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Poudre River Quality Tested After Debris Runs Into Water

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A biologist with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife measures the pH of the Poudre River. (credit: CBS)

A biologist with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife measures the pH of the Poudre River. (credit: CBS)

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LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)- The High Park Fire destroyed 259 homes in Larimer County and scorched 87,284 acres. Heavy rains sent mud, ash and debris from the fires into the Poudre River.

That is raising concerns about the water quality from the river that feeds into the water supply for many communities along the Front Range.

Kurt Davies with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said although debris and sediment can be seen on the surface of the flowing water, the river is healthy, for now. But they’re keeping a close eye on the situation because that could change.

Every couple of days biologists measure the pH and acidity of the river to check if there are any major changes.

They’re also checking to make sure the levels are safe for the many species of animals and bugs that live in the water. If some of the sediment gets too high there could be issues with fish kill.

“What will happen is the sediment will clog their gill filaments, blocking their ability to take on oxygen. It would be the equivalent of stuffing cotton balls into your mouth; you can stuff a few cotton balls into your mouth and you can breathe just fine. At some point you’re going to stuff enough of those in there and you’re going to have a really hard time breathing through your mouth,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Biologist Kurt Davies.

So far there have been only a handful of reports of fish kill along the Poudre River. Biologists say that could change if there is a heavy rain that brings a lot of debris into the water.

There is a coordinated attack to prevent debris from entering the water supply in the Poudre Canyon. On Tuesday two helicopters were making strategic drops of straw around Milton Seaman Reservoir.

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