Portales applies for loan to expand wastewater system - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Portales applies for loan to expand wastewater system

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Portales, NM -- Portales residents should have more than enough water for the foreseeable future if a massive expansion project goes according to plan.

Tuesday (Jul. 16) evening, the Portales City Council voted unanimously to apply for a multi-million dollar loan to upgrade their wastewater treatment system, which can barely keep up with rapidly rising demand.

The city of Portales has seen rapid growth over the last several years, in large part due to the proportional growth of Eastern New Mexico University, which has ultimately maxed out the existing plant's capacity.

"The plant was never designed to meet the regulations we had in the early 70s," explains Public Works Director John DeSha, "which are considerably different than what we have today. Also, as the population of Portales has increased, the waste profile has change. When we have the amount of students we have coming into ENMU, it puts a larger load on it as well as industrial customers we have now that we didn't have when the plant was designed."

The $27 million, zero-interest loan from the New Mexico Environmental Department will be repaid through wastewater revenues, which the city has been proactively raising by about five percent a year since 2007, specifically to fund the project.  And the state has already awarded Portales a $420,000 grant to get started.

"The council has been increasing the rates over the last few years to go ahead and build up a reserve to pay those, and will continue to look at that as we go forward," says City Manager Doug Redmond.  "We don't really anticipate the project costing the whole $27 million. We've been authorized for a $27 million  loan, but hopefully we'll come in a lot less than that."

The new facility is expected to be able to provide for about 30,000 people plus industry for at least the next 70 years, through 2085.  Portales' current population stands at just under 13,000.

"The plant is actually designed to handle up to double what we're treating now," says DeSha, "and it has reserved capacity built into it so that if industry does expand, we'll be able to handle that, no problem."

Portales' neighbor to the north, Clovis, recently broke ground on the first phase of a $16 million water treatment system designed to recycle effluent water for irrigation, which accounts for about half of Clovis' total consumption and about 40 percent of Portales' consumption.