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Town of Empire at 'critically' low levels of drinking water as demand outpaces supply

Low water source, suspected leak compounding problems
Posted at 11:49 AM, Mar 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 18:19:48-04

EMPIRE, Colo. — The Town of Empire is warning residents of possible interruptions to their water service as its treatment plant struggles to meet demand, and a boil order is now in place.

In a press release Saturday, town officials warned residents that they should prepare for intermittent loss of water and low pressure, with residents at higher elevations expected to see a greater loss of water pressure.

The Clear Creek County town’s water treatment facility is not able to produce enough clean water to meet demand and is at critically low levels, the release said.

Officials said the facility's water supply, Madd Creek, is too low because of freezing conditions and an ongoing suspected water leak, which crews are attempting to locate, is compounding problems. The town is working to increase the water intake at the source and supplement water into the plant.

On Sunday, the Town of Empire said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had issued a boil order for the town as a result of the circumstances. CDPHE said all residents in Empire should boil water for three minutes before consuming it.

Some residents and businesses Sunday morning were reporting no running water, which has forced businesses like Guenella Pass Brewery to close indefinitely.

“I'm trying to make the best light of it. But anytime you have to shut your business down, it hurts financially. Employees can't come to work, and customers are very disappointed,” Steve Skalski, the brewery’s owner, said.

In the meantime, the town has ordered a 1,000-gallon water tanker for residents to fill containers, which will be parked at Theobold Park and will be available every day starting Sunday during business hours. In addition, crews moved a 2,000-gallon tanker into the Empire Fire Station.

Theobold Park is located adjacent to Town Hall at 30 Park Avenue in Empire. Anybody in need of water will need to bring their own containers to fill from the water tanker.

Residents can also pick up gallon jugs of water from Town Hall between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Those who are not able to go to Theobold Park are encouraged to call or email the Town Hall at (303) 569-2978 or Officials asked for patience as there will be delays due to limited staff.

“It's definitely going to be a challenging obstacle to overcome. But I think with the support of our surrounding communities like Idaho Springs and Georgetown, it'll help make it an easier process dealing without having water in our sinks and our showers and stuff like that,” resident Zac Baker said.

New filtration system parts for the town’s well should arrive Monday, Mayor Wendy Koch told Denver7, and it may take about a week or so before the well goes back online. However, it may be a month before running water at full pressure returns to the town.

A discount rate at the Rec District for Empire residents to have access to the facilities is now also in effect. The CCMRD will charge $5 per person for access. Residents are asked to provide proof of residency, for example a driver’s license with your Empire address, or a water utility bill with your name on it.

Empire officials said the town has been working over the years to improve the system and obtain multiple water sources. A new well is scheduled to be operational later this year.

Editor's note: This story has been modified with additional information from the Town of Empire about ways in which residents can get access to potable water.