UP THE CREEK
May 1, 2003
As this is written, USCDWUA and the Town of Cedaredge remain under a mandatory boil order imposed by the Colorado Department of Health. By the time you read this, the order may have been lifted, but it’s unlikely.
Before the State will lift a boil order, it is necessary for USCDWUA and the Town of Cedaredge to follow a set procedure specified in writing by the State. First, we filled the system with strongly chlorinated water - this probably did not escape your attention. The “hot” water was followed through the system by taking chorine samples and by flushing to ensure it traveled through all pipelines. Next, the system was purged by water with a normal level of chlorine. That was again traced through the system to be sure it displaced all the “hot” stuff. Then a series of bacteriological samples were collected and analyzed in Grand Junction at the State Laboratory. If they all showed absence of bacteria, and if written records of all the above activity were correctly submitted, and if the State was happy with those records, then the boil order could be removed. This process began at noon Tuesday, April 22.
There are two reasons for the State Department of Health to impose such a rigorous procedure. First, the high turbidity which triggered the order was the result of inadequate filtration. That could have allowed pathogens to enter the system. The strong chlorine dose was intended to minimize the potential for illness. The second reason, (my theory) is to make sure no water system ever wants to go through that again.
The exact nature of the treatment plant upset is not known as of this writing. USCDWUA no longer participates in operation of the plant. The State Department of Health which investigated the incident has promised to provide USCDWUA with its findings.
We learned through this event that we need a better method of quickly informing our members. The situation occurred on a holiday weekend, which made it difficult to contact the news media and the public. We are now investigating the use of “reverse nine-one-one,” which is a new service in Delta County. Basically, we give the County Emergency Coordinator the perimeter of the area to notify. A computer which knows all the phone numbers in that area calls them with a recorded message. This apparently happens very quickly. We are considering using this method to notify you that the water is safe to drink again. We would also like to set up a formal calling tree. If you would like to participate, that is, are willing to call a small number of people, and in turn ask them to call some others, we would like to hear from you. We are also beginning an email address database, so please email email@example.com . Email would provide you with instant notification, provided you check your mail often. You do, don’t you? Me neither. Keep checking our website at www.uscdwua.com for updates
I wish to personally thank you for the kindness and understanding you have displayed during this stressful period. Not one of you saw fit to take a bite out of my tender regions. I am reaffirmed in my belief that USCDWUA members are the finest people in the world. We will continue to do our best to keep your trust and confidence.