WELD COUNTY — The residents of the unincorporated town of Wattenberg recently found themselves without safe water for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and food preparation due to elevated nitrate levels in their water system. Nitrate in drinking water is a serious health concern, especially for infants less than six months old and the elderly.
Upon hearing about the issue in Wattenberg, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer directed the Department of Public Health and Environment to have potable drinking water delivered to the residents, renting a potable water trailer capable of holding 6,000 gallons of water.
“As soon as we heard about the situation in Wattenberg, we took steps to get safe drinking water out to the residents,” said Commissioner Kirkmeyer. “This is no different than anything else Weld County would do for any of its residents in a time of crisis. This is no different than assisting in a flood or tornado. This was the right thing to do.”
The county was prepared to pay the rental fees of $1,200 a week, as well as other costs associated with delivery, setup and other fees, when Anadarko Petroleum Corp. stepped in as good neighbors and offered to cover the cost.
Within days of discovering the elevated nitrate levels, the residents of Wattenberg had safe drinking water via the potable water tank. Wayne Ramey, water plant operator for the Wattenberg Improvement Association, said it could take up to four weeks for the Association to begin providing safe water again, but said he hoped to have it available sooner.
“We very much appreciate the Commissioners getting this together,” Ramey said. “That they were willing to go out and do this themselves was great. Then, Anadarko came to the table and offered to pay, and we are grateful for that.”
Ramey said elevated nitrate levels were a result of failed membranes in the plant. Ramey said there are about 12 membranes in the plant, which are responsible for filtering out nitrates and other materials in the water. He said those have been removed and sent to California for testing to discover why they’re failing.