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    Lakewood, CO 80215

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    645 Parfet Street Lakewood, CO 80215
    Fax: 303-239-7088

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    email: kharris@jeffco.us
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  • Public Health

    Indian Hills Groundwater Water Quality Modeling Project Report Released

    Jefferson County--Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) has completed a review of the Indian Hills Groundwater Water Quality Modeling Project Report and is releasing the report to the public today. The public is invited to review the report and submit written comments to Roy Laws PE by email at rlaws@jeffco.us or by mail to Roy Laws, PE, at Jefferson County Public Health, 645 Parfet Street, Lakewood, CO 80125. A meeting in early fall with the Indian Hills Community to discuss the report will be scheduled soon.

    In Parmalee Gulch, groundwater serves as the primary source of drinking water for many residents of Indian Hills, a residential community of approximately 1,200 people. Indian Hills is located just north of Colorado State Highway 285 and about 25 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado. Using existing water quality and land use data sets along with simple modeling methods, the modeling project was designed to inform future public health decision making processes related to groundwater quality for the Indian Hills community.

    During the 1970s, groundwater samples from public and private water wells in the Indian Hills area were tested and found to have levels of nitrate that exceeded expected background levels and at some locations exceeded the safe drinking water standard. Based on a review of the potential sources of nitrates, onsite wastewater treatment systems, more commonly referred to as “septic systems”, were identified as the probable cause of most, if not all, of the elevated nitrate levels in the groundwater samples. In 1979, the Jefferson County Board of Health took action to protect public health and water quality by adopting a resolution to prohibit the installation of nitrate discharging septic systems on certain lots in the Parmalee Gulch watershed. The objective of the prohibition was tokeep the nitrate contamination from becoming worse by not allowing new sources of nitrate contamination in the prohibition area. Groundwater test results taken after the implementation of the prohibition indicated that nitrate levels remained relatively stable and, as such, indicated that the prohibition achieved the intended objective. In December 2014, Jefferson County Public Health began a new assessment of the Indian Hills groundwater quality to determine if the prohibition of nitrate discharging septic systems continues to achieve the desired result and to identify any modifications to the resolution that might be needed.

    When rountinely consumed in drinking water at levels above the safe drinking water standard, nitrate can interfer with the ability of the blood supply to carry oxygen and can lead to a condition called methemogolbinemia, sometimes referred to as blue baby syndrome. Infants under 6 months old are most susceptible to methemogolbinemia. Residents of Indian Hills who rely on the Indian Hills Water District for their drinking water can rest assured that drinking water provided by the Indian Hills Water District meets all state drinking water standards and is safe to drink. The Indian Hills Water District is a public water system that is regulated and inspected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Private well owners in the Parmalee Gulch drainage and across Jefferson County are encouraged to test their well water at least once a year to make sure their water is safe to drink.

    The results of the modeling project recommend the following actions:

    • Install only high level onsite wastewater treatment systems in areas where groundwater quality is at risk.
    • Monitor water quality at strategic locations and encourage private well owners to share nitrate test results with Jefferson County Public Health.
    • Initiate a source water protection planning process. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides up to $5,000 for communities that develop and implement a source water protection plan.
    • Promote well head protection and ensure wells that are no longer in use are properly abandoned.
    • Encourage Best Management Practices for livestock pasture and manure management.

    Information on sampling and testing of well water can be obtained on the Jefferson County Public Health water quality page. In addition to routine testing of private wells, homeowners should have routine inspections of their onsite wastewater treatment systems (septic systems) to determine if pumping and/or other maintenance is needed to keep their system functioning properly.

    For more information about the Indian Hills Groundwater Water Quality Modeling Project Report, please contact: Roy Laws, PE, Jefferson County Public Health, Environmental Health Services Division: 303 271-5734 or email:rlaws@jeffco.us.

    Roy Laws
    Environmental Health Services

    August 8, 2016

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    Last Updated: 8-12-2016