From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong):
The problem is particularly acute in the spring when pine needles steep in the melting snow and runoff, creating something of an organic tea, high in acidity and organic carbon. These compounds (leachate and fulvic acid) are difficult to remove through traditional treatment methods and can be carcinogenic (cancer causing) when combined with chlorine, the most common chemical used to treat water.
Kremmling’s 30-year-old water treatment plant recently failed to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for the removal of these “total organic carbons” from its water supply. While the town has temporarily solved the problem, and the water in Kremmling is safe to drink, according to the town’s Public Works Director Doug Moses, Kremmling will have to continue reporting its violation every quarter for the next 12 months.
Plant managers will also continue to research alternative ways to deal with the problem, including a possible reclassification of the treatment plant that would eliminate the testing requirement…
Trees, like anything that isn’t mineral in nature, are made of organic carbon, Moses explained. As the trees and their leaves or needles decay, the deteriorating organic matter is released into the environment. “With a healthy forest, there is always some shedding,” Moses said. “But, in the beetle kill forest, all that organic mass has to get back into environment somehow. Unless it burns, in which case the carbon is released into the atmosphere and comes down with the rain, it decomposes into the soil and water.” The water soluble organic compounds that result from the decay of deciduous leaves are easier to remove through the traditional water treatment process than the compounds from coniferous trees. Moses stressed that the level of acceptable total organic carbon in the Kremmling water supply was exceeded by only a tenth of one percent, yet that was enough to trigger the violation…
Kremmling’s water supply comes primarily from Sheep Creek, which flows out of the Gore Range, Moses said.
More water treatment coverage here.