October 6, 2015--How does Durango get its water? (Durango Herald)

When the river ran orange with mine waste in August, city taps still flowed with clean, usable water. To make sure Durango will have drinking water in a future emergency and to serve eventual growth, city officials would like to build a new $50 million Ridges Basin Water Treatment Plant below Lake Nighthorse. “It gives the city such great flexibility that it doesn’t have with just one reservoir,” said utilities director Steve Salka. If both the Animas and Florida rivers were flowing with severely contaminated water or running extremely low, the new plant would provide access to the 2,133-acre-feet of water the city owns in Lake Nighthorse. This additional water would allow the city to serve tens of thousands of additional water customers, said City Manager Ron LeBlanc. The city currently serves about 6,700 customers, Salka said. Depending on a single plant leaves very little room for error and limited time for repairs because it can never be shut down completely, Salka said. “If a pipe breaks, it’s an emergency,” he said. Even scheduled maintenance must take place within restrictive time frames, and there is some maintenance that cannot happen until a new plant is built. A new water-treatment plant could allow the city to process 15 million gallons of water a day and shut down the existing 60-year-old plant entirely during repairs. The current plant produces about 8 million gallons on a peak day in the summer, and peak summer consumption is about 7 million gallons. The additional production allows the city to catch up when a water main breaks, said Dave Ferguson, water-treatment plant superintendent. “If you can only produce what the town demand is, you are never going to catch up,” Ferguson said. One of the limiting factors of the current plant is the disinfection process. The water must be exposed to the chlorine in the 7 million gallon storage tank. The city plans to build a new 3 million gallon tank at the existing plant to help add capacity. Some of the preliminary work for the plant has already started. The city is negotiating with the property owner for a site, LeBlanc said. The city has also started building a water-sampling station at Lake Nighthorse to complete the required two years of monitoring that must take place before a plant can be built. To view the full article and report visit the Durango Herald.