Steamboat Springs Update: The state has declared the water of Oak Creek safe after a series of five tests showed it was free of E. coli. A line between the town’s pond and filtration tank broke Saturday and because the tank emptied, the state required the tests. Water plant operator John Fitzgerald said the five tests came back clean early today, but town officials had to wait for the state to lift the boil order. That issue came through just before 5 p.m.
Saturday night’s broken water valve and the resulting boil order in Oak Creek is something town officials predicted months and even years ago.
The leak that cut off water service for town residents for about four hours late Saturday and early Sunday, and that has residents boiling water before consumption through this afternoon, was yet another manifestation of aging water infrastructure in a town that is in the process of getting a new water tank to avoid problems like that encountered this weekend.
The town is using Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant money to start building a new water storage tank on the hillside above town, next to the old tank. The new storage tank will hold 240,000 gallons. After it’s complete, Oak Creek will renovate the existing concrete tank to ultimately double the town’s current storage capacity.
With the new tank in place, the town will have about 24 hours of water available for emergencies, even on high-usage days.
Chuck Wisecup, fire chief for the Oak Creek Fire Protection District, said acidic soil corroded the valve that leaked Saturday night, draining Oak Creek’s storage tank. The leak was stopped overnight and water service was restored by Sunday afternoon.
Wisecup said residents can use town water for showering, toilet-flushing and other such uses. Any consumption, though — such as cooking or teeth-brushing — should occur after boiling town water for at least one minute, he said Sunday.
Residents of Oak Creek are urged to continue boiling water until at least 3 p.m. today, when the results of a water test will be available.
Town Hall worker Vivian Johnson said that even though water was running through the pipes Monday, the state still required the tests.
“When the tank completely empties, the state says we have to make sure the water coming back in is really treated to the levels it’s supposed to be,” she said.
Once the leak was discovered, the town used a reverse-911 call to notify the residents, but Mayor Nikki Knoebel said that also ran into problems because not every resident has a home phone any more.
Workers and Oak Creek Town Board members also handed out fliers to residents, she said.
“People reacted very fast, which I was very impressed about,” Knoebel said.
The town, working with the Routt County Emergency Management Department, gave away cases of water to families and had portable toilets on town streets.
The 200,000-gallon tank was emptied by the time town workers could find the leaking valve Saturday evening, but Knoebel said workers responded quickly.
“They got everything fixed, so there’s no more leaks, the pond is filling back up,” she said.
Knoebel said the town likely will not be out much money because of the leak, because county emergency management officials helped provide the water and toilets. The only cost to the town will come from the repairs to the valves, including the bolts and pieces needed.
South Routt School District officials reported classes are continuing as usual during the boil order.
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