This town of 9,000, including Colorado’s Adams State College, was declared to  in a state of emergency today (3/21/08) by Gov. Bill Ritter due to the salmonella outbreak that may be related to the public water supply.

The emergency came as 139 Alamosa residents were said to be sick with salmonella.  Seven were in the hospital.

This may be the tip of the iceberg," the top local health official said.

There was a convoy of trucks from Denver Water, the big independent water agency that provides water to much of Colorado’s Front Range population some 230 miles away, going about the streets of Alamosa.  The Denver Water workers were seen opening up  hatches in water towers and crawling into tight spaces.   Their mission is to help with the system wide flush of the water system that will not begin before Tuesday.

Once that flush begins, the town won’t be able to consume even boiled water until getting the all clear signal that might take a week or two.  This is what Adams State told students:

City water users WILL be able to shower, wash laundry, and flush toilets while the water system is being flushed, said Public Works Director/Acting City Manager Don Koskelin at a City Council work session Friday afternoon. Adams State College will remain open, according to Provost Dr. Michael Mumper.

The good news is there is plenty of bottled water now available, both for sale and for free at distribution points around the town.

Meanwhile, KUSA-TV in Denver checked with the Centers For Disease Control to conclude the Alamosa outbreak would be, if confirmed by testing, the fifth water-borne salmonella outbreak in the last 22 years.   KUSA also reports that:

In Colorado, no one with the Department of Public Health can ever recall seeing or even hearing about an outbreak in Colorado.  "We’ve been unable to find anyone in the department that has seen an outbreak tied to a municipal water supply," said Dr. Ned Cologne with the Department of Health.

Adams State is providing water updates here.  Check out the KUSA story on this one.