Wellington looks toward long-term water system improvements to mitigate the effects of smelly algal blooms

Photo: Blaine Howerton A Town of Wellington water and sewer department truck is parked at Wellington's water treatment facility.

The taste and smell of Wellington’s water is far different now than it was in midsummer, thanks to quick action by the Town. “This problem has been fixed for several weeks now,” said Ed Cannon, Town Administrator. “Our water doesn’t have any of those tastes or smells.”

An algal bloom in July in the North Poudre Reservoir #3, Wellington’s primary water source, had created a muddy “pond water” taste and smell. But by August 1, the problem was completely resolved.

North Poudre Reservoir #3, at North Larimer County Road 11 and E County Road 68 is where Wellington’s town water is stored.

Summer heat had caused a rapid buildup of blue-green algae, and it’s a recurring seasonal problem in Wellington’s reservoir, according to information issued by the Town’s website (http://townofwellington.com/).

Two compounds produced by the algae, geosmin and MIB (2-methylisoboneol), had created the earthy, unpleasant “pond water” smell and taste. But the blue-green algae also had the potential of creating the toxins microcystin and cylindrospermopsin, which can have negative effects on human health.

Tests were conducted at both the reservoir and treatment facility to determine whether the water might affect public health, and on July 14, the Town released the results from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which conducted the testing: “All tests showed absent for microcystin and cylindrospermopsin. This means that while there is algae present, we did not detect the presence of the compounds of concern for acute public health.”

Upgrades to the Wellington water treatment plant have been promised, according to the Town’s web site.

“Although unpleasant, the taste and odor does not pose a threat to public health and is safe to drink,” noted the Town’s website after the testing.

The Town also contracted with Ramey Environmental Compliance, Inc., “to assist with addressing the elevated levels of the geosmin and MIB (2-methylisoboneol) compounds produced by the algae.”

Treatment measures were taken at the reservoir, primarily through distribution of copper sulfate to kill the algae, a common treatment when the problem occurs in the warm months. “Wellington uses copper sulfate every summer year to treat seasonal algae growth in the reservoir,” the Town commented. Hydrants were flushed, too, to help mitigate the problem.

“People generally cannot detect geosmin below a level of 10,” explained the Town website. That’s 10 parts per trillion, or 10 nanograms per liter. At the height of the algal bloom, tests showed levels of geosmin at 333 in raw reservoir water; 307 in microfiltration water, and 277 in distributed water.

By August 1, the geosmin that had been tainting the water was under control, according to the Town. “This morning [August 1] we received the following tests results: raw water, 2.42; microfiltration, 2.2; distribution, 1.5.”

2 large water tanks sit afoot the Wellington town water treatment plant.

The algae is a seasonal problem, notes the Town. “The taste and odor problem goes away when the reservoir cools in September.”

A long-term solution is being worked on. “We are making plans to update our water facility so we don’t experience these problems in the future,” noted Town Administrator Gannon. Information about the project is posted on the Town website, noting, “The treatment process being considered is a three-stage filtration system that should all but eliminate the taste and odor issues while at the same time doubling our treatment capacity. The Town is pursuing an aggressive design and construction schedule that could have the upgraded facility on-line by July 2018.”

Visit the Town’s website at http://www.townofwellington.com/ for information and updates on the water situation. Contact Town Hall at (970) 568-3381 with questions or concerns.

 

 

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