Craig water gets high marks

Craig's drinking water received passing marks or better for all applicable standards for 2001, and water treatment plant officials has begun the planning needed to keep producing high-quality drinking water for the near future.

Craig's drinking water originates from the Yampa River, with a watershed that comprises 27 rivers and streams. The Environmental Protection Agency has labeled this watershed as water of "Better Quality." In 2001, the water treatment plant in Craig produced more than 630 million gallons of drinking water for Craig residents.

The Yampa is a relatively undeveloped river, which is one of the reasons the drinking water produced from it is of good quality, Craig Public Works Director Bill Early said.

"Generally, our drinking water is in pretty good shape," he said. "For mountain communities, our water is about average. If you look at our drinking water as compared to the entire country, like a community at the southern end of the Mississippi that is getting water that is heavily used, we have some of the better water you can have.

"We mainly treat the water to remove particulates materials that are suspended in the water. We add chemicals and then put the water through a multi-filter bed to clean the water out. The staffs at the treatment plant and the waste water plant are very dedicated."

In its annual report, the treatment plant reviewed its findings on a variety of chemicals, particulates, contaminants, carcinogens and clarity. The drinking water in Craig tested negative or below the established limits for all categories save one: a biological entity, total coliforms, was detected in November 2001. A second test was done the following day was negative, leading to the conclusion that the positive result was due to contamination in the lab where the test was done, the report states.

Early said pollution from "point sources" industrial plants, mines and power plants are heavily controlled and monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency. The greatest threat to clean drinking water is storm water the flash drainage from weather that flows into rivers.

"Storm water is practically impossible to treat, so it's handled by management practices rather than structural solutions," he said. "It's education efforts to the community about what to be aware of and what not to do to prevent storm water problems."

The treatment plant also adds chlorine to the drinking water as part of the cleansing process. The EPA mandates this addition.

"The biggest complaint we receive is about the amount of chlorine in the drinking water," Early said. "Our hands are kind of tied. We are required to have .02 milligrams at the farthest points of our system, and we chlorinate the water so that requirement is met.

The levels of chlorine are higher in some areas because of this, but if we don't reach the proper levels, we have to announce we are in violation of the Clean Water Act and go through a complicated process concerning the requirements.

"I don't know if that problem can be solved. We are going to try to work on it in the future. When we get through our other projects in the master plan, we would like to look at it. Our main complaint is about chlorine, but we err on the side of safety."

The planning process for water treatment plants is highly complex, and sometimes impossible to predict or plan for.

"I receive a fax every Wednesday from the American Water Works Association about the constantly changing regulations," Early said. "They keep us informed on what the EPA requires for water quality, and it's something that is constantly changing.

"You can plan to build a water treatment plant and call the EPA and ask what they think will be needed for a plant that will be finished in three years, and the requirements you built to could be changed the day after the plant is done."

Early said Moffat County, Routt County and state agencies are attempting to continue planning for future water needs.

The governments are working to update their area water-quality plan, which will help the agencies see where they are in terms of the water plants, water quality and how to continue providing clean safe drinking water for residents.

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