Something’s in the Air: Water Odor the Focus

Berthoud Recorder
By Shari Phiel

Berthoud’s water quality has once again come to the forefront of concerns for local residents. For the past few weeks, Town staff have fielded about 30 calls a day from Berthoud citizens concerned about a noxious odor and taste in their water.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 25 Board of Trustees meeting at Town Hall, numerous residents voiced their concerns to their elected officials about the problem. Like many, Berthoud citizen Billie Norris said she disliked “paying for something I’m not getting.”

Gary Suiter, the interim Town administrator, said staff are working to resolve the issue. Suiter noted the Town has recently contracted with CDM Engineering to “perform an evaluation” of the Berthoud water treatment system and provide feedback and recommendations for any changes that can be put in place.

The interim administrator also noted that Berthoud’s Public Works Department has completed about 30 water tests from various residences and all have tested safe to drink. He also contacted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to confirm the test results.

But what is causing the bad odor and taste? The problem seems to stem from algae growth at local reservoirs. An Aug. 14 analysis of waterborne particulates found Anabaena, an algae known for its fetid smell, present in Berthoud water. Carter Lake area resident Mick Shupe noted the smell is particularly bad in that area. He suggested the Town look at introducing “Grass Carp,” which are algae eaters, to the lake.

“This is a universal problem,” said Suiter, noting that according to the public health department, many other communities have faced similar problems. One recommendation from public health was to use copper sulfate during water treatment. However, the idea of adding even more chemicals to Berthoud’s water did not find favor with residents attending the meeting.

Trustee Michael Patrick noted algae particulates had been a problem in Berthoud in past years but the addition of SolarBees four years ago seemed to have addressed the problem.

Per the SolarBee Web site, these devices use “patented near laminar radial flow technology that provides high-flow, long-distance circulation in water reservoirs.” Unfortunately, no system is fool proof and environmental changes can generate algae blooms beyond the SolarBees abilities to control.

Esther Vincent with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Colorado-Big Thompson nutrient project said Wednesday she was surprised to hear residents had concerns about algae blooms at Carter Lake. Vincent toured Carter Lake on Wednesday, Aug. 26 but found no algae blooms present.

She proposed the problem may not be coming from Carter Lake but from the holding pond where Berthoud water is stored. Vincent explained water is fed via pipe from Carter Lake into a shallow retention pond, which is the same pond where the SolarBees were installed. Algae blooms are a more prevalent issue in shallow water than at deeper lakes.

For Berthoud residents with concerns about their water, Suiter suggested the contact the Town’s public works staff and request water samples if necessary.

Residents with water discoloration, which sometimes occurs when the water system and hydrants are flushed, can pick up Rover Rust Remover, a sodium bisulphite powder, at Town Hall.

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