Steamboat Springs Routt County's application for a grant to improve the Phippsburg water treatment and supply system received preliminary approval at last week's meeting of the state advisory committee for the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program.
The grant would provide $150,000 in funds and $38,500 in loans to install a filtration system at and increase the yield of the well that provides water to Phippsburg residents. The remaining $38,500 needed for the project would come from district reserves.
The Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program's executive director will make the final decision in the next few weeks about whether to approve the grant.
Michael Zopf, county environmental health director, said the changes would help both the safety and quality of the water.
The proposed improvements include adding a filtration system, expanding the well to increase water supply and expanding the water plant so there is more room for filtering and monitoring equipment.
The filtration system would filter out particles that are 1 micron or greater in size, such as the microorganism Giardia. Now, water is only disinfected through chlorination.
Tests in 1999 of the quality of water coming from the 20-year-old well showed there was some risk of contamination from surface pollutants such as those coming from fertilizer, people and livestock, Zopf said.
Phippsburg's well, which is 20-feet deep, is considered to be shallow. The closer a well is to the surface, the more likely it is to be impacted from surface activities.
Making the well deeper is not an option in this case because water from further down in the ground would have poor quality due to increased mineral content.
The water has not been unsafe to drink, Zopf said, but adding the filtration system would reduce risks and allow the water plant to comply with state and federal regulations.
"This is just a step to be absolutely sure that we provide the best water possible," he said.
During the summer, water has sometimes been discolored. These projects might help with that problem as well, Zopf said.
Increasing the yield from the well by upgrading water pumps and expanding the well would help provide for residents in times of drought and would improve the ability of the system to provide water at fire hydrants.
Plus, an increased yield would ensure an ample water supply even if the area grew to its maximum projected growth of 30 more households. There are now 124 water taps served by the plant.
"Especially during drought conditions like we have right now," Zopf said, "we'd also like to be able to produce more water."
Zopf said that any increases in water yields would be used only for the current district.
If the funding comes through, water system service fees would grow by about $5 per month per tap to help with the expansion of services.
Zopf said he is hopeful the funding will be secured in the next few weeks.
"We're going to build it this year," he said. "I'm not even planning for the possibility (that it won't be funded)."
Zopf said fall is the best time of year to work on the water system because of weather conditions. The project is scheduled to begin around Labor Day and will end before the year is over.