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City of Brighton says water safe, plant compliant after EPA summary shows 'significant' violations

City insists drinking water is clean and safe
Posted at 4:51 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 00:35:11-04

BRIGHTON, Colo. -- The city of Brighton is pushing back Tuesday amid a water scandal that seems to get deeper by the day.

The city says its treatment plant is now compliant after an EPA report surfaced showing "significant" violations three years in a row — from April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2019.

Inside the reverse osmosis treatment plant in question, lead plant operator Jim Hinton says the plant is now meeting EPA standards and that he welcomes future inspections.

"The state can come in here anytime they want," Hinton said.

At issue is an EPA summary which listed the plant as having “Significant/Category 1 Noncompliance” violations for 12 consecutive quarters.

Documents obtained by Denver7 appear to show the plant is now listed as “Violation Identified” as of Aug. 23, 2019.

Brighton councilman Matt Johnston and those leading the mayoral recall effort say the EPA summary is extremely concerning.

"We cannot say that 100 percent, for sure, all of our water is safe,” Johnston said. “We can't say that."

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Tuesday the 12 quarters of non-compliance reported in the EPA’s database are incorrect.

CDPHE said Brighton turned in three late reports.

"These reports summarize their progress toward meeting a schedule for new discharge limits related to their reverse osmosis system," the statement said. "The new discharge limits go into effect in 2022, but they must report out on their progress. Allowing time to meet discharge limits is a standard process because the facility needs time to find solutions on how to meet these limits (e.g. by treating the pollutants). Brighton has since provided those reports, but the EPA database continues to show the violations as ongoing - which is not accurate."

The most recent progress report was received on-time from Brighton and CDPHE says it, "has no reason to believe the remaining requirements of (the) compliance schedule will not be met. The deadlines are in place to meet more stringent limits that are intended to protect the environment and subsequently, public health. With Brighton’s current efforts, they are on track to meet these new limits."

The EPA noncompliance was with discharge from the plant - or what’s known as brine - not the water that is filtered, cleaned and going into the Brighton drinking supply.

Hinton says that process is untainted.

"Overall, it's working extremely well," Hinton said.

While the reverse osmosis plant is aging — it was built in 1993 — Hinton says the membranes have been modified to work with advancing technology and other changes.

"I did some digging around and found a company that makes adapters that will allow you to put these membranes into the vessels that were made for these," Hinton says describing the membranes, which some refer to as filters.

As for the water coming out of here, Hinton says it's clean, crisp and completely safe. And, he says the chlorine levels, which some have also questioned, are well within the state minimum and maximum requirements.