Chemical spills into reservoir

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City says drinking water OK

By Martin Salazar

The city and its contractors were scrambling late last week after a drilling subcontractor working at Bradner Dam ruptured a hydraulic line, spilling an estimated five to 10 gallons of hydraulic fluid into the reservoir.

City officials stress that there is no threat to the drinking water, despite text messages being sent out from anonymous individuals indicating otherwise.

City Utilities Director Ken Garcia said the city hasn’t drawn water from Bradner since June, meaning that there’s no chance that the hydraulic fluid could have gotten into the water piped to area homes and businesses.

The city is currently drawing water from Peterson Reservoir, from the Taylor Wells field and from the Gallinas River.

Besides, said Garcia, “there are so many safeguards in place that it won’t get into the drinking water system.”

The accident happened late Thursday, and Garcia said he was notified about it Friday morning. The city posted a news release about the incident on its website at 4:45 p.m. on Friday.

The subcontractor that ruptured the line, Albuquerque-based Precision Drilling, brought in Envirotech out of Farmington to clean up the spill.

“The cleanup was completed (Saturday),” Garcia said, noting that contaminated soil had been put in barrels and hauled away to a proper disposal site.

He said water in Bradner will be tested to ensure that it is safe before the city begins tapping into it again.

The spill has some people concerned because of the ongoing drought situation and the fact that the city’s normally limited storage is down to 65 percent heading into the summer.

Bradner can hold about 300 acre feet of water, and the latest water report shows that Bradner was holding nearly 99 million gallons of water as of last week.

Losing that water would be devastating to the city, but Garcia said that’s not going to happen.

Garcia said that like oil, hydraulic fluid doesn’t dissolve in water.  It floats to the top, and the inlet and outlet for Bradner is at the bottom of the reservoir.

Garcia said the spill has already been contained and cleaned; even if there were hydraulic fluid still left at Bradner, the inlet and outlet for it are at the bottom of the reservoir, meaning that Bradner levels would have to drop dramatically before any hydraulic fluid would be pumped out. And even if that were to happen, he said, the city’s water treatment plant is designed to filter out that kind of thing.

Garcia noted that when it rains, oil and other contaminants on streets get washed into the river, and the city manages to filter that water at its treatment plant.

“There are so many safeguards in place that it won’t get into the drinking water system,” Garcia said.

The hydraulic fluid that leaked came from a drilling rig that was conducting tests to determine whether Bradner can be expanded, Garcia said.  URS, the company doing the design on Bradner, hired Precision drilling as a subcontractor on the project.