Knowing the town of Pinedale
failed its water testing, a long-anticipated
letter from the Environmental Protection
Agency has finally arrived.
Originally delayed while the town of Pinedale
protested the validity of test results, later
again while the Wyoming Congressional delegation
tried to step in and then delayed again
by government shutdowns, the letter arrived last
Pinedale Mayor Matt Murdock notified
council members that the Environmental Protection
Agency has outlined three options to
deal with failed water samples including:
• Build a water filtration system, estimated to
cost more than $16 million;
• Find a new water supply, such as a well; or
• Complete a study of the town’s water supply
from Fremont Lake.
The town has 30 days to respond and notify
the EPA of its choice. At the March 11 council
meeting, council members unanimously selected
the “study” option. The town has 60 days
to respond with a plan for the study and explain
the implementation and schedule for the study.
“We have 60 days to inform the EPA of our
implementation plan and move forward,” Murdock
said in an email to council members. “Our
engineering team has already begun digging
into the data and we will certainly will be able
to provide a plan to the EPA for (its) review and
input within that timeline.”
Not wanting to overlook anything, the town
also approved applying for a grant that will
help fund a study to identify alternative water
The town’s woes began in August of 2018.
The water in Fremont Lake was tested and
more than five samples exceeded the 20 allowable
fecal colony units, the maximum allowed
for a water system that does not use a filtration
Anticipating the letter, the town already
approved a work group to conduct a study.
Murdock said the town must comply with any
recommendations made following the study to
pacify the EPA.
In addition, Jorgensen and Associates, with
JVA and SCG, were chosen as consultants to
help with the study. Former EPA inspector Rita
Wright was also hired.
The letter from the EPA states that the town
met standards between August 2018 and January
2019 in 84.6 percent of the compliance
samples collected. However, the EPA requires
90 percent of samples taken in any six-month
period to meet compliance.
The EPA acknowledged a letter written by
Wright on behalf of the town, which disputed
the results of tests by Zedi Laboratories. Zedi
has since closed its Pinedale office.
Samples are now being driven twice a week
to the nearest lab in Billings, Mont., by town
staff members. That driving process to meet the
eight-hour time limit from sample collection to
sample testing consumes as much as 30 hours a
week of staff time.
As part of any study, the town must continue
to monitor and test the water two times a week.
This is a task that has become much more difficult
since the Zedi closed Pinedale facilites. The
company’s Riverton lab does not offer the specific
test needed for the EPA guidelines. However,
steps are being taken to get staff trained
and establish a lab to do tests locally.
Wright is also working as a consultant with
the town to establish the certified lab in-house.
Once certified, the lab could test samples for
other entities, such as the towns of Marbleton
and Big Piney, which were forced to send water
samples out of state for testing.
“There were elevated total coliform levels
during this same time period that were verified
by several different laboratories,” the letter
from the EPA states. “These total coliform levels
were higher than any levels that have been
observed in the historical monitoring conducted
at Fremont Lake, indicating a bacteriological
event in Fremont Lake during the Summer and
Fall of 2018 that is unprecedented and may be
indicative of changing source water conditions.”
Because Pinedale has two disinfection barriers
in place that are being operated efficiently
and there have been no positive total coliform
samples measured in the distribution system,
the EPA does not believe there is a current public
The letter adds there is no indication of E.
coli contamination in the intake and no Cryptosporidum
or Giardia contamination, and the
lake’s turbidity remains low.