Red Cliff boil order lifted … again |

Red Cliff boil order lifted … again

Cliff Thompson

The Colorado Department Health and Environment lifted its two-year boil order Monday after the town’s new $460,000 microfiltration water plant produced potable water.

It’s been a test of patience for the town’s 180 residents, who have skeptically endured the on-again, off-again cycle of getting the new water plant in operation. That included a previous lifting of the boil order in April, only to have it reinstated almost immediately.

“I’ll be thrilled if it’s true and it sticks. I think it’s great. What a Christmas present,” said Caroline Bradford, who along with her fellow-Red Cliffians – including the town’s two restaurants – has been using bottled water and packaged ice.

The two-filter treatment plant draws water from Turkey Creek and removes dirt and harmful bacteria – including giardia lamblia, a naturally occurring parasite that causes gastric upset in humans. Problems with the installation and operation of the new water plant were both design- and operator-related, said the health department’s Glenn Bodnar. Now the redesigned plant needs proper operation to stay in compliance with state water standards.

“They (Red Cliff) now need to work on technical and managerial capability to stay in compliance,” Bodnar said.

Problems encountered between installation of the plant and lifting and reinstating the boil order included pipes bursting from frost when a power outage shut off heaters to having raw water that was too cold for the system design.

Town Manager Bob Slagel said the 200,000-gallon-per-day system seems to be able to keep up with demand. It has been running at 50 percent of capacity, and he’s confident the system will work, he says.

“Part of it was the manufacturer could not believe they were having some of the technical problems we were having,” he said.

The automated plant requires daily checks from an operator who alerts an off-site operator if there are problems.

Slagel reports two small victories during the struggle to get clean water flowing: Because Turkey Creek is so cold, averaging 34 degrees, it tightens the microfibers, helping them filter objects as small as 1 micron in size; and because the system is flushed to remove sediment each time the plant has begins to deliver pure water, there is very little sediment in Red Cliff’s pipes. With recent history as a guide, however, the health department is upping the ante, however. If the system fails again, Bodnar said, his department will fine Red Cliff and bring the town before the state certification board.

“(The town) has to follow through,” he said.

Slagel said cash-strapped Red Cliff was assisted by an emergency $50,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The town will own the new water plant in 10 years, when the $60,000 annual lease is paid off.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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