Monochloramine project nears completion for Craig and its water treatment plant

City Council passed first reading of a resolution approving refinancing of a water enterprise loan that was used for upgrades to the Craig City Water Treatment Plant in 2007.
Sasha Nelson

As the April 2020 mandate from the state nears for the City of Craig when it comes to compliance with the new disinfectant rule in water or face fines of thousands of dollars per day, SGM — the Glenwood Springs-based engineering firm the city hired shortly after hearing from the state — says the chloramine project is nearing completion and is below budget.

Presenting to City Council Feb. 11, SGM Water Engineer Rick Huggins told councilors that the project has gone as expected locally, after the city’s recent water quality plans were set into motion when the Colorado Department of Public Health increased disinfectant residual requirements for water systems, which Craig couldn’t meet in 2016.

Previously, Craig was using free chlorine to keep its water clean, but due to the failure to meet state requirements, the City of Craig had to act.

According to Huggins, after months of studies and workshops, council members decided a few key upgrades along with treating the city’s water system with monochloramine was the most cost-effective solution to keep the water safe. The project was expected to cost $5.2 million, requiring the city to increase rates to help finance the entire project.

According to Huggins, SGM expects the project to cost $3.128 million in the end, which is below the $3.375 million the company estimated costs would be at the start of the project.

The city announced to residents in their latest water bill that the monochloramine changeover will be implemented sometime in March.

In late 2018, new rates were adopted by a unanimous vote of the Craig City Council, which included the switch from chlorine to monochloramine.

With the project near completion, activists both locally and nationally are pushing back heavily on the monochloramine project, including well-know environmental celebrity in Erin Brockovich.

Brockovich took to social media late Tuesday night, blasting the city of Craig once again, saying, “…not only is the City of Craig, Colorado on a collision course to destroy their community drinking water system… they are doing it in super slow motion, so it is apparently not as imperative as they want you to believe.

“The Craig Community Water System is so behind on science it’s ridiculous,” Brockovich added. “The MISinformation they are providing you about the reasons behind chloramine use is a recipe for disaster… let’s start with the disinfection byproducts from by chloramine are 1,000 times more toxic than the ones formed by chlorine! These nitrosamine (ammonia) compounds will soon be regulated sending you back to the drawing board… but being poisoned in the meantime.

“Chloramine use cause both immediate and long-term health effects, destroys rubber gaskets and O-rings in you appliances and fixtures, plumbing corrosion, nitrification, biofouling, environmental damage and weaker system security.

“Don’t be fooled… many water system across the country that converted… have stopped and converted back to free chlorine. As it looks right now… you will be paying more for less quality (dangerous) water quality.”

Brockovich previous expressed similar frustration towards the city of Craig and city councilors in 2018 once the decision was made. Now, she’s continuing to push.

That hasn’t slowed the project down though, as the city – through SGM – has reduced the maximum age of water in tanks locally from 3 weeks to 11 days, has added mixers to water tanks to help eliminate stratification and buildup, and has added disinfectant residual boosters and strategic locations throughout the water system, according to Huggins.

Additionally, Huggins added that the project has worked with the CDPHE to test for erosion. Huggins said the potential for lead leaching and nitrification are two concerns when changes are made to any water system, so the project is monitoring that moving forward.

Huggins did add that the project has run into scheduling issues that has pushed the project back 4-6 weeks, but he said that SGM anticipates that they’ll have Craig’s water treatment system compliant with state regulations by April 1.

For now, the project continues to move forward near completion, pushing Craig closer to compliance, avoiding daily fines from the state.

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