Alamosa: Lawsuit filed Monday over salmonella outbreak

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Update: From The Denver Post (David Olinger):

Larry Velasquez had colon cancer and a weakened immune system when his body was invaded by bacteria in the city water supply. But “I think if Alamosa had taken better care of their water supply, my dad would still be here,” his daughter said.

That caused the worst waterborne- disease outbreak in the U.S. since 2004. In Alamosa, a city of 8,900, an estimated 1,300 people might have been ill, including 40 percent of its infants. State officials identified 442 cases of “probable salmonella infections” and pointed to a cracked water reservoir as a likely point of origin…

A state immunity law limits liabilities of city and state governments to $600,000 per occurrence. The lawsuit against Alamosa was filed jointly by John Riley, a Greenwood Village lawyer, and Drew Falkenstein of Marler Clark, a Seattle- based firm that specializes in bacterial contamination cases.

From the Associated Press via KRDO.com:

The lawsuit filed in Alamosa District Court Monday alleges the city failed to monitor and maintain a sanitary water system. The outbreak in March 2008 sickened as many as 1,300 people and killed one person…Alamosa’s city attorney says the city’s insurance carrier has been talking to the attorneys who filed the lawsuit for months.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner and Pablo Carlos Mora):

Twenty-nine parties filed suit Monday against the city for damages they allegedly suffered during the 2008 salmonella outbreak…

“What I’m seeking in this case is the amount of monetary compensation to put these folks back in the shape they were in before the outbreak,” said Drew Falkenstein, a Seattle-based attorney for the plaintiffs…

The outbreak resulted in 122 confirmed cases of illness and the lawsuit estimates as many as 2,000 may have gotten sick. The plaintiffs included the spouse of Larry Velasquez Sr., the lone fatality from the outbreak. The parents of 17 minors also filed suit. Children under 18 were among the hardest hit by the outbreak, accounting for 60 percent of all confirmed illnesses.

The suit claims critical points within the city’s water system were in significant disrepair at the time of the outbreak. The suit points to Weber Reservoir, a covered reservoir with cracks and holes, that the state health department said was the probable source of contamination. Two other water towers — Ross and Craft — contained sediment and the former contained animal feces, according to the lawsuit. None of the three structures had been inspected since 1997, the suit claimed.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

The civil case seeks unspecified damages for medical care and associated costs such as travel, lost wages and emotional distress resulting from the water-derived salmonella event that involved hundreds of cases and one death.

The civil suit filed on Monday includes the widow of Romeo resident Larry Velasquez, Sr., whose death was related to salmonella. Several other plaintiffs are parents of children who were sick with salmonella in the spring of 2008…

The attorneys filing the suit on Monday made several points including:

• The gastrointestinal symptoms detected among area residents the second week of March 2008 were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control to be related to salmonella that was also confirmed in the city’s water supply, subsequently leading to the bottled water advisory, a state health investigation and system-wide decontamination;

• Although 122 people were lab-confirmed with salmonella, it was estimated that as many as 2,000 people became ill during the outbreak and one person, Larry Velasquez Sr., died.

• At the time of the salmonella outbreak, “critical points within the City of Alamosa’s public water facility were in significant disrepair,” including the Weber Reservoir, Ross and Craft water towers.

The lawsuit addresses the governmental immunity clause but maintains that the city is not immune from liability because it was negligent in maintaining its water facilities. “Defendant breached its duty to use reasonable care in the operation and maintenance of its public water facility …”

The attorneys added that under the Colorado Product Liability Act, the city as a “manufacturer and product seller” of water, sold salmonella-contaminated water that resulted in the plaintiffs’ illnesses. Under the Product Liability Act, the attorneys stated, the city had an obligation to sell water that was safe to use, not contaminated with salmonella, so the city was liable for the injuries and economic loss that resulted to the plaintiffs.

The attorneys are seeking a trial during which time the general and specific damages would be proven. Those damages include loss of enjoyment of life; medical and medical related expenses; travel and travel-related expenses; emotional distress; pharmaceutical expenses; and other incidental and consequential damages.

More Alamosa coverage here and Here.

Colorado-Wyoming Coalition and the Pikes Peak Water Authority are chatting

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From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

Parker Water & Sanitation District Manager Frank Jaeger spoke to the authority’s board of directors at its monthly meeting about efforts being made by the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition to assess the potential availability of pumping water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to both states, with the emphasis in Colorado placed on supplying the Front Range. “I recommend signing up with these guys,” said the authority’s manager Gary Barber. “I think it’s the right project and the right leadership.”

Barber added he does not believe an interstate water deal will be accomplished without getting the government involved, which is where another group he has been part of — the Interbasin Compact Committee Arkansas Basin Roundtable — comes in. Working with the entity, he believes, would be the project’s ticket to working with the state’s general assembly and he would like to see the organization used as a forum for interest groups and others with interest in the project to gather questions about the project.

Jaeger agreed that later in the process, once the initial information has been gathered it would be appropriate to address questions and concerns, but he does not want to have this happen before the coalition knows whether the project will be feasible and has information about the details of the project, such as how much water will be available and how much water providers are going to want to use.

Jaeger is collecting signatures and $20,000 from each of the interested water providing entities in both states to help fund a study to examine the feasibility of setting up the project. He said the money will go toward determining who the players are and how much water each one will want from the project.

More Colorado-Wyoming coalition coverage here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education is hosting a tour of the National Ice Core Laboratory on March 12

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Click here to join the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s tour. Here’s and excerpt from their newsletter:

This exclusive tour will be the last public opportunity to see the Lab in 2010. The mini-tour will feature speakers from Colorado State University, the USGS and the Colorado Division of Wildlife who will provide expert analysis to give the work of the Lab broader context.

Energy policy — oil shale

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Here’s a video reality check about the development of the “Next Big Thing” from Bob Silbernagel, editor of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Next time you hear someone getting their bloomers in a knot over the potential Saudi Arabia killer deposits in the Piceance Basin you can refer them to Mr. Silbernagel’s analysis. The video is totally safe for work.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Colorado Trout Unlimited Dinner & Gala March 19

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From Colorado Trout Unlimited:

It’s that time again! Please join us Friday, March 19th for our annual Colorado Trout Unlimited Gala at the Arvada Center. This is CTU’s largest fundraising event of the year, so bring your family and friends for an evening that includes live music, dinner, drinks, silent and live auctions, plus welcoming remarks from special guest Senator Mark Udall.

Doors open at 5:00pm for cocktails and silent auction.
Dinner and live auction begin at 6:45pm.