City's water gets clean bill of health

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— The next time Steamboat Springs residents turn on their taps for a refreshing glass of water, they can be assured that the water they're drinking carries a clean bill of health.

The city of Steamboat Springs' 1999 consumer confidence report shows that Steamboat's water meets 76 standards required by the Environmental Pro-tection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health. Some of the areas tested include the amounts of copper, lead, benzene and chromium that are in the water.

"We exceed current and future EPA and Colorado Health Department guidelines," said Jeff Peterson, operations manager of Mount Werner Water. "Through the years, we've maintained our quality better than they require."

Steamboat's water comes from high mountain reservoirs such as Long Lake and Fish Creek. There are no mining or agricultural operations above the water supply and there is no one who takes out water above where the city takes its water from Fish Creek, said Joe Zimmerman, superintendent of Steamboat Springs Water.

"We are serving them a clean, safe product," Zimmerman said.

Steamboat's location plays a big role in the cleanliness of the water, Zimmerman said. He described the outlets where the city gets its water as similar to the clear, pristine-looking streams that hikers may see up in the mountains and compared that to communities on the lower Colorado River that receive their drinking water from discolored, muddy streams.

"We're so fortunate because the source is in the high country," Peterson said. "We're first on tap with Fish Creek and no one is upstream from where we get our water."

Besides monitoring the required areas, the city also monitors other contaminants, including giardia and cryptosporidium. The 1999 water report stated that testing determined that giardia has been found in the city's raw water supply, but never in its finished product. The report also states that the city has never found cryptosporidium in its raw water supply.

"Our goal is to lower turbidity (the degree of water clarity) and to remove contaminants such as giardia," Jefferson said.

Zimmerman and Peterson both said that they receive very few complaints about the quality of Steamboat's water.

The biggest complaint that Peterson has received is that the water is too warm or cold. In the summer, the water temperature may increase, Peterson said, and people have complained that it tastes different, but it's still the same water. Other complaints on taste may be attributed to residents changing the piping in their homes, Peterson said.

"Primarily our water is good," Zimmerman said. "You don't have reactions when things are good."

The water report also stated that all drinking water, including bottled water, should be expected to contain small amounts of contaminants. These small amounts don't necessarily mean that the water poses a health risk, the report said.

To get more information about contaminants and their health effects, call the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

To reach Larissa Keever call 871-4208 or e-mail lkeever@amigo.net

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