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To the Town of Berthoud’s water customers

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To the Town of Berthoud’s water customers:
The community is certainly aware of the struggles we have had with our water quality in recent years, especially the last 2 years, and I’m sure you are becoming very impatient wondering when it will finally be resolved.  I apologize for what everyone has had to endure again this last year, and want everyone to know that we are trying very hard to resolve this problem.
In June of last year we were taken somewhat off guard when the blue algae in our reservoir became agitated much earlier than it has in previous years, and suddenly we were faced with taste and odor issues in our drinking water.  We scrambled to construct a temporary means of adding carbon to the water (which helps control the taste and odor issues) upstream of its then current location to allow the carbon to be in the water for a longer period of time.  This immediately brought the taste and odor issues under control at the plant, but not before the geosmin had taken up residence in the customers’ water heaters, the distribution system, and in our 3 million gallon water storage tank.  Even though the issue was dealt with in a relatively short amount of time from a treatment perspective, 3 to 4 days, the impacts of the “geosmin” which was created by the upsetting of the water in the reservoir lingered for a much longer period of time.  Even though the water was never unsafe to drink, it was certainly very unpleasant to drink or to bathe in.  When the news channels from Denver visited Berthoud in early July to report on the problem the issue had already been resolved from a treatment perspective, however they were not interested in hearing that we had fixed the water treatment problem, because that wasn’t “news”, so what they reported on was essentially the lingering aftermath of the problem.
Throughout 2010 and into 2011 we expended funds and many man-hours to identify all of the issues related to water quality problems in hopes of finding a permanent resolution to this reoccurring problem.  Of the many projects we have identified as being part of a “solution” to this issue, the most effective would be the construction of a relatively short bypass line to divert water from our Carter Lake delivery pipe straight into our treatment plant, thereby bypassing our storage reservoir.  The algae/geosmin is a problem for almost every community in the front range that has older reservoirs which are used for water storage.  Our reservoir is well over 100 years old and currently all of our raw water has to pass through this reservoir before entering the treatment plant.  Historically, the reservoir only becomes a problem in the hot summer months when the water temperature in the reservoir exceeds 70 degrees; the shoulder months and the winter months have never really been an issue before.
The reservoir cycles and the operating data we have collected from the past 12 months is inconsistent with historical data, and our water issues are now unlike anything we have experienced in the past 20 years.  As most of you are probably aware, the geosmin became a problem again very unexpectedly in late December. The activated carbon system was shut down in early December to save on treatment costs, and so that we could make repairs to the equipment to get it staged and ready for operating in the summer months.  To compensate for the taste and odor issues we did restart the activated carbon process again last week, but again the geosmin has found its way into the water heaters, the distribution system, and our water storage tank.  Because we operate the plant at such a low levels this time of year it will take a period of time to move this out of our system again.  We could try to flush the system by opening the fire hydrants like we do each spring, but this time of year it would only cause other issues such as icing in the streets and water discoloration from disturbing the sediment in the lines.
Hopefully I will be able to follow this article with another article in the next couple of weeks to keep everyone informed of what our proposed solution will be and what to expect in the coming months.  I apologize again for the inconvenience caused you by the Town, and hope that you can remain patient for awhile longer as we continue to move in the direction of finding permanent solution to this problem in the near future.
Michael J. Hart

Town Administrator  

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