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Auditors find issues with Colorado's water well inspection program

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Posted at 8:04 AM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 10:04:04-04

DENVER — Auditors found several issues connected to the state’s water well inspection program during its latest performance audit.

The Colorado Office of the State Auditor said it found serious deficiencies after completing a performance audit of the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Well Inspection Program.

The program, which was created in 2003, was designed to protect Colorado’s water resources and public health and safety. It receives about $300,000 each year to ensure the health and safety of all new wells.

During the 2018 fiscal year, about 4,000 new wells were constructed. But two full-time inspectors only got to completely inspect 310 of them, according to the audit.

Plus, program inspectors only looked at 15 of the 206 high-risk wells during that fiscal year. In that same time frame, they inspected 295 low-risk wells. And while 209 wells were never inspected throughout the key phases of construction, one well was inspected 23 times outside those key times, according to the audit.

Inspectors look at wells during these phases to ensure the well’s casing and grout was properly placed. This protects it from contaminants.

Auditors also found that the program had other flaws as well, including:
· Not using risk-based approach to target the use of its inspectors
· Not focusing inspectors’ time on observing key phases of the construction of the well
· Not routinely using reports on the completed wells to help verify compliance with construction requirements
· Not ensuring money in its cash fund are used for only operations related to the program. The division paid about $75,000 from the cash fund for salary expenses of staff who were not doing work related to the program, according to the audit

The Division of Water Resources agreed with the auditor’s recommendations to correct these issues by:
· Requiring advanced notice of key construction phases for every well
· Prioritizing the inspection of high-risk wells and key phases of construction
· Using work reports to monitor compliance with construction requirements
· Improving financial controls over the Well Inspection Cash Fund

To read the full report, visit the Colorado General Assembly website here.