This column is in response to the Feb. 23 article in the News-Bulletin titled “Jaramillo: Village listened to public opinion.” I am so dismayed by the sheer volume of disinformation, I hardly know where to begin.
Perhaps the most glaring misstatement was Mr. Jaramillo’s comment “Among the cattails, fungus, raw sewage…” Surely the village administrator is aware that the NMED never allows raw sewage anywhere!
Except, of course, when the existing treatment plant has an “upset” and raw sewage is dumped into the Rio Grande.
Constructed wetlands for post-treatment polishing have moving water like a little stream, with the water cleaned in the process, removing things like estrogen and other chemicals that are dangerous but not dealt with in the type of plant the Village seems fixated upon.
That is exactly why Phoenix is investing $99 million ($62 million of which is federal grant money) in a 250-mgd free-water surface-flow wetlands.
For these wetlands, the area is 3.2 acres per million gallons per day of effluent treated.
Using this ratio, Los Lunas would only need 10 acres to treat 3 million gallons per day.
But bigger is prettier, and allows for photo blinds, walking paths, tables, gazebos, etc.
By the way, Rio Rancho built a 3 mgd plant on two acres, and it meets higher water quality standards than Los Lunas must meet.
The Village plan is to build a 2.1 mgd plant adjacent to, but separate from, the existing plant; no connection between the two.
The proposed use of state land for this new plant changes the location to essentially free state land, and shortens the length of the Morris Road interceptor line that would otherwise have to cross NM 314, the railroad, a large irrigation ditch, and Los Lentes Road at a cost of over $4 million.
That is how much the Village asked the NM Finance Authority for in funding for the interceptor line and lift station at Morris Rd. and NM 314.
Logically, cutting the line length in half, no longer having to cross NM 314 and the railroad, and not needing that lift station would dramatically reduce the cost of the line.
Additionally, using state land for the new treatment plant would no doubt be a dramatic reduction in the cost of acquiring land compared to using private property.
Adding wetlands to the treatment plant reclaims fallow land, provides habitat, educational and recreational enhancements, and opens the door to grant funding that is not available to concrete-only plants.
Sen. Pete Dominici, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Rep. Heather Wilson, Rep. Joe Skeen, and Rep. Tom Udall all signed a letter that accompanied a voluminous listing of federal grant funding opportunities for a wetlands in Los Lunas.
And let’s not forget that using state land removes the sewage treatment plant from the area most likely to flood.
The cost to the citizens of having a flooded sewage treatment plant would be enormous, even without the ensuing lawsuits.
Regarding the cost to the taxpayers of the treatment plant, since the Village plan is for a new plant, the cost of construction would be identical.
Adding wetlands for polishing is a very small percentage cost, one likely offset by property acquisition costs alone, but when considered with the reduced cost of interceptor line construction, the actual dollar savings is clear.
Considering the additional advantage of grant money for the wetlands option (which is recommended by the EPA), the best answer is obvious.
With about 175 acres of unused state property north of Morris Road there is certainly ample opportunity for Los Lunas to negotiate with the state regarding use of this land.
All this being said, one must wonder why the Village administrator would so misrepresent any alternative to the taking of private property.
Certainly, the entire state legislature didn’t agree with the Village stance.
Our local legislators had the vision, commitment, and responsiveness to the citizens to introduce legislation that provides for the use of state land for the wastewater treatment plant, thus saving farmland in the county-designated greenbelt.
Every legislator in the state, regardless of political party or personal differences, voted in favor of this legislation. That is an amazing feat!
Our legislators have presented Los Lunas with an invaluable opportunity to be a leader to the entire state in responsible land use, sound economics and protection of water quality and habitat.
Considering the amazing generosity and vision of the state legislature, one must wonder why the Village doesn’t take this wonderful opportunity for a win-win solution.
(Editor’s Note: Janet Jarratt is the president of Valencia County Citizens for Responsible Growth. The opinions she expresses in this column are not necessarily those of the News-Bulletin.)