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Red Cliff still boiling

Cliff Thompson
A view of Redcliffe as seen on Wednesday afternoon.
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Everyone knows it’s coming – they just don’t know when.

To date that baby is a month or even more behind schedule, so the town continues to observe a 14 month-long state Health Department order to boil all tap water before drinking it.

That order was made because the raw water supplying the town from old water plant contains an intestinal parasite, giardia lamblia. The old plant was unable to remove the microbe, which in its cyst form, is not killed by chlorine in drinking water.

The struggle to get the plant online has been protracted.

A month ago, a power failure shut down the heating system in the building housing the operating system in the water plant. A water manifold to one of the filter banks cracked, either because too much pressure built up or because water in the manifold froze, cracking the pipe.

A week later one of the computers controlling the system failed, taking one of the two filter banks off line. To meet demand, the town was forced to supplement the clean water with untreated water to meet demand. The town had to hyper-chlorinate the water tank and water mains and flush them, as it had done before.

Last week, Red Cliff, population about 200, was unable to meet Health Department requirements before the weekend and had to wait until this week to have the boil order lifted.

This week, however, Red Cliff continues to try and put its water lines in order.

There’s plenty of frustration to go around, both on the part of citizens and from town hall, which is overseeing bringing the new plant online.

“I’ve been frustrated with the boil order since last March,” said Red Cliffian Caroline Bradford. “This is the 10th time I’ve waited for two more weeks for the plant to come online. All the people of Red Cliff want to know why it’s taking so long. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the state that hasn’t had clean drinking water for over a year.”

Bradford said indications that the plant would be on line are nearly a year old.

Fellow-resident Beth Reilly, who has two small children, looks at it from a financial standpoint.

“People in Vail pay $5 a month for water and we’re paying $70 and we can’t even drink it,” she said. “We’ve been lucky none of us has gotten sick.”

Red Cliff Town Administrator Bob Slagle said the plant is operating and now lacks only confirmation from the plant’s engineer to the state Health Department that the system is functioning as designed.

Slagle said he has been unable to reach the engineer, who he believes is on vacation.

“It’s frustrating to be so close,” he said.

Glenn Bodnar of the Health Department said he is ready to lift the boil order once he receives the documentation showing the plant is operating as designed.

The $460,000 micro-filtration plant will produce 200,000 gallons of potable water a day, more than enough for the 180 residents and business of Red Cliff.


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