lab in Hobbs for testing.

Mayor Burch, Infrastructure Director Byron Landfair, Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Hill , Artesia Fire Chief Kevin Hope and Artesia Police Chief Kirk Roberts were front and center taking various questions from a sparse crowd.

JT Jackson acknowledged that crews were working day and night to clean up the situation. He did point out that for decades Artesia has had good water. “We’ve been proud to say we were one of the systems in the state that didn’t have chlorine in their water and I really hate to see us get to the point where we have to have chlorine.”

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He added that the community water system probably has a glitch. “The way you all are working you’ll eventually get it worked out.”

Artesia District 1 City Councilor Raul Rodriguez said the city needs to look at all options and chlorination on a full-time basis is one of them.

“For the short term we may need to chlorinate in order to continue to provide good water to our citizens and not to put them in a predicament where they’ll have to boil water,” he said.

Rodriguez was asked why Artesia doesn’t chlorinate its water all the time.

“Up to this point, like we’ve talked about in other meetings, we’ve had no need to. We’ve had a system that’s been in place for 70 or 80 years and not until July 15 (the first time E.coli was reported in Artesia) did we have any issues with E.coli,” he said. 

The July boil advisory lasted nearly 10 days. The latest advisory was lifted on Sept. 22.

During the meeting Chief Hope said that his department didn’t get any reports of illnesses.

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.

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