Town plans study to comply with EPA water mandates

Fremont Lake provides recreation and drinking water to Pinedale residents. File photo

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

health threat.

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.

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