Buckhorn working to gain state compliance on water filtration

Water Service Company using increased chlorine as disinfectant for now

By Katherine Nettles

Buckhorn Ranch Water Supply, LLC is working to overcome some inherited challenges as it gains footing. In the wake of a developer bankruptcy process that began in 2014 and a drinking water safety violation in 2017, the LLC formed when it purchased Buckhorn Ranch’s water assets from the Upper East River Water Company in September 2018, and has zeroed in on a solution to the water safety violation. The East River Water and Sanitation District provides drinking water to Buckhorn.

In the short term, the water company has upped its use of chlorine from the state-mandated standard of .2 parts per million to 2.0 ppm, a level deemed safe for drinking and effective as a disinfectant from potential contaminants.

The long-term drinking water solution is a new filter, and that is almost in place.

Buckhorn Ranch Homeowners Association (HOA) president and water service board member David Brennan says he expects the new system to be complete and operational by early next month, if not before.

One of the challenges, says Brennan, has been for the water company working with the state water agencies to settle on the size and type of filter to use. The violation in 2017 was the result of a routine water test and showed that the water supply contained particulate matter and was considered ground water under direct influence (GWUDI). This term means that ground water was essentially leaking into the water supply. This violation prompted an 18-month period during which the subdivision would need to solve the problem.

Since that time, the Buckhorn Ranch HOA has made strides in other issues related to subdivision’s management, including water. Purchasing the water company assets allowed the subdivision to “gain control of our water for the HOA,” says Brennan.

Brennan says the state and the subdivision came to an agreement for a larger, dual-train filtration system that will increase the water supply capacity to well beyond its current water rights and hold up to six days’ worth of water (300,000 gallons), even at the times of highest use during the summer season.

The state verbally approved the project November 1, and formal written approval is forthcoming. Water operator Jack Dietrich is overseeing the installation, but advised the HOA the filter was not going to be in place for its early November deadline.

The water supply company has advised Buckhorn Ranch residents to exercise caution until the water supplier has installed the new filter, and notified residents of the situation in a formal letter on October 15. While Buckhorn Ranch Water Supply says that there are no known cases of contamination, it warned residents that “There is an increased chance that disease-causing organisms could contaminate the water supply,” and advised that filtration is the best way to remove these organisms. The water supply company assured residents that it is taking measures to attain compliance with the state of Colorado by gaining final state approval to install the filter system.

“This situation is not an emergency,” stated the letter. “Our water is tested daily with no issues.” The letter went out before the state’s approval and it gave a longer timeline for completion, namely May 1, 2020.

But not all residents are comfortable with the short-term plan of higher chlorination in their drinking water, or with the HOA’s special assessment fees to all homeowners of $2,800 over the next four years to install and repair the roads within the subdivision.

A Buckhorn resident who did not wish to be named said, “I first learned of [Buckhorn] failing state water tests last March 2019 as I was finally reading [Buckhorn Ranch Homeowners Association] minutes re Special Assessment fee increase of $2,800, that many of us didn’t want nor can afford. Buckhorn did not take the initiative to inform directly the neighborhood re this water issue. The minutes indicate the failures (8 times with the State), began late August 2018.”

Brennan says he thinks the subdivision has come a long way, and it needs to address long-overlooked maintenance needs.

“As we look at a long-term part, we knew we have to make some infrastructure changes,” Brennan says. This included addressing roadway needs like a plan (and budget) for paving, grading and snow plowing, adding street signage, transferring the Buckhorn Airport runway to the HOA for management and getting the overall operational budget in order and paying off debt.

Substantial growth there is likely, with 60 to 65 homes sitting on 240 lots. The HOA is planning ahead and playing catch-up, he says. “We are in a better financial position now, but we have a lot to cover.”

Brennan likens Buckhorn Ranch to a “Phoenix out of the ashes story”—a place that faced lawsuits, a developer-declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and mounting debt to pay its bills is “actually becoming welcoming and supporting for people who are local finding a place they can live.” There are more kids, more homes and recent affordable housing there with additional property zoned for multiple family housing units in the future.

“I would love to see the whole place built out,” Brennan says.

It is to be hoped for residents that the latest hurdle will clear, along with the drinking water, in the next few weeks.

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