Human error causes Rifle water system contamination
The Rifle water plant operator on duty at the time the city’s water system became contaminated for nearly a week has resigned, and city officials say they are looking at measures to ensure a similar accident never happens at the treatment plant again.Human error lead to the contamination on July 24.About 30 people attended a public meeting this week at Rifle City Hall about the incident which lead to a citywide boil order from July 26-30. “We are doing things to evaluate and fix it so further incidents like this are not possible,” City Manager John Hier said. Public Works Director Bill Sappington gave a brief overview of how the city’s water system works. The water plant is run manually where it is shut off at night and turned back on in the morning. The accident occurred when an employee left a pump on, which resulted in raw water from the Colorado River being distributed through the water system without being treated. “We’ve (estimated) that several thousand gallons of water went through the system without being treated and the operators the next day discovered it,” Hier said. The city took immediate measures, including notification of the state health department, implementing a boil-order for all city water and super-chlorinating the system and flushing the tanks. “Since (the incident), we’ve been given additional directions from the state health department on how to do things differently,” Hier said. Those include increased testing of the water, requiring a checklist for the operators, immediate notification of city management if there is a problem and a plan submitted to the department of health within the next 30 days. The operator on duty at the time of the incident resigned and is taking early retirement, Hier said. Along with reorganization of plant management, the city is also looking into making improvements to the existing water treatment plant using an automated system that would either turn itself on or off, depending on the demand for water, or would run continuously at a lower level. “We want to learn from this incident and make sure it never happens again,” Hier said. “Your city employees came together in a very fine fashion and really pulled together well. “We want to learn from this incident and make sure it never happens again,” Hier said. “Your city employees came together in a very fine fashion and really pulled together well.
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