Juniata Reservoir headed for impaired waters list

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Tuesday will adopt a lengthy list of Colorado waters it has deemed impaired.

Despite the city of Grand Junction’s attempts to reverse the decision, the list likely will include Juniata Reservoir on Grand Mesa, which provides a majority of Grand Junction’s drinking water. The city temporarily closed the reservoir to visitors and fishermen before opening it again in late February, when the Health Department told the city the closure would not get the reservoir off the impaired-waters list.

The reservoir landed on the preliminary list after small-mouth bass in its waters were found to have mercury levels above acceptable limits. The city argued in January the reservoir doesn’t belong on a list of impaired waters when the problem was in its fish.

Steve Gunderson, director of the state Health Department’s water-quality division, said most items on the list have water-contamination problems, but some areas get listed just for having active fish-consumption advisories, such as the one Juniata has.

Even though the reservoir is open again, there’s a sign posted at the reservoir warning of the health hazards of eating fish with higher-than-normal levels of mercury in their flesh.

The advisory will remain until the Health Department declares the fish safe, according to City Water Service Manager Rick Brinkman.

In the meantime, no plan for small-mouth bass mitigation has been made, but the Colorado Division of Wildlife plans to install a screen at the reservoir this spring that will keep the mercury-contaminated fish from moving into the river.

City Attorney John Shaver said the city likely will offer suggestions to the Health Department staff about changing the methodology for listing bodies of water on the impaired list so the list would reflect water, and not fish, contamination.


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