The Crestone Eagle, April 2008:

Salmonella outbreak in Alamosa shuts down town water supply
by Mary Lowers

The cause of the March salmonella outbreak resulting in the shutdown of the Alamosa water system and confirmed illness of over 200 Valley residents is still being investigated. The City of Alamosa declared a water emergency March 19. Five out of six water samples from Alamosa tested positive for salmonella bacteria at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment laboratory and were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control. A three stage flushing process for the city water system using large amounts of chlorine was deemed necessary. This two-week process began Tuesday, March 25.

The first cases of the disease were surfacing in the city between March 8 and 12. Contamination of the water disrupted life in Alamosa. Water was available at city distribution sites and residents were encouraged to bring in water from outside the city. Schools were closed and the economic impact is still being measured. Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Ken Salazar visited Alamosa Saturday March 22, less than twenty four hours after the Gov. declared a state of emergency in Alamosa by Executive Order. This will bring funding of around $300,000 to help respond to this emergency. Help from the Colorado National Guard in the form of personnel and equipment will be part of the state help package. Both the Sen. and the Gov. complimented local government and emergency response teams fortheir response to the emergency.

Putting the situation in Alamosa in a national perspective, Sen. Salazar said the water situation reflects a problem with infrastructure across the country particularly in rural areas, which lack funding for maintenance and improvements. Alamosa’s water comes from deep wells and until now has not been chlorinated or otherwise treated. As of March 19 no salmonella cases were reported in Saguache County. More information on this is available at http://www.cityofalamosa.org/

Salmonella outbreaks caused by water born bacteria is rare. People and animals become infected with Salmonella through ingestion. Symptoms generally manifest two to three days after exposure. Most folks will recover within five to ten days but the elderly and small children along with people with compromised immune systems can become seriously ill.

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