Conservation requested until leak is repaired

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Phippsburg residents are being asked to conserve water because of a water shortage that was discovered late Tuesday afternoon.

The water level in a single well that supplies the town slipped to 50 percent, and officials are concerned the shortage could worsen if conservation steps aren't taken.

"The shortage is due to a leak on the water main that carries water from the well to town," said Mike Zopf, director of the Routt County Department of Environmental Health.

The Routt County Office of Emergency Management said the water is safe to drink and is not contaminated, but it recommends that residents avoid activities that use a lot of water such as washing cars and watering yards.

Zopf said his office has known about the leak for about five months but that it wasn't until recently that it worsened because of increased water demand in the summer.

The leak is 7 feet underground between Phippsburg and the Yampa River. It is under a spot where multiple Union Pacific railroad tracks converge, which makes it difficult to repair, Zopf said. He said they've been waiting for months for approval from the railroad to start repair work.

Consent was given by the railroad last week, and repairs are scheduled to start Monday. Zopf predicts the work will be done within two weeks, but Duckels Construction field secretary Destiny Brown said it could take up to three weeks before crews finish repairs.

Brown said delays were the result of the "frustrating and lengthy process" the railroad required for approval.

"There were a lot of phone calls and e-mails not returned by the railroad," Brown said. "It just seemed really unorganized."

Brown said she first contacted the railroad April 3 and after a lot of paperwork finally received approval July 16 to begin construction.

Brown's contact at Union Pacific is out of town, and the person filling in for her did not return a voicemail left Wednesday.

Zopf said the risk of running out of water for Phippsburg residents is not high, but people should try to cut back their usage.

"The goal is to slow consumption, so we can buy more time to fix it," Chuck Vale, Routt County's director of emergency management, said Tuesday.

The Routt County Office of Emergency Management sent out a warning message via telephone about 4 p.m. Tuesday to notify town residents of the shortage, and Zopf said notices were hand-delivered Wednesday to the approximately 120 homes that are impacted by the shortage.

Residents with questions should call Routt County Environmental Health at (970) 879-0185.

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