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PAWSD board hears update on water treatment improvements project

At a recent Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District work session, the directors spent most the meeting discussing the Dry Gulch Reservoir and coming to consensus to close out the district’s loan with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

After that discussion, lead project engineer Jeff Shamburg, with Bartlett and West, PAWSD’s on-call engineering firm, updated the board on the process involved with the San Juan Water Treatment Improvements Project.

The project entails adding a pump station to take water from Lake Forest to the San Juan Treatment Plant, as well as building another intake to take water from the San Juan River to Village Lake, as opposed to the current intake that goes straight from the river to the plant. This would help to circulate all the water in the district’s lakes and reservoirs, refreshing stagnant and steeping waters currently in many of the lakes.

Originally, it was also thought this project would include upgrading the San Juan Treatment Plant to allow it to treat the water in Lake Pagosa, but Shamburg said this might not be the case.

“In the preliminary engineering report, we have not come to the same conclusion that additional treatment is necessary to treat water from Lake Pagosa,” Shamburg told the board.

So far, Shamburg said data does not support that conclusion, however, he added that the data is, at this point, inconclusive.

“We don’t have AN image of how water moves through lakes,” Shamburg said.

In an interview with The SUN, Shamburg explained that, currently, the engineers don’t know what water quality would be when the water is pumped into Lake Forest.

“The water quality has not been monitored,” Shamburg said. “We want to have a realistic water quality for our design premises,” he said. Right now, neither PAWSD nor Bartlett and West has that data.

Bartlett and West’s plan is to put the upgrade to the plant on hold to move forward with the new intake from the San Juan River to Village Lake.

Once the intake is installed, the district will start running the water, monitoring the water quality and collecting data. During this time, the water will be flushed.

“This won’t impact water quality to the system,” Shamburg said.

The intake construction is scheduled to begin in 60 to 90 days. It is hoped construction will be complete within 180 days and the testing and commissioning phase can begin. Shamburg explained that the testing of the water will take place prior to when the San Juan plant typically comes on line in the spring.

“Once establishing water quality, we’ll determine whether additional treatment is needed for the water or if the San Juan plant can treat the water as is,” Shamburg said.

If it is determined that upgrades to the plant are necessary to treat the water from Lake Forest, then, while the upgrades are designed and constructed, the San Juan plant will treat water straight from the San Juan River until the upgrades are complete.

If no upgrade is necessary for treatment of Lake Pagosa water, then water from that lake will be treated and will enter the system.

“What no one on my end wants is to construct a process that the first time it breaks, the operator finds an easy way to get around it and the process is never used again,” Shamburg told the board, which appeared to be in agreement.

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