Alamosa: Aftermath of 2008 salmonella outbreak

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Here’s a look at Alamosa’s March 2008 salmonella outbreak and its aftermath from David Olinger writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

• Health investigators discovered an in-ground storage tank was cracked at the corners and had a hole in its side — potential entry points for a strain of salmonella bacteria found in animal feces. A state inspection of Alamosa’s water system months before the outbreak failed to include a detailed look at this tank. As a result, its interior had not been physically inspected in 11 years.

• The state canceled a 34-year-old exemption that allowed Alamosa to pump untreated drinking water through a delivery system almost a century old. It also ordered the city to improve inspections of its water system.

• Alamosa opened a treatment plant designed to remove traces of arsenic detected in its water for 13 years. The new plant also disinfects water. Had it been completed months earlier, the city could have avoided the salmonella epidemic.

A year later, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has not pinpointed where salmonella bacteria invaded the water supply of a city of 9,000 people. But crumbling infrastructure is a prime suspect.

After tests detected coliform bacteria in Alamosa’s cracked storage tank, the city disconnected it from its drinking-water supply. A 75-year-old water tower was missing bolts and needed repairs on a roof stained by bird droppings.

The city had 50 miles of underground pipes, and “a lot of pipes were World War I vintage. They’re old. They’re very old,” said Steve Gunderson, the health department’s water- quality director. “That’s the problem with our nation’s infrastructure.”

The Post article includes a link to a photo gallery for the story.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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