Silt water treatment plant feeling effects of Glenwood Canyon mudslides months later

Silt Public Works Director Trey Fonner peers over a railing at the Silt wastewater treatment center.
Ray K. Erku/Citizen Telegram

Debris flows that wreaked havoc through Glenwood Canyon over the summer are causing Silt’s water treatment center to work harder to remove pollutants from the Colorado River, a town official said.

Silt Town Manager Jeff Layman said the facility isn’t in any kind of crisis, but it’s simply having to treat water with higher levels of turbidity. The cloudy water also has higher levels of manganese and iron.

“The facility’s able to treat the water that’s coming in,” he said. “But there’s an increased amount of foreign debris that came off the burn scar.”

Silt is working with state and federal resources in the hopes of obtaining funding for either updates for the current plant or purchasing a new one.

Preliminary figures for these potential updates is around $13 million, Layman said. A new plant could potentially cost between $25 million and $30 million.

Roughly 21 miles west of Glenwood Canyon, Silt pulls its water supply from the Colorado River, and it relies on a micro-filtration water treatment system built about 15 years ago. New Castle pulls its water supply from Elk Creek.

With the treatment center having to filter out more debris, the city is already having to allocate extra funds to replace equipment. The past month saw the town approve a $48,000 payment to replace filters. Each filter costs about $1,000, and the treatment center is equipped with 96 filters.

“Usually the filters would last a number of years,” Layman said. “These lasted less than a year because of this problem.”

Silt Public Works Director Trey Fonner said he’s concerned the town’s water treatment system could go through filters more quickly than in the past.

“The biggest (impact) is on the filters themselves,” he said. “There’s just more turbidity in the water, and it takes more to try to get it filtered out. We use a little bit more chemical — coagulant — to settle the particles and the sediment out.

Silt Public Works Director Trey Fonner holds a filter used at the town's water treatment center.
Ray K. Erku/Citizen Telegram

Silt did not violate any Colorado drinking water standards, it just makes it harder to treat, Fonner said.

“And then one of the other big issues that we ran into is in the event of this slide and everything, it kicked up the manganese and iron levels in the river,” he said. “So a lot of brown-water complaints that any municipality gets is probably tied to manganese and iron.”

Fonner said the city is currently working with engineers on what exactly it needs to accomplish with the water treatment center.

“We need to add more pre-treatment in front of the plant to take out a lot of the sediment load before it goes on to the filter,” he said. “And that’s what we’re looking into, whether it be a settling pond, sand filtration or something of that nature.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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