Phippsburg’s drinking water woes just in time for the holidays |

Phippsburg’s drinking water woes just in time for the holidays

— Residents of tiny Phippsburg, 23 miles south of Steamboat Springs, may be looking for bottled water in their Christmas stockings Thursday morning. People there were advised Tuesday to boil their drinking water after turbidity (cloudiness) in the water system of the unincorporated community on Colorado Highway 131 exceeded state standards.

The same goes for ice cubes, water used to wash dishes or for brushing teeth.

“We’ve notified the state and began hand-delivering notices to the 120 households in Phippsburg this afternoon,” Routt County Director of Environmental Health Mike Zopf said. “We’re flushing the system and hopefully we’ll get it addressed by Christmas Eve, or maybe Christmas.”

Zopf said turbidity itself isn’t a health issue, but the Environmental Protection Agency said algae, plankton and microbes sometimes can be among the suspended particles that cause water to become turbid.

The source of Phippsburg’s water is a horizontal well field buried 20 feet deep and parallel to the nearby Yampa River. However, Zopf said, when the river is running low and clear in the winter makes it an unusual time of year to have turbidity problems, and there is no readily apparent cause this month.

When the Steamboat suburb of Tree Haus went under a boil water order May 30, it was clear that the Yampa River flowing over its banks and inundating that metro district’s well field was the cause of the problem. But that is not the case in Phippsburg this month. Zopf said there has not been any work taking place near the well field, which is located on private property.

In the meantime, per the guidelines of the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment, Phippsburg residents are being urged to: “Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using or use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and food preparation until further notice.”

While showers and baths have not been ruled out, Zopf said concerns about contact with turbid water are heightened for people with compromised immune systems and for infants.

Phippsburg along with Milner to the west of Steamboat Springs are two communities whose domestic water and sanitation system are operated by the county. Part-time county employee Scott Smith manages the Phippsburg water system.

In addition to flushing Phippsburg’s water system, Routt County Environmental Health has replaced all filters, increased chlorine treatment and is testing for bacterial contamination. Water testing is being done in a lab within his office in Steamboat, Zopf said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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