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How Safe is Our Drinking Water?

There’s been a lot of press recently regarding safety concerns with drinking water supplies.  Most of these concerns focus on two contaminants:  lead and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Let’s clear up any concerns with the water here in Roxborough.

Let’s tackle lead first.  Lead is a naturally occurring metal that was used for many years in paints, plumbing and other products.  But lead can cause health problems if it accumulates in your body over time, and can have devastating impacts to the neurological development of young children that are exposed.  There is no lead in the water RWSD sends to your home.  Prior to 1951, lead was commonly used in water service lines.  Fortunately none of the homes in RWSD’s service area were constructed prior to 1951, so there are no lead service lines in our service area.  There is some risk of exposure to lead from faucets and other plumbing that might have lead solder or fittings. If you’re concerned about lead exposure, consider replacing faucets and other indoor plumbing with “lead-free” components, always use cold water for drinking and cooking, and let the faucet run for a few seconds before filling your glass.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment requires RWSD to test the water in 60 volunteer homes in the District twice every year and report the results.  We have been doing this testing for many years, and have never had an exceedance of the regulatory action level.

Now let’s tackle PFAS.  PFAS is a family of perfluoroalkyl substances with unique properties that make materials stain- and stick-resistant.  This family of chemicals includes Perflurooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).  These chemicals are found in a wide range of consumer products from clothing to nonstick cookware.  PFOS also has unique capabilities in firefighting, especially difficult fires that involve fuel.  Several communities in Colorado have found PFOS in their source water – the communities of Widefield, Security and Fountain near Peterson Air Force Base south of Colorado Springs, and the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District north of Denver – are the two that have received the most media attention.  Both of these areas have wells that were impacted by the historic use of PFOS to fight fires and train Air Force personnel.  For the communities near Peterson Air Force Base, the Air Force is contributing funds to test groundwater, provide alternate water supplies and investigate advanced treatment technologies.  South Adams County’s well is believed to have been contaminated when a fuel farm at the former Stapleton Airport caught fire, and South Adam County has stopped using the contaminated well.  These chemicals are stable in the environment and resist typical environmental degradation, which means they are very difficult to treat and persist in the environment.

Testing for PFAS, PFOS and PFOA is very expensive.  Luckily RWSD shares a watershed with Denver Water and the City of Aurora, and those agencies have tested our water supply.  Here’s a summary of the results Denver Water shared with the District:

  • 2014-2017: Sampled bi-annually (Spring & Fall) at all plant influents and effluents. All non-detects
  • Summer 2018:
    • Sampled all treatment plant influents and effluents. All non-detects
    • Sampled 5 S Platte (raw water) locations between Antero and Strontia, 3 sample events each. All non-detects
    • Sampled 8 distribution system locations. All non-detects

When a laboratory reports “non-detects” that means that the most sensitive testing available to reliably analyze for a constituent found that none was present in the sample.

I hope this gives everyone a sense of comfort that our water is safe.  As always, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to give us a call at the office.

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