New Mexico Department of the Environment finds ‘systemic deficiencies’ in CRRUA investigation



SANTA TERESA, N.M. (KVIA) — The New Mexico Department of the Environment has announced the results of its investigation into the Camino Real Regional Public Works Authority, known as CRRUA.

The investigation stems from an accident at a treatment plant in late November that caused the pH level of drinking water for thousands of people in Santa Teresa and Sunland Park to rise to dangerous levels.

The 132-page report states that excess sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, was dumped into the water due to a pH sensor failure and misoperation by CRRUA staff.

“The sensor that actually monitors the acidity of the water was reading that the pH level was negative, so the system told us to put in some caustic soda to bring the pH level back up,” John Roderick said. he said. Director of Water Conservation at NMED.

The official cause of the incident in the NMED report differs from the explanation given to ABC-7 by CRRUA officials.

Brent Westmoreland, former executive director of CRRUA, initially told ABC-7 that a pump failure dumped an excessive amount of sulfuric acid into the water, making it feel slimy.

But Roderick says sulfuric acid will only lower pH levels, not raise them.

“I don’t know why [CRRUA] “They kept saying it was because of the acid, but in fact it was the opposite,” he added.

ABC-7 spoke with CRRUA Interim Director Juan Carlos on Friday.

When we asked him to comment on the findings, he was told to send us a list of written questions and to respond within “a day or two.”

As for the consequences CRRUA could face, Roderick said the utility could be forced to retrain its operational staff, adding that “additional enforcement legislation is coming.”

The investigation also found that seven violation notices were sent to CRRUA in 2023. According to NMED, he has only one resolved case as of the publication of this article.

ABC-7 will provide CRRUA responses to the investigation both on-air and online at as they become available.

A copy of the investigation report is linked to this story.

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