Published: July 4, 2013
Damaged aquifers in the Black Forest burn zone are susceptible to contamination, county officials said this week.
El Paso County Public Health staff began surveying water wells in Black Forest Tuesday afternoon and set out again at 9 a.m. Wednesday, said Tom Gonzales, director of the Environmental Health Division at El Paso County Public Health.
The agency will check each of the hundreds of properties destroyed last month in the Black Forest fire to provide an initial assessment of possible contamination.
So far, public health staff have found well caps were melted, cracked and destroyed in the fire, which opens them to dirt, ash and other debris.
"These are straws going down into the aquifer to get the water up," Gonzales said, explaining the county's concern with well water. "So now you have an open hole into that aquifer."
Eight teams of two county employees outfitted in orange vests labeled "public health" will work east-northeast from Holmes and Shoup roads Wednesday, Gonzales said, mimicking the route the fire took. Most of the area west of Holmes Road was checked Tuesday.
The county assessor warned in a Wednesday morning news release that some Black Forest residents have been approached by people posing as county employees. First reported Monday night, the imposters were wearing street clothes and appeared to be seeking information for commercial purposes, Dave Rose, spokesperson for the county, said.
The El Paso County Assessor's Office completed property assessments of home damage Friday, and no assessors are expected to be the Black Forest area this week, El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman said in the release.
Residents can expect orange-vested public health workers - no county assessors - to be in the area until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and again Thursday morning if surveys are not completed.
The health agency suggests residents who believe their wells have been damaged acquire a professional assessment. Resources regarding wells and onsite wastewater systems can be found at elpasocountyhealth.org/services/public-health-wildfire-information.