Runoff contamination in the Cache la Poudre River from the High Park Fire is causing a supply problem for Greeley Water


From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

John McCutchan of Greeley Water says since the High Park Fire, area water managers have had to throw out the book on how they treat water coming from the Poudre River.

“It’s new for us to have to be watching the Poudre night and day. We’re all faced with the same situation.”

Many Northern Colorado water utilities are tied to the Poudre. And McCutchan says Greeley’s water rights on the river are too important to “Let go down stream. Especially in a drought period.”

McCutchan is the Superintendent of Greeley’s Bellevue Water Treatment Plant which filters water from the Poudre River -a key source for Greeley’s drinking supply.

The normally “pristine” Poudre is the cleanest source of water in the country, McCutchan says. But since the recent fires, the river has been running black with ash and other contaminants. And that has the potential to clog up the Bellevue Plant…

But runoff from the scorched-black earth around the Poudre has sent large particles of ash along with increased levels of iron and manganese swirling down the river.

If massive amounts of these contaminates were allowed to enter the filtration system, it could render the holding ponds useless because they’d quickly fill up with sludge and sediment.

To help mitigate any damage and very costly repairs, Greeley has limited its intake of Poudre River water to just 5 percent after the fire compared to an average of 25 percent for this time of year…

This means the city of Greeley and John McCutchan are going to have to take a hard look at what’s going to happen when they’re forced to rely more heavily on the contaminated Poudre.

“Everyone has had the same kind of problems. You can remove most of the contaminates, but some of the compounds that bring the taste and odor issues, the smoky flavor, are very difficult to remove.”

The city of Fort Collins has just started blending water from the Poudre back into its supplies. Each water utility knows that things will change depending on rain and the subsequent runoff into the Poudre. They’re also looking ahead to next spring and the annual winter snow melt, and what that runoff will mean for the river and next year’s water supply.

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.

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