Mancos boil alert lifted; some restaurants hurting

State tested Mancos water samples safe to drink

Tom Nunn, viewed through a manhole, hooks up the electrical wires to the new 20-horsepower pump to get the water flowing to Mancos residents. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Mancos Times

Tom Nunn, viewed through a manhole, hooks up the electrical wires to the new 20-horsepower pump to get the water flowing to Mancos residents.

The boil alert was lifted Friday afternoon and health officials asked residents to flush out their water lines before drinking and cooking with tap water. After nonpotable water started to flow Tuesday, public works officials flushed and disinfected the system, a town statement said. Water samples were tested by the state and came back safe for consumption.

The town distributed instruction for flushing water lines to every wateruser and a county health department official was contacting restaurants Friday afternoon.

Oilo and Millwood Junction were still closed Friday following a pump failure at the water treatment plant Sunday.

"Valentine's Day is a day that helps us get through the winter," said Rena Wilson, who helps run Olio.

Olio had planned a special menu for Valentine's Day and had to cancel all the reservations, said Wilson, who is also president of the chamber of commerce.

Millwood Junction management posted a sign on the front door apologizing and stating the restaurant hadn't missed the holiday in 36 years. The sign said the business would be back on Tuesday.

Other businesses including Absolute Bakery, Fahrenheit Coffee Roasters and Zuma Natural Food were open Friday but with limited services.

Zuma's deli and espresso bar were closed, but the grocery side remained open through the water outage, said Linda Mount, an employee. She said everyone was understanding.

"Nobody was really huffy," she said.

Absolute Bakery missed three days of business and things were slow when they reopened, said Melissa Blaine, a manager.

Three days of missed business can impact a businesses budget for the month, she said.

"It threw a wrench into our day to day," she said.

An owner of Fahrenheit, Matt Lauer, applauded the town's efforts to help residents. But closing Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday hurt his business. Even on Friday, it was slow.

"We lost a lot of money this week," he said.

At Ted's Tacos, the water was flowing from a cistern all week and it was able to stay open.

"I was lucky," Ted Lawrence, the owner said.

But Lawrence saw far fewer customers Monday and Tuesday because everyone assumed it was closed. Business started to pick up later in the week.

When limited nonpotable water started to flow Tuesday Andrea Phillips, town administrator, presented the good news to a full town hall shortly after water was restored and toilets began flushing again.

“It was the best sound I've ever heard,” she said.

Water service was returned after a temporary pump was installed Tuesday. The town brought in a backup as well.

The town was put on a boil alert, and National Honors Society high school students helped distributed the notices to all impacted water users. Rural Mancos water users were not affected.

A replacement pump was scheduled to arrive from California and be installed on Thursday.

After partial water service was restored the water tanker in front of town hall and the abour 30 portable toilets were picked up Wednesday. That same day Wal-mart donated 30 pallets of water that are located behind town hall and can be picked up at anytime.

Town hall hours were changed to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Fire hydrants were opened to purge the system Wednesday morning and the purge was finished later in the day. A public works official planned to take samples for testing over the weekend, Phillips said.

Water will be tested thoroughly before it is declared safe and everyone throughout the town will be notified, said Karen Dickson, a public health official

For the first few days of restored service, the water was discolored because of air in the system, and mineral deposits that were knocked free from the pressure changes in the pipes, said Public Works Operator Robin Schmittel. It also had a strong smell of chlorine to kill the bacteria in the water.

“You're going to smell it, but it won't harm you,” he said.

Citizens at the town meeting on Tuesday voiced concern the town's backup system failed.

The town administrator said the town had learned a lot from the failure and will be building more redundancies into the system.

She also said that the town will officials will be following up with organizations like Mancos Rural Water to come to formal agreements to share resources during emergencies. This would help the town handle emergencies better in the future.

When Schmittel was asked if the cold impacted the pump at a public meeting on Sunday, he said it was not a factor.

“That just happens sometimes,” Schmittel said. He added that the backup system is tested yearly.

The water outage significantly disrupted activity, but some normalcy returned Wednesday when school reopened.

Superintendent Brian Hanson said that students would use hand sanitizer instead of washing their hands.

The schools and clinic were closed Monday and Tuesday. Patients came to appointments in Cortez on Wednesday before the clinic reopened on Thursday.

Other major water users, like restaurants, were notified, and most of them closed for a few days.

Phillips the town administrator said this had been tough on business.

“We understand that businesses have been hurt,” she said.

She said she had been asked to prepare a letter for businesses to send to insurance companies. She also said she work with the Chamber of Commerce to organize a Mancos Cash Mob to encourage people from out of town to come and shop.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Mike Shaw, a town resident, was hopeful safe water service would return before Monday.

His girlfriend was got sick on the day the town lost water, and he was struggling to care for her.

“It's been hectic, taking care of her and taking care of the water,” he said.

The call for volunteers and donations was met with a community outpouring on Monday.

The Mancos Fire District, the Red Cross, Wal-Mart and others donated water. Town volunteers delivered water to homebound individuals.

“We've had an overwhelming response,” Mayor Rachael Simbeck said.

Gray Stecher, 10, and Eireland Fagan, 12, started volunteering at 6 a.m. at Town Hall and stayed most of the day filling jugs and helping people load water into cars. Another student, River Martucci, joined them in the afternoon.

Gray came by in the morning to pick up water for his family and stayed when he saw the need for help.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.

Although most restaurants were closed during the first few days of the outage, the P&D Grocery Store was able to stay open after the health department gave it the clear to bring small containers of water filled at homes supplied by Mancos Rural Water, said Rob Kirks, a partner in the business.

He said bringing water in using small containers was time-consuming but their employees made it possible.

“We've never closed for 40 years,” Kirks said.

Liz and John Trevithick came into the P&D Monday afternoon to buy a water container for Liz's elderly parents.

Liz said her parents, who are in their 80s, handled it all with a good sense of humor and ladling water from 5-gallon buckets to flush toilets.

“They are laughing about it,” she said.

Trevithick said she was happy with how the town was handling the outage.

A few other businesses not as reliant on water also stayed open including the Artisans of Mancos. Dick Young, one of the artisans, had about five customers Monday morning, and about four of them were tourists.

“The tourists are still here I guess. They haven't tried to eat or flush the toilet,” Young said, jokingly.

Residents who need help to move water are encouraged to call Town Hall at 533-7725.

Residents can call 533-1431 for a recording with updates.

Public officials also encourage everyone in the county to sign up for updates at Contact information is confidential.

Four members of the Mancos Fire Department help transport water to the town tank on Monday in preparation for service to be returned. Enlargephoto

Courtesy of Natasha Spencer

Four members of the Mancos Fire Department help transport water to the town tank on Monday in preparation for service to be returned.


Mary Shinn/Mancos Times City officials talk with the delivery man from Well on Wheels who brought

Gray Stecher, 10, helps John Trevithick fill a water container Monday. Stecher volunteered most of the day at Town Hall starting at 6 a.m. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/Mancos Times

Gray Stecher, 10, helps John Trevithick fill a water container Monday. Stecher volunteered most of the day at Town Hall starting at 6 a.m.