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Salmonella outbreak linked to animal waste in faulty tank

2:59 AM, Nov 19, 2009   |    comments
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The final Department of Public Health and Environment report on the outbreak was released Wednesday.

The report found animal waste likely contaminated an in-ground storage tank that had been identified as a problem in 1997.

The 2008 outbreak included 442 reported cases of illness, but state health officials estimate as many as 1,300 of the towns 8,900 residents were sickened.

One death was associated with the outbreak.

Ron Falco, manager of the Safe Drinking Water program at the state health department, says the animal waste contamination in the concrete storage tank was the most likely cause.

Falco says state health investigators were not notified of a 1997 inspection provided to the city by a private company.

The inspection report recommended routine inspections to monitor "cracking and problem with the corners of the tank," the state report said.

Falco told 9Wants to Know Alamosa did not share the report with the state and could not provide any evidence that follow-up inspections occurred in the 11 years between the inspection and the outbreak.

State inspections "did not focus on storage tanks and distribution piping," the report said.

Falco says if Alamosa had provided records of the problems, state inspectors could have issued a recommendation or a requirement for a repair.

"If we'd had those records, we would have reviewed them," Falco said.

"Hindsight is 20-20," Falco added. "It's easy to say now we would have required that."

Alamosa Public Works Director Don Koskelin did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

The deteriorating tank was ripe for contamination because Alamosa did not chlorinate its water at the time of the outbreak.

"...only a small quantity of bird or animal feces contamination may have led to the salmonella outbreak," the report read. "This kind of outbreak may have been very difficult to prevent in a system that did not chlorinate its water."

Alamosa had a public drinking water system disinfection waiver that allowed it to avoid chlorination.

Since the 2008 outbreak, the state health department has withdrawn 72 of 126 disinfection waivers statewide.

Currently, 17 community water systems like cities and towns have waivers and 37 non-community water systems like rural restaurants, campgrounds and schools have waivers.

Alamosa began chlorinating its water following the outbreak.

The read the entire 65-page state report detailing the 18-month investigation, click here.

To discuss this story or to suggest another story idea, e-mail investigative reporter Kyle Clark.

Community water systems that have an active disinfection waiver as of 11/18/09:

Public Water System Name, County


BLANCA, COSTILLA

FALLS CREEK RANCH #1, LA PLATA

FALLS CREEK RANCH #2, LA PLATA

FT GARLAND WSD, COSTILLA

GARCIA DOMESTIC WUA, COSTILLA

KV HOV INC, SAGUACHE

LA JARA, CONEJOS

MESA CORTINA WSD, SUMMIT

MID COLORADO INVESTMENT, TELLER

MOUNTAIN MUTUAL WA, TELLER

MT PRINCETON RV PARK AND CABINS, CHAFFEE

ROMEO, CONEJOS

SAGUACHE, SAGUACHE

SAN LUIS WATER AND SANITATION DISTRICT, COSTILLA

SANFORD, CONEJOS

WARD, BOULDER

WOODLAND WEST WATER USERS ASSOCIATION, TELLER

Non-Community/Non-Transient, Non-Community Drinking Water Systems with active waivers as of 11/18/09:

Name of Drinking Water System, County


ALPINE LODGE, CHAFFEE

AMPHITHEATER CG, OURAY

CASTLE LAKES CAMPGROUND RESORT, HINSDALE

CASTLEWOOD CANYON SP, DOUGLAS

CENTAURI HS CENTAURI MS, CONEJOS

CHALK CREEK CAMPGROUND, CHAFFEE

COLORADO INTERSTATE GAS, ADAMS

DEER CREEK CHRISTIAN CAMP, PARK

DEER VALLEY RANCH AND SUBD, CHAFFEE

ELLICOTT PLAZA, EL PASO

BROWN PALACE HOTEL, DENVER

KOA ALAMOSA, ALAMOSA

KUSKIES CAF, LOGAN

LIBERTY SCHOOL, YUMA

LONE STAR SCHOOL, WASHINGTON

LOTTIS CREEK CG, GUNNISON

LUTHERAN VALLEY RETREAT, TELLER

MIAMI YODER SCHOOL DIST JT60, EL PASO

ONE MILE CG, GUNNISON

OUTHOUSE N RESTAURANT AREA, ALAMOSA

REPUBLIC PAPERBOARD, ADAMS

ROSY LANE CG, GUNNISON

ROXBOROUGH STATE PARK, DOUGLAS

SACRED HEART RETREAT JESUITS, DOUGLAS

SANGRE DE CRISTO JR SR HIGH, ALAMOSA

SARGENT ELEM SCHOOL RE33, RIO GRANDE

SARGENT HS RE 33J, RIO GRANDE

SAWMILL GULCH CG, GRAND

ST. LOUIS CREEK CG NO. 1, EAST GRAND

SUGAR LOAFIN CAMPGROUND, LAKE

SUNSHINE CG, SAN MIGUEL

TRAPPERS LAKE CG, GARFIELD

VALLECITO RESORT, LA PLATA

VALLEY VIEW HOT SPRINGS, SAGUACHE

WILDERNESS RANCH YOUNG LIFE, MINERAL

WIN MAR COTTAGES, LAKE

YOUNG LIFE TRAIL WEST LODGE, CHAFFEE

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