Apple Tree residents to either pay up to treat water quality issues or wait years for feasible long-term solution
Following years of not using it to cook, refusing to wash their laundry in it and instead relying on bottled water for drinking, residents of a Garfield County mobile home park were told if they want their brown water fixed, it might come from their own pockets.
During a public meeting at the Apple Tree community on Thursday, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) officials broke down possible short- and long-term solutions to a years-long problem with the community’s water quality. Residents have continued to experience water discoloration reported to be caused by high concentrations of iron. Apple Tree, a community of about 297 residences, draws its water from wells in the area.
“I couldn’t even wash my dishes, it was so bad,” a resident said during public comment at Thursday’s meeting.
Top solutions included possibly building an entirely new water treatment plant for Apple Tree, gaining surface water rights to pull from the Colorado River or even tapping into New Castle’s water supply, which pulls from Elk Creek.
But these are big ticket items, Jeff Sandoval-Mangers, project manager for Apple Tree landlord Investment Property Group, tried explaining to a packed house at neighboring Liberty Classical Academy.
“A lot of this is going to be coming out of the community itself,” he said.
Sandoval-Mangers said it won’t likely be until 2027 — it will be legally required by law to do additional wastewater treatment — to make any mitigating long-term changes to Apple Tree’s water system.
Sandoval-Mangers also said there aren’t any grants available between now and 2027 for IPG to go after, unless a House Bill 1257, which was sponsored by District 57 Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs, is signed by Gov. Jared Polis. While creating a water-testing program, it would also establish grants for remediation options.
Right now, IPG is doing feasibility studies to see what the next step is. In the meantime, the CDPHE and IPG said short-term solutions to Apple Tree’s water issues would be to do regular hydrant flushing, which the CDPHE said should help reduce discolored water and stir up the iron and manganese during the operation.
Throughout this time the CDPHE has maintained that water quality tests conducted so far at Apple Tree have concluded no significant problems and said it is free of bacteria and pathogens. Despite this, residents still question the samples taken by the CDPHE, saying their water continues to show particles and look like sludge.
“That’s what we’re here to do,” said Armando Herald, Drinking Water Local Assistance Unit Manager at CDPHE. “We’re going to start this conversation to start this process of what can be done.”
Herald spoke to further ways Apple Tree residents can get their water tested and affirmed the CDPHE takes this matter seriously.
In the meantime, Apple Tree residents like Andrew Meador, who has a wife and child, said water issues have persisted. But the days are intermittent, which makes it tough.
“There will be days where I draw my water in the bathroom for my daughter and it’s crystal clear and nice,” he said. “And then it’s just so hard because it’s all over the place. The next time you draw a bath, it looks very dirty and there’s a lot of discoloration.”
Meador also said he doesn’t “obviously drink the water.”
“I don’t know anybody here who drinks the water unless they have some sort of extra filtration or something,” he said.
He simply wants to see a solution.
“For me, some of the questions I have are around testing,” Meador said. “I’m curious about randomized testing, is this testing really legitimate? Can I do randomized testing myself and get that sent off and checked out?
“You know, it’s mainly from a health perspective. I would love to see a solution to the water difficulties, but I realized that the cost would be passed on to me.”
This was the first of several planned meetings over water quality at Apple Tree Park.
Post Independent Assistant Editor and lead western Garfield County reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-423-5273.
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