Silt’s municipal water supply is tested according to state and federal requirements, and routinely meets water quality standards, town officials assured Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday.
Any claims that the town’s water is not tested, including for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other substances associated with natural gas drilling in the region, are “unsubstantiated,” said Silt Trustee Rick Aluise.
Aluise appeared before the commissioners along with the town’s water plant operator, Jack Castle, and town administrator Pamela Woods to respond to a citizen’s claim before the commissioners last week that Silt water makes her sick and that more testing should be required.
“I find the notion that drinking our water makes anyone sick completely ridiculous,” Aluise wrote in a letter that was presented to the commissioners.
“I also drink the Silt water. I do not filter it. I have not had a cold or the flu in over 12 years,” he wrote, adding he pays particular attention to his health. “The water in Silt has not affected my health negatively.”
During a Feb. 10 discussion regarding a nine-year groundwater monitoring program south of Silt related to a 2004 incident in which methane gas initially associated with a bad Encana gas well was discovered seeping into West Divide Creek, Silt resident Peggy Tibbetts suggested that more testing of the nearest municipal water supply is needed.
“I don’t drink Silt’s water, because of this,” she said. “It makes me sick.”
Given the seep history and ongoing skepticism about the source of methane gas in groundwater south of the Colorado River, and whether it’s natural or industry-related, Tibbetts said the county should take a closer look at sources farther downstream. Silt’s primary water source is the Colorado River.
Any notion that testing is not already being done is unfounded, said both Aluise and Castle at the Tuesday meeting.
“I take my job seriously,” Castle said, adding that the town’s water department goes to great lengths to meet all Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and federal EPA requirements for testing and water quality assurance.
And, “We are paying attention to the drilling industry, and what’s going on in our watershed,” Castle said. “There’s nothing wrong with town of Silt water.”
Aluise, who formerly worked as Silt town administrator, noted that the town did have to respond several years ago to a violation for excessive levels of trihalomethane, which he explained is a disinfection byproduct associated with the use of chlorine.
That problem was rectified, he said.
As part of the town’s mineral lease agreement, formerly with Antero and now with Ursa, the company was required to do quarterly testing of the water coming into the plant intake to make sure there were no VOC contaminants.
“Never once was a VOC detected at the intake,” Aluise said. “They did that for several years, but we discontinued the testing because it was pointless. We were not detecting VOC in the water.”
In addition to the town’s own required testing, Garfield County’s environmental health specialist, Morgan Hill, said during the Tuesday discussion that the county works with the towns of New Castle, Silt, Rifle, Parachute and the Apple Tree mobile home park through its Source Water Protection Plan to identify any water quality concerns.
The plan includes regular testing within five miles of each municipal water source, Hill said, and includes an emergency response notification process if any contaminants are detected.