AZTEC A second public hearing has been scheduled by the state's Environment Department on a discharge permit application for a proposed sewage lagoon and RV park northeast of Aztec.

The hearing, scheduled for April 23 in San Juan County Council Chambers, is for the Payne property located at 16747 Highway 550, roughly 7 miles northeast of Aztec. It will begin with opening testimony, followed by a public comment period.

According to a public notice, which was posted on the Environment Department's website and published in The Daily Times on Friday, the hearing could, at the hearing officer's discretion, be continued to the following day, April 24.

Bob Echols, a project engineer with Cheney-Walters-Echols, speaks with his client, Tom Payne, during a meeting on July 24 at the San Juan County Council
Bob Echols, a project engineer with Cheney-Walters-Echols, speaks with his client, Tom Payne, during a meeting on July 24 at the San Juan County Council Chambers in Aztec for a groundwater discharge permit for a proposed RV park and sewage lagoon. Payne's property, 16747 U.S. Highway 550 northeast of Aztec, is the site of the proposed RV park and sewage lagoon. (Daily Times file photo)

Hearing Clerk Sally Worthington will be on hand to accept written statements from interested members of the public on the sewage lagoon permit.

At the first public hearing last July, the county's council chambers was filled to overflowing with officials and residents wanting to hear details about the lagoon's design and the Environment Department's permitting process.

Many area residents who attended the meeting raised concerns over the 2,240 gallons of domestic wastewater the proposed park's 60 RV spaces could produce per day. Also of concern were foul odors that could be produced by the lagoon, the vulnerability of the lagoon to wildlife damage, and the lagoon's close proximity to the Aztec and Graves-Atterbury Ditches and nearby Animas River, which is the primary source of water for the city of Aztec. Some said the wastewater could pollute the river in the event of flooding.

A call to Tom Payne, who owns the property, seeking comment for this story was not returned as of late Friday afternoon.

The proposed 27,000-square-foot, lagoon with a synthetic liner would collect wastewater from the proposed park's RVs and the Payne residence. The wastewater would contain dissolved solids, nitrogen compounds and treatment chemicals. The lagoon would dispose of its contents by a natural process of evaporation.

Two storms in September caused millions of dollars of damage throughout the city it appeared there was flooding on the Payne property.

And the property is just north of the North Star Water intake.

Payne, who became a North Star Water Users Association board member last September, first applied for the New Mexico Ground Water Quality Bureau discharge permit in May.

According to the public notice, "All interested persons will be given a reasonable opportunity at the public hearing to submit relevant evidence, data, views or arguments orally or in writing, and to examine persons who testify at the hearing."

The officials tasked with presenting opening testimony have yet to be determined, wrote Jim Winchester, communications director for the New Mexico Environment Department, in an email.

Whether or not Payne's permit is approved or not will be up to Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn during the "post-hearing process."

"Secretary Flynn will review all public hearing documentation and all relevant technical documents and render a final decision (on the permit's approval or denial)," Winchester said in the email.


What: Payne RV Park Discharge Permit Public Hearing

When: 9 a.m., April 23

Where: San Juan County Council Chambers, 100 S. Oliver Drive, in Aztec

Cost: Free

More info: The proposed sewage lagoon permit can be viewed online

A copy of the administrative record for the Payne discharge permit will be available beginning March 26, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the New Mexico Environment Department District II Farmington Field Office, 3400 Messina Dr., Suite 5000, in Farmington, 505-566-9741; the NMED Ground Water Quality Bureau, Harold Runnels Building, P.O. Box 5469, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87502, 505-827-2900; and online.

To learn about the state’s permitting process and regulatory guidelines, go to

To offer technical evidence at the hearing, send a Statement of Intent to Present Technical Testimony by 5 p.m., April 9, to NMED Hearing Clerk Sally Worthington, Room S-2103, 1190 St. Francis Drive, P.O. 5469, Santa Fe, NM 87502. 

For information on the discharge application, contact Gerald “Jake” Knutson at the Environment Department. Call 505-827-2996 or email

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.