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Garfield County commissioners hear water concerns from Apple Tree Park residents

The Apple Tree community is located just south and west of New Castle.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Garfield County commissioners have requested a state inspection of the domestic water system serving a mobile home park near New Castle following resident complaints that the water is severely discolored.

But the rust-colored water that residents of Apple Tree Park have been experiencing, likely caused by high iron content, isn’t necessarily an enforceable health-safety concern, said a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment official who addressed the commissioners at their Monday meeting.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky and Latino community advocate Crystal Mariscal, who also sits on the New Castle Town Council, brought the concerns before the Board of County Commissioners.



Residents who spoke at the meeting said they aren’t comfortable drinking the water or using it to wash clothes or take showers, because of the dark color.

“Just because the water is legal, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink. I don’t drink it,” said one resident.



Mariscal presented letters in Spanish from several other residents expressing similar concerns.

“They are concerned about the water, but they don’t want to create any issues with the park,” she said. “They love where they live.”

A photo of the rusty-brown colored water in a toilet tank at Apple Tree Park that residents presented to Garfield County commissioners on Monday.
Provided

Residents also presented photos and a video of the water from last Friday, and had a jar of the water to show the commissioners. The situation leads to extra expenses for residents, who said they have to regularly replace fixtures and washing machines because of the iron buildup, and many often purchase bottled water for drinking.

Park Manager Henry Hendrickson, who also runs the water and wastewater systems, said residents were notified that Friday was a system flush day, and to avoid using the water until that process was complete.

Because of the history of hard water at Apple Tree, which comes from an aquifer beneath nearby Alkali Creek, the system requires flushing about every three months, Hendrickson said. Other mobile home park water systems that he manages have similar issues, he said.

“We know our water there is very high in iron content, so we have to flush that out at high velocity,” Hendrickson said. “There’s not a lot I can do about it, the water is the water.”

Lindsey Fettig, an environmental protection specialist with CDPHE, said the state regulates the community water system at Apple Tree. The groundwater system serves a population of around 1,100 people with 375 connections, she said.

The water system at Apple Tree does not have any open violations or enforcement actions pending, Fettig said. The last inspection was in December 2019, and inspections occur every three years, so one is due this year, she said.

The last inspection did indicate iron content higher than EPA secondary standards, Fettig said.

But, while primary water contaminants, such as cancer-causing chemicals, are enforceable, natural mineral content is not regulated, she said.

“I understand the frustration and concern, and it is a pretty rare situation,” Fettig said. “Even though we don’t regulate that, the state does have some funding available to install upgrades and provide engineering oversight.”

Apple Tree Park is now owned by a group of partners going by Investment Property Groups, after the Talbott family that established the park several decades ago sold the business.

Hendrickson said the park works with Carbondale-based Environmental Process Control for inspections and any necessary system upgrades.

A 2021 Consumer Confidence Report also indicated no issues with the water quality, he said.

Jankovsky requested the park owners work with Environmental Process Control and the state to get an inspection scheduled and to consider system upgrades to clear up the water.

“If this was my domestic water, you can’t wash clothes or take a bath in it. I wouldn’t drink it,” he said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.


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