SUPERIOR, Colo. (KDVR) — Three weeks after the Marshall Fire destroyed 378 homes in the town of Superior, residents who didn’t lose their homes are still complaining about the taste and odor of smoke in their drinking water.
“Yes, I’m so grateful that I have a house, that I have water, but at the same time this water isn’t drinkable, and that affects 14,000 people in the community,” said Laura Skladzinski, one of the town’s elected trustees.
Skladzinksi said she’s heard from about a hundred constituents concerned about the taste and odor of smoke in their drinking water. Earlier this month, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment began testing the water quality from a small sample of homes, including Skladzinksi’s.
“It was really reassuring to me to see what the testing found — we are safe to drink it, so that’s good — but I don’t want to be drinking it for a lengthy period until this issue is cleared up,” Skladzinski said.
The issue likely starts with the town’s water supply: the Superior reservoir. The town’s utility director, Alex Ariniello, told the Problem Solvers ash appeared to have drifted into the reservoir following the Dec. 30 fire.
Ariniello said it’s hard to know how contaminated the reservoir is with ash but said the water is disinfected at the nearby treatment plant before it reaches residential homes.
“We are looking at maybe in the short-term bypassing the reservoir completely, because we have a bypass where we take our water directly from the northern water supply and directly into our plant,” Ariniello said.
Using a bypass, Ariniello said, would allow Superior to treat the reservoir with carbon or another disinfectant that might help sink the ash to the bottom of the reservoir.
In the meantime, Ariniello and Skladzinski say they’ve both been told the CDPHE will continue testing a dozen homes per week in the near future.
“CDPHE has recommended that we put fruit in our water to cover up the taste and that just doesn’t sit right with me. My water shouldn’t taste like smoke and I shouldn’t have to put fruit into it to make it taste normal,” Skladzinski said.
She considered getting a water purification system for her house but said that could cost more than $1,000.
A spokeswoman for CDPHE told the Problem Solvers testing done at the water plant and select homes on Jan. 12 found the water is safe to drink but acknowledged “a faint odor was detected in the drinking water, including the source.”
Based on the samples tested so far, CDPHE does not believe the odors are a health concern. If the taste and odor continue, the state recommends residents purchase a carbon filter (pitcher, refrigerator, or under-sink) for drinking water and install a carbon filter on their showerhead until the problem is resolved.
The CDPHE spokesperson told FOX31 ash from fires can impact water quality in supply reservoirs that can lead to tastes and odors in the drinking water, even after treatment.
Meantime, Ariniello said the soonest Superior could implement a bypass system to get water from the north instead of the reservoir would be Feb. 1