Traveling 30 hours back
and forth to Billings, Mont., twice a week is
over for Pinedale municipal staff members.
The town’s new laboratory is now officially
certified by the Environmental Protection
Agency and four staff members are trained
to complete mandated water samples inhouse.
The town of Pinedale is required to test
water in Fremont Lake twice a week – no
exceptions. The lake is one of the few open
water systems for municipal water supplies
remaining in the nation.
Because water from the lake is not filtered
before being treated with chlorine and
ultraviolet light, the EPA requires testing for
fecal coliform, total coliform and e. coli.
In the past, testing was completed by Zedi
Laboratories, which maintained a lab in Pinedale.
Four months ago, that laboratory
closed. Testing for total coliform and e. coli
can be done by many labs, including labs in
the nearby Rock Springs or Riverton. However,
very few municipalities actually need
to test for fecal coliform and the closest laboratory
certified to test is in Billings, Mont.
For the past four months – most of the winter
– the town’s staff members had to drive
water samples to the Billings lab. In order
to meet the eight-hour deadline from taking
the sample to time of testing, a staff member
spent 30 hours a week making the drives.
With no relief or lab in sight, the town
hired former EPA inspector Rita Wright to
consult and help the staff set up a lab.
For the past weeks, dual samples were
taken to ensure staff members were properly
trained. About $16,000 in equipment, including
a dry incubator, a wet incubator and
fluorescent lights, were purchased to complete
Spencer Harshman, wearing his white
coat and new title of lab technician, demonstrated
a typical test process, saying more
time actually goes into ensuring the tests are
accurate than completing the actual test.
Meanwhile, the town has also written a
Services needed closer
to home after lab closes
By Holly Dabb
letter to the EPA ensuring a Fremont Lake
Watershed Study will be completed.
Because water in the lake has always
met EPA standards, there has never been a
requirement to filter the water before it is
However, that all changed in August 2018
when test samples exceeded the EPA standards
for fecal coliform.
The plan establishes a work group and
slates May through July for preliminary research,
including gathering data from past
Fieldwork is planned for August, September
and October – the months in 2018 when
there were high readings for contamination.
A final study will be submitted to the EPA
by February 2020.
Implementation of any recommendations
coming from the study would begin in
The EPA will review the submitted plan
and respond back to the town whether the
plan and study meet its approval.
If the source of contamination is not identified
and stopped, the town could be required
to add a $16-million filtration system
to the town’s treatment process.
The town has retained the consultant team
of Jorgensen and Associates – JVA – and
Strike Consulting Group to assist in the
study and developing a plan.
Conducting a watershed study to identify
sources of fecal coliform at the intakes was
one of three options the EPA gave to the
town to deal with the samples that exceeded
Meanwhile, Sublette County Commissioners
were informed at their April 16
meeting that the Lee Ditch that drains into
Fremont Lake will be part of the study to determine
potential contamination. The county
has a subdivision above the ditch.
Harshman maintains drinking water is
also tested out of taps throughout Pinedale
for potential contamination. He said the existing
treatment from the chlorine and ultraviolet
guarantees the water is safe to drink.