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EPA and partners bringing clean water to Colorado’s farm communities

Release Date: 08/28/2006
Contact Information: Michael Wenstrom 303-312-7009, Art Palomares 303-312-6053,

Initial effort results in safe drinking water for migrant farm workers

      Denver, Colo., August 28, 2006-- A community of migrant farm workers in Gilcrest, Colo., now enjoys safe, clean drinking water thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its partners, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Rural Water Association, the property owner, the operator of the camp, and the affected farm workers.

      EPA helped install a water treatment system that brought the community's water to well within Safe Drinking Water Act standards. Plans for additional projects are underway, as this initial project is part of a broader effort to develop drinking water quality solutions for Colorado farm communities.

      There are approximately 45,000 migrant farm workers in Colorado, a widely dispersed group that constitutes one of the least powerful and most vulnerable populations in the state: The average migrant worker’s annual income is about $7,500. Their access to health care is poor. Their working conditions can be hazardous. And a variety of contaminants may affect drinking water quality, including pesticides and nitrates from agricultural runoff, lead and biological contaminates. All of these contaminants can impair health, most especially for pregnant woman and children.

      EPA is testing the drinking water at selected camps at no charge to the owner, operator or lessee. This offer extends to any owner, operator or lessee. Interested parties should contact EPA's Michael Wenstrom at 303-312-7009, toll free at 1-800-227-8917, or email at

      EPA and CDPHE are concerned about the safety of drinking water in farm communities because most residents and migrant farm workers obtain their drinking water from wells drawing from aquifers. Although the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 regulates public water systems, many of these wells may be untested and unregulated due to the small number of people served by the individual systems.

      EPA Regional Administrator Robert E. Roberts said, "EPA has undertaken this initiative to address the need for clean drinking water in these rural farming communities, and it is our intention to work with our partners to find and deliver solutions for the drinking water issues of Colorado's farming community."

      Samples of the Gilcrest well’s water taken after installation of the water treatment system showed significant water quality improvement: A reduction in dissolved solids from 800 milligrams per liter to an average of 95 milligrams per liter, with nitrate levels reduced from 19 milligrams per liter to less than five milligrams per liter. The water treatment system installed is a reverse osmosis system that uses a membrane to act like a fine filter to create drinkable water from contaminated water.

      If future testing results in farm communities indicate that there may be a significant risk to the health of the people who use the water, EPA and CDPHE will work with the growers to find a way to correct the problem. At a later date, retesting will be done to confirm that the water has been made safe.

    For more information visit EPA Region 8's migrant farmworker initiative page.