City says it sends `less than 1 percent’ river water to taps
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Glenwood Springs utility officials countered allegations raised by resident Gregory Durrett that the city is using polluted Roaring Fork River water in the city’s drinking water supply.
In a letter to the editor published Jan. 29, Durrett contended that unbridled development has forced the city to use water from the Roaring Fork River rather than staying strictly with its traditional sources, Grizzly and No Name creeks. He called the mixture of the Roaring Fork water with the other sources a “polluted cocktail.”
But a memorandum from Glenwood Springs Public Works Department director Robin Millyard says the only river water in the public drinking water is a small amount pumped in during twice-monthly tests of the Roaring Fork Pump Station. It’s generally less than 1 percent of the total water in the system, he reported.
Utility workers run the pumping station every other Tuesday to make sure it is running properly.
The pump station was installed as an emergency backup for the city’s water supply in case of rockslides, snowslides or freezing on No Name and Grizzly creeks, or extreme drought.
In an interview Thursday, Durrett suggested the city pump water from the river up to the tanks, then send it back to the river rather than mixing it into the drinking water system.
But Millyard said just getting the river water up near the tanks is not a sufficient test.
“We’re pumping against an awful lot of head,” he said. “We want to make sure it works.”
Millyard said the amount of water integrated into the system “makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to notice a difference in taste or odor.”
Millyard also said while the No Name and Grizzly creek water that supplies Glenwood Springs’ drinking water might be more pure than water from the river, it too has impurities.
“The notion that No Name and Grizzly are pristine is false. There are natural and human sources of pollution,” Millyard said.
Durrett’s letter points out that the Roaring Fork’s water contains wastewater effluent from all the towns upriver from Glenwood Springs.
“We are mixing our pure water with the effluents from the sewer treatment plants of Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, mid-valley, Carbondale, Redstone and Aspen Glen,” Durrett wrote. “Adding to our new cocktail is the runoff from the highways and parking lots upstream from us, featuring mag chloride, truck and auto oils, fuels and antifreeze, plus the leaching from lawns and golf courses of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.”
Millyard said Thursday that the Roaring Fork River meets or exceeds all health standards and noted that many cities and towns downstream use it again.
“People from Los Angeles have to drink that water, but we don’t,” Durrett retorted Thursday. “Those health standards are for people who drink water from the Mississippi, too.”
Roaring Fork River water is treated in exactly the same way as water from the city’s other sources and the small amount introduced into the system is integrated with the water from the creeks, Millyard said.
“It could be four or five days before it gets to the tap. It’s never pure Roaring Fork water,” Millyard said. “The average consumer here, I don’t think they could tell the difference.”
Durrett said he can’t tell the difference by taste, either, but that doesn’t make it right.
“When I eat a vegetable, I don’t know that I can tell if it has herbicide, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going into my body,” he said. “What I’m afraid of is that they’re going to use that water to expand the system when they need to.”
Durrett also was miffed the city began to use river water without telling citizens.
“It’s a poor choice,” he said. “I feel sorry for Mr. Millyard. He’s part of the machine and he has to defend them.”
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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