From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):
Fort Collins Utilities is changing some of its procedures after breaking two state water quality rules last month.
The associated incident happened Dec. 14 and lasted 18 minutes, from 8:41 to 8:59 a.m. Water users were never at risk as a result of the incident, which involved a malfunction in the water treatment system, water resources and treatment operations manager Carol Webb said.
The malfunction involved a portion of the system that adds lime to water to prevent pipe corrosion. Though lime is a safe and state-approved drinking water additive, the system added too much lime to water on Dec. 14, causing a spike in turbidity, or cloudiness.
The overfeeding of lime caused water midway through the treatment process to spike to 2.5 times the mandated maximum cloudiness. The state enforces turbidity requirements because high turbidity can interfere with disinfection and offer a medium for microbial growth. Turbidity can also indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms in water, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
By the time the water reached users, its cloudiness was below state-mandated levels, but the turbidity spike in the combined filter effluent is still considered a violation because the state requires monitoring of water quality at several stages throughout the treatment process.
Fort Collins Utilities also failed to notify the state of the turbidity spike within 24 hours, which elevated the issue to require public notice. The city didn’t immediately notify the state in part because the department has never before experienced a situation like this one, water production manager Mark Kempton said.
The department is reviewing its training procedures and considering changes to automated alarms to prevent future violations, utilities staff said. They also said they plan to get to the bottom of the treatment malfunction to avoid a recurrence.