With improvements to Phipp--sburg's water system almost finished, the county is turning its attention to the wastewater system.
In the past few years, the county has had trouble meeting discharge requirements during warm summer months, said Michael Zopf, director of the Routt County Environmental Health Department.
The problem is algae growing in the wastewater lagoons, he said. Algae thrives in nutrient-rich environments, such as the sewage.
The county has tried several techniques to reduce the algae but has been unsuccessful, he said. Routt County manages the water system for the unincorporated community.
Recently, the county received a $13,400 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Zopf said. The grant is for an engineering study on the wastewater system. Engineers will consider ways to reduce the algae, such as deepening lagoons or alternative technologies such as adding a wetlands component.
The results of the study must be reported to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment by Aug. 31. The report will include when and how recommendations will be implemented.
Zopf does not know how much it might cost to implement those changes. He said the county likely would apply for an Energy Impact Assistance grant from the Department of Local Affairs to help with the costs.
He emphasized that the wastewater system has very good compliance during all other months.
Meanwhile, upgrades to Phippsburg's water system are nearly complete. The new filtration system has been online for about a month and is "working flawlessly," Zopf said.
The new system brings the community into compliance with state regulations because water is filtered instead of just treated with chlorine. The upgrades also include a round-the-clock monitoring system.
The second phase of upgrades is an expansion of the community's well. The yield of the 100-foot lateral expansion of the well was determined last week, Zopf said. With the expansion, the total water yield is about 92 gallons a minute, close to the 100 gallons the county wanted.
The expansion of Phipp--s--burg's well will provide enough water for the foreseeable future, Zopf said.
In the drought of 2002, the county had trouble keeping up with demand and knew it was time to increase capacity, Zopf said.
The county is waiting to receive all invoices for the water system improvements, but Zopf said the project should end up costing a little more than $500,000. That fits in with the most recent estimates.
When the project began a few years ago, the cost was estimated at $180,000, but various roadblocks and changes resulted in a much higher price.
The county has a grant of $300,000 and loan of $131,000 from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for the project.
Water rates also have been increased to help pay for the improvements. They jumped from $57 a quarter per household to $84 in 2003, increasing again in 2004 to $86 a quarter, then again in 2005 to $89 a quarter. Sewer rates also increased from $48 to $51.
Those rates, Zopf said, also more closely reflect the state's average rates.