A decrease in Jeffco water quality

“Well, first of all, the water down in the gym tastes horrible, like its mixed with dirt and its really warm. Then, the water in the north hallway is the best, it still tastes a little muddy but its cold. Over all, it just tastes like you put dirt in your mouth then drank a little bit of water,” admits Cara Lipker, sophomore.

What is it in the water that makes it taste so bad? Many Arvada West High School students and staff want to know. Last summer, the Denver Water Treatment Center, which serves the Arvada community, was infected with blue-green algae that blooms in hot temperatures, like the 90 degree temperatures in Colorado during August of 2012. The moldy taste was palpable in the water come September when school began.

Normally, the water pH in the Arvada area ranges from 6.5 to 9.5. A safe alkaline, or pH, level for water is at the base level seven. Although there is a wide range of pHs, a pH of eight is more beneficial for people because it prevents cancer and toxin build up in the body. pH is the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a scale, where seven is neutral.

Water contaminated with the algal toxins has been shown to have effects on the liver, nervous system, skin, eyes, nose, throat, and the respiratory tract. If the algae is ruptured–growing too big and splitting open,– it will release its toxins into the water supply.  According to the Denver Water website, showering in or consuming the infected water  “is not expected to cause any health issues.”  However, some studies show the long-term consumption of high levels of the untreated water can increase the risk of liver cancer.

Since August 6, carbon dioxide has been added to the water supply to decrease the taste and scent of the algae. The carbon dioxide does not harm the quality of the water or the people drinking it.“They also treat the water with other chemicals such as chlorine,” explains retired water associate Bud Hart.

Though the water has been treated, Hart says, “the algae may come back periodically during summer.”

The water that comes from the Denver Water Treatment is put through five filters before it comes to people’s homes. The blue-green algae bloomed in one of these filter tanks, making the water have a dirty and earthy taste.

Due to the fact that the Denver Water Treatment facility is quite large there is no guarantee the facility cannot fully protect their water from contamination, although they have caretakers for each tank. Contamination is rare, but it can happen. The contaminations that happen rarely cause harm to people.

Blue-green algae is found, normally, on the surface of lakes. Since the Denver facility takes its water from lakes and snow run off, there is a higher chance of the algae blooming in the tanks.

The Denver Water Center admits their water tastes bad, but claims that it is not harmful.