City looks to combat odor problems

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Portales city councilors spent a good portion of Tuesday’s regular meeting dealing with odor issues — both their own wastewater treatment plant and a complaint that a dairy south of the city could potentially add to the smell.

Councilors heard an update from Public Works Director Tom Howell on the city’s wastewater treatment plant problems that produced numerous complaints last summer.

“The bottom line is the smell,” Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. said. “Last summer we lived with the smell and residents didn’t like it. Can we assure them that this summer is going to be different than last summer?”

Howell said the city had removed sludge and installed additional aeration equipment, but discharges from a particular industry which he didn’t name in the meeting were still causing problems at the plant.

City Manager Debi Lee told the PNT the particular industry is Abengoa Bioenergy.

To address that problem the city passed industrial waste regulations last year to control the quality of wastewater going into the system.

Howell told councilors public works officials had met with the industrial user and had been told that compliance would be reached in the next 30 days with additional equipment brought into the plant.

“I’m not ever going to say we’re going to have a wastewater treatment plant that won’t smell,” Howell said. “I think we have it under control.”

County resident Jeanel Paiz asked councilors to support her efforts to stop a lagoon being built by a dairy a mile south of the city. She also asked the city work with Roosevelt County commissioners to come up with zoning and nuisance regulations.

Paiz presented her complaints to the county commission at its last meeting.

Paiz’ complaints center around odors, insect control and safety of the lagoon. She has a petition asking that state, county and city officials take action to prevent the construction of the lagoon, containing 63 signatures, many of them city residents.

Craig Breshears, owner of the dairy, told councilors he has just been following New Mexico Environmental Improvement Department directives since he purchased the property last year.

“I want everybody to know that I didn’t just decide to go put in a lagoon,” Breshears said. “It was something that was mandated.”

Ortega said in checking with legal council he feels the city doesn’t have any kind of jurisdiction in the issue and he had urged Paiz to take the matter to the County Commission.

Councilor D.K. Shafer said about 15 years ago the city council had tried to get extra-territorial zoning, which would have allowed the city more control over such issues. He said it was shot down primarily by county residents.

“It’s going to take people wanting this rather than governments wanting it,” Ortega concluded.

No action was taken on the matter.