County health official recommends treating the water before drinking, but says it might not take much to get the water back to a bacteria-free status
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The popular roadside spring between A-Basin and Keystone, along U.S. Highway 6, isn’t contaminated with the single-celled parasite that causes giardiasis, but the water did test positive for the presence of coliform bacteria recently.
“It’s an indicator grouping of species … similar to what you might find in any surface water,” said Dan Hendershott, Summit County’s environmental health manager.
The county has been testing the water every now and then since 1997, with the most recent sample being the first time the results were positive for the group of bacteria that includes species known to cause intestinal infections in some people.
The bacteria are probably getting into the collection system for the spring just above the rock box, where a perforated eight-inch infiltration pipe is exposed to the elements. Additionally, the metal lid on the stone box is no longer sealed completely, which could also allow germs to get into the water, Hendershott said.
More info and photos after the break …
The good news is that it probably wouldn’t take much to repair the system.
“I think we stand a pretty good chance of getting it back to a bacteria-free standard,” Hendershott said, explaining that the county probably won’t take on any official involvement in a repair project, but that a group of citizen volunteers could easily address the issues.
The spring is on National Forest land, but the agency has no plans to repair it, said Paul Semmer, a lands specialist and acting district ranger.
“There are obviously all kinds of springs on the national forest,” Semmer said. The agency doesn’t improve any of them for public use, and the spring on Loveland Pass is no different, he said. “We have a lot of other fish to fry,” he said.
Hendershott said the county will place some signs at the spring as soon as today (Friday, May 28) notifying people of the test results.
“We’re not trying to shut it down,” he said, adding that the situation is similar to roadside spring found near Moab, Utah, where county officials also put up signs to warn people of potential health risks. Those signs were immediately and repeatedly vandalized, ultimately leading county officials to remove all improvements at the spring.
Hendershott is hoping that won’t happen at the Loveland Pass spring if people understand that nobody wants to close it.
The complete history of the spring is unknown. Semmer and Hendershott both said it’s possible that it was built during construction of Highway 6 as a way to prevent the water from undermining the road. Even local historian Mary Ellen Gilliland, who knows as much as anyone about the history of the area, was stumped.
There’s only one clue. Inside the metal lid of the rock structure is this inscription:
July 30, 1958
Built to Last
If anyone knows more of the history of the spring, or is interested in participating in a volunteer effort to repair try and restore the bacteria-free status, please leave a message in the comment box at the end of the story, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.