Letter To Our Customers About The Discolored Water

Colorado Centre Metropolitan District
4770 Horizonview Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80925
Telephone: 719-390-7000 ; Facsimile: 719-390-3709

Dear Customers:
First of all, our most sincere apologies for the recent water discoloration event experienced on March 15 and 16. Following, I will discuss what happened, how the District’s staff took care of it and address the many questions and issues of concern raised by the calls we received. As I do this, I remind everyone that our District is not a for profit company. It is a quasi-governmental entity governed by its constituents – you. Everything that happens is paid for by all of you, the customers. There’s no one out there subsidizing the operations of the District. So, when things happen, we as a community must take care of them ourselves.
In the March newsletter, the District wrote a short piece about what’s been going on for over a year now in terms of the construction of the new manganese filtration plant to remove that constituent from our well water. The well water used by the District meets all the regulated primary drinking water standards of the State of Colorado as promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are, however, secondary unregulated constituents like manganese in our water. Our well water has always had high levels of manganese and some minor levels of iron. It is also hard, as most of you know. Even though there’s no mandate to lower these constituents, the Board of the District decided many years ago that as soon as there was enough money to fund the installation of a manganese removal plant, it wanted to do so. All these years, the District has used a food grade sequestering agent by the name of “All Clear” to coat the molecules of manganese so that when the disinfection process using chlorine is applied, the water does not turn blackish (manganese) or reddish (iron). To minimize the potential for water discoloration, the District flushes the hydrants twice a year and it has always announced this activity to its customers. Flushing is intended to reduce or eliminate the buildup of manganese sediment in the lines.
Between 2003 and 2008, the research of the District led it to select a Filtronics plant to accomplish the reduction of manganese in its well water. In 2014, the District had enough money to undertake the project which is right now being completed and tested. The afternoon of Tuesday, March 15, water was used at 2,200 gallons per minute to set the backwash limits of the filter media at the plant. This made the water in the main lines near the plant move faster than these lines had ever experienced and the previous hydrant flushing proved not to have been enough to dislodge the residue in those lines because it all happened that afternoon. So, to minimize the spread of the dislodged residue throughout the entire District, the staff opened several hydrants near the plant to flush as much of the sediment as possible. This did not mean that all the sediment could be cleared from all of the lines because, as you can imagine, all our lines are interconnected and it is difficult to know which of the lines would get the flow with residue.
After completing the initial mitigation of the sudden load of manganese released in the lines, the District isolated a valve connecting Colorado Centre Residential 4, 5 and 6, located just to the south of the plant because this was the area most heavily affected. The District staff has tested the water in the lines and found that the levels in manganese were no different than before, which means that the residue released had not gone back into solution, but rather was suspended in the water. This had the effect of possibly clogging smaller valves, such as those found in toilet fill valves, refrigerator water filters, household filters, operating washing machines at the time of the incident, and water heater storage tanks (residue build up at the bottom of the tank).
On Thursday, March 17, the Board of Directors was briefed about the event to discuss what had happened and how could the District mitigate damage that may have been caused to customers from this event. An estimated 150 calls, emails and messages were received by the District. The Board was advised that many filters and valves may have been affected causing our customers to work on their household’s fixtures, the purchase of drinking water during the event and the water sent to waste to clear the household lines. So, the Board is considering actions it can take to help mitigate what happened, keeping in mind that whatever is not covered by insurance will be paid by all the customers of the District after everything is said and done.
The potential for another occurrence of a similar event is not high since the District’s staff has isolated the operation of the system so that only larger water lines feed the new plant until it is completed, likely by Friday, March 25. However, the problem is not over for all the lines in the District that did not experience the very high flow event. So, as soon as the plant is put into operations, the staff of the District will develop a plan for flushing the lines in the system unlike anything that you have seen before. Lines in the system will be isolated and flowed at the maximum velocity possible to attempt to dislodge the remaining manganese coating in them. Customers will be advised when each of their streets will undergo this special flushing so that they do not use water during the activity. This does not guarantee that nothing will ever happen again because the District cannot see inside the lines and it is uncertain what the level of residue is coating the water lines at every location. However, we are almost certain that newer lines, like those in Cuchares Ranch, have no residue in them, while all others in the Parkview, Colorado Centre Residential, and Morning Sun are likely to have most of the residue.
The District again apologizes for the inconvenience this event caused. It was a very unfortunate and completely unpredictable event for the District. Your water is as potable as it has been before and you should feel free to use it. However, if it ever becomes cloudy again, stop consuming the water until the cloudiness has passed. Soon, the water will contain very low levels of manganese which, when combined with the cleaning of the remaining lines, will give us a much better quality of water. Also, the District will stop using the expensive sequestering agent currently used. As said earlier, the District has tested the water in the lines and in Jimmy Camp Creek to see if there was evidence of the manganese in solution and nothing out of the norm was detected.
One final note: The staff members of the District work very hard to keep all the services provided to you the best that they can be within the natural and financial resources that are afforded to them. It is never their intent to cause something to inconvenience the customers of the District. It continues to be their pledge to continue to provide their services to you to the best of their abilities. At the same time, they all understand the frustrations that you suffer when something as basic as potable water gives you a surprise as the one experienced this past week. We too were surprised. Thank you.


Al Testa, District Manager