Why is the water so brown?
July 9, 2009
Is it water in the Colorado River or chocolate milk?
Onlookers wondered this week as the river took on a muddy appearance from Windy Gap past the town of Hot Sulphur Springs.
A breech to a pond on a plateau of the foreclosed Orvis Shorefox property spilled sediment into the Windy Gap Reservoir late Tuesday into Wednesday.
The sediment load forced the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs to shut down its water system as a precaution.
Early Wednesday, residents of the town received a Reverse 911 notice to stop all outdoor watering and conserve indoor use as the town relies on clean water left in the town storage tank.
“We have to have it under 30 NTUs to make water for the town,” said Town Clerk Sandy White.
Earlier that day, the town had measured 900 NTUs (nephelometric turbidity units) indicating the clarity, or lack thereof, of water. As the day passed, the clarity improved by about two-thirds.
“We’re uncertain how long it will take until the river water is clean enough for the town to make potable water to distribute to the town again,” White said.
In the meantime, the town has hired a company out of Steamboat to haul water the town plans to draw from the Town of Granby. The town would purchase that water.
Further downstream, the town of Kremmling should not be affected by the condition of the Colorado.
“We’re OK because we get water out of Sheep Creek,” said Kremmling Town Manager Ted Soltis. The intake on the Colorado, he said, is only used on occasion as a second source for the town.
The majority of the Windy Gap Reservoir showed heavy sedimentation from the washout at the private pond, but the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District had stopped pumping Windy Gap water back on June 16, according to Northern General Manager Erik Wilkinson, with no plans to pump more.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with Windy Gap,” he said.
Contacted Wednesday, Orvis Shorefox development representative Steve Bromberg declined to comment, saying information was still being gathered about the incident.
The silt spill reportedly decreased to a trickle by Wednesday afternoon.
“The Water Quality Control Division does have the authority to regulate discharges to state waters,” said District Engineer Andy Poirot of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment. “And a spill is a discharge to state waters.
“We will be doing follow-up on what the cause of this event was,” he said. “We could follow-up with private parties.”
The next drinking-water intake on the Colorado River is distance enough way to be of little concern at this time, Poirot said.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, with its greater Hot Sulphur Springs office overlooking the Colorado River, dispatched officers to various parts of the river to monitor fish, according to DOW spokesperson Randy Hampton.
“A lot of muddy sedimentation can reduce the available oxygen for fish,” he said. “Fish can suffocate with heavy sedimentation loads.”
Later in the day, Unit Manager Heather Drissel, from the engineering section of the state Water Quality Control Division, said she received reports that the river was starting to clear, perhaps to the relief of some of the DOW aquatic biologists on site.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.