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KIRTLAND - A Kirtland neighborhood received a loan and a grant from the state of New Mexico and is a step closer to hooking up to a sewer system.

The Lower Valley Mutual Domestic Water Association received a $90,000 loan and a $86,000 grant from the New Mexico Environment Department Construction Programs Bureau. The money will pay for engineering and design plans to hook the neighborhood to the Lower Valley Water and Sanitation District's sewer system.

The Kirtland sewer system started functioning in November 2011 and 15 businesses are hooked up. An additional five customers, including one residence, have paid to join the sewer system and are waiting for construction, said Jody Rico, a spokeswoman for the Lower Valley Water and Sanitation district.

The Lower Valley Mutual Domestic Wastewater Association is a neighborhood of about 75 homes near County Road 6259. The area uses an open lagoon to treat wastewater.

In three of the past four winters, the county has declared the lagoon an emergency because it threatened to spill wastewater into the San Juan River, said Mike Stark, the county operation's officer.

By declaring the lagoon an emergency, the county was able to use county dollars to pay to pump the lagoon.

The New Mexico Environment Department permitted the lagoon system but has notified the neighborhood that the department will not renew the lagoon's permit when it expires in December 2014.


San Juan County commissioners voted during a recent meeting to allow the county to serve as fiscal agent for the loan and grant from the environment department.

The county will accept the money and quickly pay off the loan and finalize an agreement with the neighborhood to pay off the $90,000 loan over a 10-year period with zero interest, Stark said.

Tom Schilz, the president of the Lower Valley Water Association, said the neighborhood's residents were on board and willing and able to pay off the loan.

With an engineer study and design plans completed, the county is hopeful the neighborhood will be able to receive additional grants and loans to pay to hook up to the sewer system, Stark said.

The county is estimating the total cost to connect the neighborhood to the Kirtland sewer system at about $2.9 million, Stark said. That estimate includes construction and design plans.