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'Water Is Smelly': Drinking Water Has Johnstown Residents Concerned About Safety

JOHNSTOWN, Colo. (CBS4) – An unpleasant taste and smell in the drinking water has some people living in Johnstown concerned while the town rushes to finish constructing the eventual solution.

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At Hays Market, gallon jugs of drinking water have been flying off the shelves for the better part of two weeks. According to grocery manager Daniel Gehring, the store has gone from ordering several cases of water to palates of it, and not because of the hot weather.

"The town's water is smelly, funny and has a dirt taste to it, so people are buying the heck out of the gallon water," Gehring said.

For the grocery store, the business is a plus, but around town, folks like David Salls are concerned. He's recently turned to filtering all of the water anyone in the family drinks, including his dogs.

"The biggest concern is what we're putting in our body," Salls said. "It's making me want to put a reverse osmosis in my house, which I've heard is like $5,000. I don't want to do that."

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Town manager Matt LeCerf says the odor is harmless, and the result of chemical compounds created by algae blooms in the Lone Tree Reservoir, the city's main water source.

Normally, the water travels into town via a pipeline and drainage ditch, but this year the drainage ditch is not being used because of the nearby Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fire burn scars.

"It's bringing a lot of soot and sediment down on the ditch to where it's really discolored the water," LeCerf said.

According to LeCerf, the ditch into town naturally aerates and filters the water more than the pipeline.

"We're basically in a position where we have to run our water through the reservoirs where we do have that standing water that's causing some of the taste and odor issues," LeCerf said.

After hearing similar concerns in the past, the town approved a new $2 million granular activated carbon system earlier this year, which LeCerf said is 90% effective in removing the taste and odor. Construction has been underway for more than two months, and the system is expected to be online Wednesday.

"We will be able to address the taste and odor issues effectively and we'll want to hear back from our citizens as to whether they're seeing considerable improvement," LeCerf said.

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For Salls and other neighbors, that can't come soon enough, even if it does come with a higher water bill.

"I don't mind paying extra if it's quality that we have, but right now it's just not quality," Salls said.

The carbon filtration system isn't the only improvement in the works for Johnstown. According to LeCerf, the town is also upgrading its water treatment plant and putting special buoys in the reservoir that use ultrasonic wavelengths to help mitigate algae growth.

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