Mines draining to Denver? Not on our watch.

Contaminated waterways are in the spotlight, but what does this mean for your drinking water?

September 16, 2015 | By: Travis Thompson
Water quality investigators gather samples all year long. Aubrey Miller (left) and James Berrier, drill through two feet of ice on the Colorado River near Kremlin to gather samples.
Water quality investigators gather samples all year long. Aubrey Miller (left) and James Berrier, drill through two feet of ice on the Colorado River near Kremlin to gather samples.

After the Animas River vividly meandered through mountains and towns like an orange-colored serpent as a result of the Gold King Mine spill in early August, conversations ignited about abandoned mines in Colorado.

While this topic is very serious, it isn’t new. Mines have such a prominent place in our state’s history that there are tours and museums dedicated to mining’s past, including the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s replica mine shaft exhibit.

So, what does this mean for Denver Water? A recent Denver Post article could leave customers wondering about the water quality impacts from some of the mines in Denver’s watersheds. While the article accurately notes that the water treatment processes keep contaminants from impacting drinking water, there are additional reasons why your water is safe from these mines.

Zeke Campbell, Denver Water’s superintendent of water quality and treatment, explained that Denver Water’s work to provide the highest quality water begins well before it reaches the treatment plants.

“We monitor the water throughout our collection system, including in rivers, streams and reservoirs,” said Campbell. “Our water quality tests don’t detect a measurable level of contaminants from mine drainage.”

Last year, Denver Water collected more than 16,000 samples and conducted more than 60,000 tests from the mountains to customer taps.

But what if a spill were to occur within one of Denver’s watersheds?

“We’ve developed models to help us determine how long it would take a spill or leak to reach certain points within our system, and our employees are trained to stop contaminants from spreading,” said Bob Lindgren, Denver Water’s superintendent of source of supply. “We also work closely with local authorities, first responders and stakeholders to maximize the response during any issues across our water collection system.”

And, if a Gold King Mine-sized spill occurred, Lindgren said that Denver Water has some ability to move and pull water from different sources, isolating the contaminated area while continuing to provide clean water from other locations throughout the system. “Having multiple storage facilities in different watersheds, three water treatment plants and redundancy built into our distribution system provides us with additional operational flexibility.”

This flexibility is important, which is why Denver Water continues to design and build a more resilient and balanced system as an added safeguard for when emergencies occur.

“Most important, our employees are working around-the-clock to ensure we continue to deliver safe, great-tasting water directly to your tap,” said Campbell.

 

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