Alamosa tallies salmonella costs |

Alamosa tallies salmonella costs

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

ALAMOSA, Colo. ” The city estimates its share of direct expenses stemming from a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds is $150,000, but bills are still coming in.

It’s unknown exactly what caused the outbreak, which initially spread through the municipal water supply and led to more than 400 reported cases of salmonella.

The city’s 8,500 residents were told to stop drinking water straight from the tap March 19 and couldn’t use it all during a flush of the water system with strong concentrations of chlorine. Donors and volunteers helped distribute bottled water.

In a note last month to City Council members, City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said the city’s share of direct out-of-pocket expenses is estimated at $150,000. It cost about $255,000 to mobilize the Colorado National Guard and state incident management teams, which were covered under an emergency declaration, he said. Staff time from the city and other agencies amounted to $225,000.

Cherpeski said City Council would have to act on a budget amendment to cover costs, likely around October.

After the outbreak, the city repaired one of its water tanks and took one reservoir off-line. It has also begun chlorinating its water.

The city is moving to shore up potential points of contamination at restaurants and large food-preparation sites.

Assistant City Manager Don Koskelin said cross-contamination can occur when water pressure drops, in instances where a drain hose runs from an ice machine to a sink or where a hose runs from a sink to a mop bucket.

The city is sending out notices to make sure sites have cross-connection control devices, such as a reduced pressure valve on a tap, and that they are inspected.

The city would have to find more inspectors, while business owners could have to pay $200 to $300 for the device, plus annual inspection costs of $60 to $70.