Officials investigate concerns of water contamination from Steamboat hotel | SteamboatToday.com

Officials investigate concerns of water contamination from Steamboat hotel

— A Routt County Department of Environmental Health official has investigated claims that polluted water was being pumped into the Yampa River from the crawl space of a Steamboat Springs hotel.

Routt County environmental health specialist Jason Striker said Wednesday that while paint cans and other items should not have been stored in the hotel's crawl space, he doesn't think contaminated water made it to the river.

The paint cans and other items being stored in the flooded crawl space have been removed since. Striker said the owners of the Hampton Inn & Suites have been cooperative during the investigation.

"The unopened paint containers that were located in the crawl space have been removed, and we are committed to completing any other recommendations officials may have," hotel manager Diane White said Wednesday. "The hotel is taking all precautions necessary to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and employees and has fully cooperated with officials."

On Tuesday, a video (scroll down to view the video) was posted on YouTube by Zak Ryan, a maintenance worker at the hotel who had been tasked with fixing broken sump pumps in the crawl space. Ryan said he initially posted the video so he could show it to Striker and the Department of Environmental Health. Ryan said he was concerned the hotel was not addressing the problem, and it posed an environmental hazard.

"It was the right thing to do," Ryan said Wednesday. "I'm probably going to lose my job because of it."

The 11 minute, 30 second video offers a tour of the flooded crawl space and narration from Ryan. He expresses concerns about items such as paint cans that were being stored in the crawl space, and that the water was being contaminated. Ryan states his belief that the crawl space water was being pumped into an outside ditch, where it then was going into the river.

When the sump pumps are working, Striker said they actually are pumping the water into a dry well outside the hotel, and water filters back into the ground. The crawl space is equipped with sump pumps to handle spring runoff.

To repair the broken sump pumps, Striker said water temporarily was being pumped through a fire hose to a ditch outside the building. That water was being pumped from one compartment in the crawl space that did not have paint cans or other hazardous items, Striker said.

Striker said he examined the water that was being pumped into the ditch.

"I did not see any contamination," he said.

Striker said he contacted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spill hotline. He said that agency also plans to investigate.

Striker said about 13 paint containers had been removed from the crawl space, and it did not appear they had leaked any of their contents. Ryan said that in addition to the paint, old air conditioning/heating units were disposed of in the crawl space.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com