Jul 11, 2013 5:41 PM by Maddie Garrett
A new concern is surfacing in the wake of the Black Forest Fire. The El Paso County Health Department is surveying about 500 water wells for possible contamination. While some wells are unscathed by the fire, others are destroyed and left open on the surface. But all water wells reach down into the same aquifer that the people of Black Forest depend on.
"These wells are like a straw that goes into the aquifer. We want that straw capped because whatever is on the surface here, gets into the well, that could cause contamination. So it's a risk when those wells are open," said Health Department Director, Tom Gonzales.
The damaged wells are open to ash, dirt debris and rain water. That's why the Health Department wants to get all of the exposed wells covered up. They are providing people with thick plastic and zip ties to temporarily protect the open wells until the homeowner can get them capped.
For people who still have working water at their homes in Black Forest, the Health Department is also providing test bottles and free testing of their water. These tests are for bacteria, which is the potability indicator. The department said at this point, the lab has not turned up a spike in bacteria from the water samples brought in by homeowners in the Black Forest area.
The bottles and plastic covers can be picked up Thursday and Friday from 8:30am - 4:00pm at the parking lot at 11590 Black Forest Road, or at El Paso County Public Health laboratory, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road (2nd floor) during office hours, Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
In the long term, the Health Department and inspectors from the State will check the aquifer itself for contamination, things like heavy metals that might have seeped through from the fire.
It's a big issue for the people of Black Forest, because they all depend on the aquifer for water.
IT'S A BIG ISSUE AROUND HERE -- BECAUSE EVERYONE IN BLACK FOREST DEPENDS ON THE AQUIFER FOR WATER.
"I'm very concerned about it, we're going to have it covered as soon as possible," said Black Forest fire victim Darrell Fortner about his well.
The Health Department is hoping most fire victims are being proactive like Fortner, and having someone come out and cap the damaged well as soon as possible.
Fortner said it's a top priority for him, on a long list of things he needs to get done before he can move back onto his property.
"All this clean up needs to be done so we can put a mobile home back here with power, we need power on and the well working," he said.
The Health Department has also provided a list of companies for well drilling and repair to assist Black Forest residents: http://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/sites/default/files/files/services/Water-Quality/2013%20Well%20Drilling%20and%20Repair070313.pdf