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Manitou's Cheyenne Spring shut down after contamination found

By: JAKOB RODGERS
November 11, 2011
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photo - Pedestrians walk along Manitou Avenue toward Cheyenne Springs in Manitou Springs. Photo by Gazette File
Pedestrians walk along Manitou Avenue toward Cheyenne Springs in Manitou Springs. Photo by Gazette File 

Mantiou Springs city officials found an unwelcome ingredient mingling in the mineral-laden water of one of the city’s historic springs.

Public works officials closed the Cheyenne Spring near the arcade in downtown Manitou earlier this week after bacteria was found in the water, said Danielle Oller, spokeswoman for El Paso County Public Health.

The contamination was discovered after a screening test for coliform bacteria on Wednesday, said Dr. Bernadette Albanese, medical director for El Paso County Public Health.

“It’s just a screening test. It’s just a warning light,” Albanese said. “It prompts you to evaluate your system.”

Though the exact form of coliform bacteria in the water isn’t known, it is often found in human or animal waste, as well as in plant soil.

Manitou officials decided to test the water after a break-in at the pump house running the spring earlier this week. Officials doubt, however, that the font was contaminated by the burglars.

“We keep a very close eye on Cheyenne,” said Bruno Pothier, the city’s public works director. “Cheyenne is the one that seems to be giving us issues from time to time. The other ones (springs) are pretty much never a problem.”

The city isn’t mandated to test the spring’s water, Oller said, since it's not considered a community water source. Public works officials, though, have voluntarily tested the water once a month — most recently testing positive for coliform bacteria in September, she said.

It was closed, cleaned and re-opened, Pothier said, though the cause remains unknown. He speculates the contamination came from either rain water seeping into the spring or people drinking from the font.

The latest positive test came after a public works employee noticed that the door to the pump house was ajar early Tuesday, said Jack Benson, city administrator. Inside, four pictures depicting how the pump house has aged through the years were missing.

The pump house to the artesian soda spring was built in 1890, according to the Mineral Springs Foundation, and supplies naturally carbonated water that flows from a nearby cast bronze font.

The pictures were duplicates and will be replaced, Benson said.

There was no sign of forced entry, Benson said, and it is unknown who left the door unlocked.

Pothier said the cistern is being cleaned with bleach and will be tested again before re-opening. He expects the cleanup to last through Wednesday or Thursday.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

Facebook: Jakob Rodgers

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