Waste Water ordinance ok’d by city

By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

Portales City Councilors adopted an ordinance Tuesday dealing with industrial wastewater that gives the city the authority to notify users when they are out of compliance and assess a fine or even shut off those businesses that don’t bring their discharges in line.

City officials say the ordinance was written because of problems the city has experienced recently with industrial discharges at levels that put the city’s wastewater treatment plant out of state compliance.

“We have to get into compliance, in our corrective action plan mandated by the Environmental Department. We had to have this ordinance in place by Sept. 1 and we’re going to make it,” City Manager Debi Lee said.

Lee said when the ordinance goes into effect, businesses will be notified when they are out of compliance and have 30 days to submit an application with plans to improve their system. If they do not submit an application and continue to discharge at their current level, the city will charge them a penalty.

Lee said Abengoa Bioenergy Corp. is the biggest industrial user on the city’s system, accounting for one-third of the discharge sent into the system. She said the city meters discharges from larger customers such as Abengoa before they are sent into the system, and that is how they will know when a business is out of compliance.

“Because we have a history of daily reporting, we know they are out of compliance and that’s why we’ve been meeting and talking with them, and they have plans to make some improvements to their system,” Lee said.

Lee said she and city officials met with representatives of the the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Division Tuesday and they advised the city to go ahead with their decision to put the ordinance into effect.

Also discussed at Tuesday’s regular city council meeting was the adoption of the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, which identifies the city of Portales’ top five priorities in need of improvements.

The priorities were gathered after a department head workshop where officials reached agreement on them. Director of Community Development Jeremy Sturm then took those priorities to the public hearing held July 17. They were reviewed by the Planning Commission and given to the city council for approval.

“It (the Capital Improvement Plan) is a tool when elective officials go into the legislative session to figure out what kind of money they are going to give out for capital projects,” Sturm said. “What they are going to do is they are going to refer to this document and see what the city is requesting funds for.”

Sturm said projects needing funding should be on the document in order to support the argument that funding is needed for the particular project.