City stops accepting septic tanks’ waste

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By David Giuliani

The city of Las Vegas’ wastewater plant recently stopped accepting the contents of septic tanks. Officials say the plant is unable to handle the waste.

But they expect it to be able to do so in a few weeks, although the city is quick to point out that there are no guarantees.

The city has taken such waste from haulers for years from residents all over northeastern New Mexico. Now, the haulers must take it to facilities in Santa Fe and Pojoaque, which will likely increase the costs for owners of septic tanks.

A couple of years ago, the city completed upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.

“People have to realize this plant is not designed to handle this kind of waste, yet we have been,” Mayor Alfonso Ortiz told the City Council this week.

Ortiz said the state has told city officials they are willing to help. But he said the problem is actually the state’s, noting that many of those with the septic waste come from outside city limits.

“I hope we convey that they have a problem but that we’re willing to help,” the mayor said.

Councilman Dave Romero said he believed it was the city’s responsibility.

“We sold them (haulers) business licenses,” the councilman said.

Council members feared that haulers would start dumping the waste in area arroyos.

“We need a regional center. That sewage, if it’s not controlled, it can be dumped anyplace. The state is kind of lax on this,” Ortiz said.

A public meeting with state Environment Department officials is planned for Monday on the issue.

On Thursday, the mayor said the city may start accepting septic waste from inside the city within a few weeks. But he said the ban on such waste from outside city limits will remain.

In a letter this week to the city, the Environment Department said New Mexico has a limited number of places to deposit waste from septic tanks. It said it is striving to get more.