Red Cliffians still boiling their water |

Red Cliffians still boiling their water

Cliff Thompson

The boil order was imposed 13 months ago when the town’s old water plant was not able to supply enough water for the 180 residents and businesses.

Six months ago, the town lease-purchased a $460,000 microfiltration plant but has had difficulty bringing it on line.

There have been two frustrating setbacks in recent weeks. Two weeks ago a water manifold on the twin banks of filters cracked after a power outage. The crack was either from too much pressure in the lines or from freezing when the heat in the building shut off.

Another setback happened early this week when a computer that controls one of the filtration units failed, said Town Administrator Bob Slagle.

To provide adequate water the town may have to supplement what the remaining filter bank provides with untreated water from Turkey Creek.

That raw water contains giardia lamblia, an intestinal parasite that can cause diarrhea, fever and other unpleasant symptoms. It is native to the waters of Colorado.

Complicating the issue is the fact that the town’s water mains are buried above the frost line because they hit bedrock and can be buried no deeper. For that reason the water lines have a bleeder valve that keeps the water running so it won’t freeze. Those have been closed to reduce consumption.

If the water level in the town’s water tank falls beneath what is needed for fire protection, untreated water will be added to supplement the flow, Slagle said. If that happens, the town’s water mains and a 109,000-gallon water tank will need to be disinfected with high levels of chlorine. The hyperchlorinated water will then be flushed from the system before it can be tested and ready for consumption. The town has done that twice already in anticipation of lifting the boil order, but malfunctions stopped progress.

Slagle said once both filtration units are on line they will produce between 200,000 and 250,000 gallons per day. The water will be tested for bacteria by a laboratory, and once it’s deemed drinkable, the boil order will be lifted.

Red Cliff has a $477,000 annual budget. Nearly a quarter of that, however, is dedicated to paying off loans taken out over the last 10 years for water or sewer upgrades. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs provided Red Cliff with a $50,000 grant for the system.

Slagle said he anticipates the town will get the boil order lifted next week, after the water is tested and the results are made available to the Health Department.

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