Red Cliff water plant down again |

Red Cliff water plant down again

Cliff Thompson

Another series of mechanical failures hit Red Cliff’s water plant, knocking it out of service Monday night, and causing the town’s 350 residents to purify drinking water by filtering or boiling it.

Replacement parts have been issued but town officials stated in a press release it is unlikely the water plant will be operating properly until after Christmas.

This, the fifth failure since the plant has been installed, resulted in some pretty blunt statements from the state health department official in charge of drinking water.

“It keeps recurring and we’re not seeing the progress we need to see,” said Glenn Bodnar of the state health department. “We understand their economic constraints, but there’s no excuse for continually putting the town’s water users’ health at risk.”

Some residents, like Caroline Bradford, said there was just a trickle of water available from Monday until Tuesday. Bradford says she has installed a high-tech filter to ensure she has clean water at her home.

The lack of water forced town officials to fill the system with untreated water. That water can carry bacteria and intestinal parasites.

It’s the latest chapter in what is becoming a book on a series of malfunctions that have hit the town’s two-year-old, $460,000 microfiltration plant over the last two years. Just last week, state health department officials met to consider what it will take to help bring the cash-strapped town’s drinking water and wastewater systems into compliance. Both have been out of compliance with state standards and the aging wastewater system was subject to a state cease and desist order for improperly treating its wastewater seven times.

Red Cliff is investigating refinancing all of its long-term debt with $750,000 in municipal bonds to free up some operational money in its budget, said town administrator Guy Patterson last week.

The town’s wastewater system is often inundated with enough ground water that it overwhelms treatment capacity, Patterson said.

Town residents are charged $70 a month for water and sewer treatment and they pay the highest tax rate in the state – 51.548 mills. For the owner of a $200,000 home the annual tax bill just for Red Cliff will be $1,485. Eagle’s tax rate, by comparison is 3 mills.

Bodnar said the state is requesting that Red Cliff analyze what is causing the plant to fail.

“They need so spend time with the system and invest in telemetry systems that will give them a heads-up when something goes wrong and they need to have spare parts on hand,” he said. “That way they can keep the storage tank full and make corrections before the tank gets too low.”

Red Cliff officials could not be reached for comment.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or

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