Paonia turns the water back on

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Paonia began restoring water service Monday to residents affected by an outage resulting from leaks and poor production from the springs that provide the town’s raw water supply…

The town began restoring service Monday morning but was doing so slowly to avoid pressure spikes. Knight expected that by the end of Monday most people who weren’t getting water would be seeing some water pressure, although that might not be the case for homes at higher elevations or at the end of water lines.

The town is expecting full pressure systemwide to be reached by this afternoon.

A notice to boil the water before drinking it remains in place as the service is being restored to allow time for lines to be flushed and chlorine to make its way through the system. Knight said if things go well, water samples may be able to be taken today. Still, it will take about 24 hours to get test results to the state to determine whether the notice can be lifted.

The town last week cut service first to about a third of the 1,800 people it serves, and then to about 200 more taps. That happened after it found and fixed some leaks, but its spring water supplies weren’t able to replenish the lost water in its main tank. Knight believes those springs were affected by last year’s drought.

The town continued service to what it considered essential areas, such as those serving school, urgent care center and nursing home facilities, and downtown businesses.

The town is now restoring cut-off service thanks to a number of factors. Mount Lamborn Ranch agreed to make water available from Roeber Reservoir, and state officials helped the town find additional water in the town’s springs, Knight said. Also, a few more large leaks were found.

Knight said a leak-detection crew from the city of Westminster found one of them, and the city of Montrose sent a construction crew to fix it. It’s one of numerous examples of support Paonia has gotten from state, county and local governments. Others who have helped include plumbers who have offered to check residents’ pressure relief valves on their hot water tanks in preparation for water service to be restored.

Knight said the town had been processing as little as 135 gallons a minute, but now is up to 550 gallons a minute, which far exceeds even normal usage of the system and is letting the town refill tanks. Still, its springs are producing about half of normal for this time of year, so it is continuing to encourage conservation.

The town is planning another community meeting today at 6 p.m. at the Paradise Theatre to update residents on the situation.

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

The problem started on Feb. 17, when Paonia’s water operators noted a loss of water in a 2 million gallon storage tank. A team went out looking for a leak, but could not locate it. As the leak continued, the town’s water system lost enough pressure that the state of Colorado imposed a boil order. In response, town officials declared a state of emergency.

A potable water tank arrived soon after, on loan from the National Park Service, which affected residents could use to fill up vessels to take water back to their homes. A team, aided by the city of Westminster, was sent out to locate the leaks. They found one in a supply pipe that was spilling into the North Fork River. After locating the leak, the town’s water delivery system came back online on Feb. 22.

Four days later, town officials discovered that its water customers were consuming more than what was being produced at its water treatment plant. A series of 22 springs at the base Mount Lamborn serves as the town’s raw water supply. Because of record-breaking dry conditions during much of 2018, the springs are running at half their normal volumes for this time of year.

To avoid seeing the town’s entire supply dip to a dangerous level, town administrator Ken Knight chose to shut down some water users to allow the system to recharge. First he denied water to 27 mostly rural providers who purchase water from the town to deliver to customers within Delta County. Then Knight turned off the majority of the town’s residential users, choosing to maintain service at Paonia’s schools, town buildings, downtown business district and other facilities deemed critical to the town’s operations.

Since then, Knight says the town has been working with a local rancher association to tap into a privately-held reservoir to fill the town’s system. That’s allowed most of Paonia’s downtown core to keep receiving water while the rest of the community has been out of water or on a boil notice.

Even when water service returns, which could come as early as Monday, the town will remain on a boil order until the town can flush its system, pull samples of the treated water, and send them to a lab for testing. If those samples show the water is safe to drink, Knight says Paonia residents could get service back without a boil order in place by Wednesday afternoon.

If samples come back positive for contaminants, that process would be delayed until the water is deemed safe.

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