VAUGHN, N.M. (AP) — Five days after the taps ran dry, water began trickling back to the central New Mexico town of Vaughn on Monday. But state environmental officials were cautioning the nearly 800 people on the Vaughn Duran Water System in Guadalupe County to boil their water before they drink it.
The area had been without water since last week because of a massive leak in aging pipes that bring water from wells 23 miles away.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation had been trucking in non-drinking water for residents to use to manually flush toilets to try to keep homes sanitary.
But the leak was plugged Sunday night, and water service was restored Monday. By the evening, pressure was still low at one end of town, said Fred Black of the New Mexico Rural Water Association, a nonprofit that provides assistance to member utilities and worked to plug the leak.
The New Mexico Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau says no contamination has been found but urged residents to seek an alternate source of drinking water or to boil the water for five minutes before drinking, cooking and dishwashing.
Tracie Gallegos, the general manager of both the Oak View Inn and Penny’s Diner in town, said she had to shut both businesses three days ago, and she was still waiting at midday Monday for service to be restored on her end of town.
Gallegos and other residents say the water system has been an ongoing problem.
“For six months now, on and off, we have been dealing with this,” she said. “This is definitely the longest we have been without water.”
Officials say the main line that runs to Vaughn is half a century old and about 23 miles long, stopping first at Encino and Duran. Because of the distance, Black said it takes time to get pressure back to the far end of town.
The water system is municipally owned, Black said. He said Vaughn got money about 10 years ago to upgrade the pipes in town, but the old pipes leading from the well to town are in need of repair, like many across the state.
“They are going to have to go after more funds,” Black said. “So they are looking into that because they see how serious it is. … I think they have been chasing that leak for a long time.”
Vaughn officials could not be reached for comment.