Burn scar runoff muddies waters

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courtesy photo | Sample of Colorado River at Hot Sulphur Springs, raw water intake at 8:30 PM, July 31, 2021.
courtesy photo | Sample of Colorado River at Hot Sulphur Springs, raw water intake at 8:30 PM, July 31, 2021.

by Marissa Lorenz
The Hot Sulphur Springs Public Works Department shut off water intake at their water treatment plant on Saturday, due to high levels of turbidity or lack of water clarity.

After a day of heavy rains, ash, silt, and other debris washing down from the East Troublesome burn scar and into the Colorado River caused the water to turn near black in color, alarming Public Works Director Lucas Ackerman and Mayor Bob McVay.
“At one point on Saturday,” explains McVay, “turbidity measurements reached astronomical levels. We shut off the intake to protect our residents and to protect our water system.

“We’re very picky about making water. We want everyone to be safe, and we don’t want to do anything to get into our system that could destroy or jeopardize the water treatment plant itself.”

The Mayor notes that the Town has been watching their water source with particular care, following last year’s East Troublesome Fire, the 193,000-square foot burn scar of which surrounds the Colorado River’s headwaters, knowing the likelihood that water quality would be impacted.

“We always take every precaution we can,” assures McVay. “But there’s no action we can take to control the river. We’re subject to Mother Nature. Luckily, it all passed through faster than we expected, and turbidity levels are now well within a safe measurement.”

The plant resumed intake of water and the refilling of the Town’s water tank by late Sunday, and service for residents was never interrupted. The Town’s water storage was full, and McVay reports that back-up plans for water tankers to supplement water supply are already in place, if ever needed.

McVay also credits Town staff for their quick and diligent response. “We have a great crew. They did a spectacular job on Saturday and Sunday and put in some serious hours. Lucas in particular did an amazing job.”