Belen Schools, city officials to talk about sewer

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The city of Belen and Belen Schools officials will meet next week to discuss building a more than two-mile sewer line from city limits to a school that's reached its sewage system's maximum capacity.

The sewer line would ease sewage problems at Dennis Chavez Elementary School, landlocked on N.M. 314, as well as aid in ridding the area of a raw sewage smell.

"It's not just a Belen Schools issue. Everybody is going to have a say so in it," said Belen Board of Education President Sam Chavez.

The two entities will delve further into building a 1,200 foot sewer line to the school at meeting set for 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 10, at the Belen Public Library.

Raw sewage from the elementary school and surrounding area is pumped into two evaporation ponds located northwest of the campus. The sewage then sits in the ponds until it evaporates.

Evaporation is prolonged since the sewage develops a crud film on top, which prohibits the natural evaporation process from occurring, said Superintendent Ron Marquez.

The ponds reach their limit when the area's population reaches 400, which it has, Chavez said.

"At 400, we are taxing the limits of that evaporation facility," he said.

The district no longer has the capacity to expand the pit any further to allow for more sewage.

In the past, the district has pumped out "thousands of thousands of gallons of raw sewage" from the maxed out pit and dumped it somewhere else, which is costly, Chavez said.

"I think that if we could enter into a joint agreement with the city, that would be our best alternative," he said.

Since the open pit contains untreated sewage, Chavez said the smell permeates throughout the area.

"The neighbors aren't happy about it," Chavez said. "None of the individuals that work or try to learn in that school are very happy about it, because it is constant."

Funding for the project would need to come from the city, as the district can't pay to build a sewage line through pieces of property that don't belong to it, Marquez said.

If the city funded the project, it would allow for nearby Los Chavez residents to connect to that line and receive city services.

"We would think that it would be in the city's best interest if they would fund that project," Marquez said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.