EPA determines some domestic water in Irwin contains heavy metals

County recommending all Irwin wells get tested

By Mark Reaman

Gunnison County is alerting property owners of Irwin that several tests done on individual wells in the Irwin area have shown high levels of some heavy metals in the water. As a result, the county is recommending that all residents in the Irwin area have their wells tested. Arsenic appears to be the most prominent metal found in the tests but other heavy metals associated with mining were also detected.

According to Gunnison County Community Development Director Russ Forrest, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted testing on nine domestic wells belonging to residents that voluntarily let the agency test the water, surface water, ground water and soils in the Irwin area. The results of the test were sent to the county in a report and the county felt it was worthy of alerting the public.

Forrest said they heard Wednesday from the state that only those that participated in the testing were made aware of the results, so the county felt it important to make this available to those individuals that may be impacted.

According to the report the levels of arsenic exceeded government safety standards. There was some concern of lead contamination as well.

The EPA did not conduct the testing based on any single incident but was getting information in the vicinity of old mines that they are monitoring.

In a press release from the county, it was recommended that residents in the Lake Irwin Townsite and the properties around Lake Irwin test their wells at this time for heavy metals. Residents and property owners in the Lake Irwin area are receiving notices from Gunnison County that include guidance about how to test private wells.

The Town of Crested Butte has been notified of the Lake Irwin water issue since some of that area is located within the town of Crested Butte’s watershed. “The town is now tracking the issue,” a press release from the town stated Friday afternoon. “Lake Irwin lies within the Town’s watershed. However, the Town of Crested Butte regularly tests incoming water at its intake. Heavy metal levels at the Town’s intake are well below the State of Colorado maximum contaminate level (MCL) for human health. Water is then treated at the Crested Butte treatment plant before distribution to end users on the Town water system.”

Citizens can test their wells through a number of sources. Gunnison County recommends contacting the Colorado State University Extension to conduct a heavy metals test. The test costs approximately $240 and produces results within seven to ten days. Testing can be done through the Colorado State University Extension office in Gunnison. Concerned property owners can contact Eric McPhail at 641-1260.

Additional resources and updates about water quality issues in Gunnison County can be found at: http://gunnisoncounty.org/waterquality. The public can find the full EPA report at this link.

We will have more information as it becomes available and more details in the upcoming issue of the Crested Butte News.

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