Plumbing experts offer free water testing for wells damaged by Marshall Fire

Matt Whittaker
A firefighter extinguishes flames at a home site in Boulder County on Dec. 31, 2021.(Photo by Jason Connolly / AFP)

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Boulder County, Colo.) A Purdue University team of plumbing experts is in Boulder County to provide free advice, inspections and water testing for owners of private drinking wells damaged by the Marshall Fire.

Led by engineering professor Andrew Whelton, the team started providing  water systems damage and testing support to the municipalities of Louisville and Superior as well as the East Boulder County Water District, Boulder County Health Department and private homeowners on Jan. 5. It plans to be in Boulder County until Jan. 29 and will start analyzing samples next week.

Heavy metals can contaminate well water

"Understanding what types of issues to look for when assessing private wells, etc. and what and how to test is important so that contractor decisions, repairs, and insurance claims can be supported," Whelton said in an open letter to homeowners. "We are offering to help at no expense to you."

The team can provide onsite or virtual technical assistance including discussions and damage inspections as well as chemical testing for heavy metals such as lead, copper, zinc, and volatile organic compounds in drinking water. The system has to have power or pressure to collect water for testing.

Those interested in the team's services can contact Whelton at or 540-230-6069.

Wildfire water contamination a growing problem

"Since 2017, a growing number of wildfires have prompted chemical drinking water contamination in the United States," according to the Purdue University Center for Plumbing Safety. "Levels found in some water systems have exceeded hazardous waste limits and posed an immediate health risk."

After a wildfire, the chemicals and microorganisms that can enter a fire-damaged well system are the main sources of drinking water contamination, according to the Colorado State University Extension.

Wildfires usually don’t damage the underground parts of a well. Rather, it’s the wiring on top, the junction box and casing that can be damaged, potentially affecting the system's operation and compromising water safety, the extension service said.

If well water is tainted with metals, microorganisms or other contaminants, the well can be disinfected with filtered or boiling water or chlorine.

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

Lakewood, CO

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