Red Cliff off boil order – again |

Red Cliff off boil order – again

Christine Ina Casillas

Water in Red Cliff may be clean again, but town officials say they don’t know how long the higher state of purity will last.

“There’s no way to tell how long this will last, but we are working very hard to make sure we stay off boil order,” said Guy Patterson, Red Cliff town manager. “It’s the same situation with a high amount of people consuming the water. We’re convinced it’s consumption that’s causing the problem.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Dec. 23 imposed the latest in what has been a recurring a boil order for drinking water after two pipes broke in the town’s infiltration system. The state lifted that order Wednesday.

In December a key part of the town’s new water plant broke, forcing operators to flood town mains with untreated water and the state health department to issue another boil order. In August the state issued a cease and desist order to Red Cliff because its antiquated wastewater plant had violated clean water standards seven or more times in the last year.

Power surges

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For more than two years, Red Cliff has battled an on-again, off-again safety orders to boil all municipal water before drinking. When the water plant is not operating properly, town water mains fill with untreated water from Turkey Creek, which can carry bacteria and parasites, such as giardia. The town’s 350 residents had either been boiling water to kill those organisms or using bottled water.

The state’s health department had threatened the town with fines if it did not get its water works in order, town officials said. The town’s new $460,00 water plant again began producing drinkable water in June.

In its Jan. 23 appeal to the state to have the boil order lifted, Red Cliff officials said they have continued to make improvements with the limited resources available to them. Part of the improvements included working with Xcel Energy to solve the problem of the plan staying shut down after a power surge.

“During a power surge, everybody’s clocks would strike midnight or noon and the water plant wouldn’t turn back on,” Patterson said.

Other improvements included finding alternative sources of emergency parts to cut down on the amount of time the micro-filtration plant stays off-line and enabling the plant operates for eight hours without being checked, Patterson said.

“Even if we fill the holes in the distribution system, we still don’t know if we can stay off boil order,” Patterson said. “People need to stop “bleeding’ the water.”

Excessive “bleeding’ – or dripping faucets – of the water pipes has been the main reason for the problems with the water, Patterson said.

Vicious cycle

Although the boil order has been lifted, town officials still say residents should turn down all bleeders. In December, town officials asked residents to turn down their bleeders because the amount of water produced by the town’s water plant equaled the amount being consumed.

Red Cliff has produced and used about 225,000 gallons of water per day, Patterson said. The people have been consuming just as much, which averages out to nearly 700 gallons per resident per day.

The number is almost 10 times the normal average use of water, Patterson said. The town’s once-troubled filtration system was designed to produce enough water to supply five times the normal average rate.

During the summer months, the filtration system produces enough water to fill the town’s 30 foot storage tank while the system is on standby and not producing water for long periods of time, he said.

During the winter, however, the system runs full-time at full capacity and cannot raise the level above six or seven feet in the storage tank, he said.

After monitoring water consumption, town officials discovered consumption water spiked in October, corresponding with the drop in temperatures and residents opening up their bleeder lines, Patterson said.

“Two things happened,” Patterson said. “Either new holes developed in the new system or people started bleeding their water as soon as the temperatures dropped.

“This will get solved when this cycle gets broken,” Patterson added. “This situation will stay unless we can increase production or reduce consumption.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or at

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