Appeals court reverses Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes’ order regarding the SDS’s 401 permit

July 19, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Colorado appeals court Thursday reversed Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes’ order for the state to re-evaluate its assessment of the impacts of the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

Reyes issued an order on April 12, 2012, for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to reopen hearings on a 2011 Water Quality Act Section 401 permit for SDS. The permit is necessary for construction of the SDS pipeline across Fountain Creek because it is tied to Army Corps of Engineers permits.

Colorado Springs Utilities is building the $940 million pipeline, which will take water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County.

The state decision was challenged by former Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition.

They argued that a numerical water quality standard was needed rather than relying on an adaptive management program that the Bureau of Reclamation established as part of an environmental impact statement leading up to approval of SDS.

They also challenged the way public notices were made and said the state failed to look at the possibility of further degradation of Fountain Creek from population growth in Colorado Springs.

The appeals court opinion said the Water Quality Control Commission did not violate applicable water quality standards, reversing Reyes’ decision.

Judge Stephanie Dunn wrote the opinion, with Judges Nancy Lichtenstein and James Casebolt concurring.

The opinion criticizes Reyes for adopting most of the wording in his decision from the complaint filed by Thiebaut and the coalition, saying it is not the court’s role to reverse a state agency’s decision without more rigorous investigation.

“Where, as here, a district court adopts an order drafted by counsel, we scrutinize the order more critically,” Dunn wrote.

The opinion also said Reyes erred by citing Colorado Springs Utilities’ land condemnation cases in Pueblo West when writing his order. Reyes “made credibility determinations based on information outside the administrative record.”

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Amy Gillentine):

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a Pueblo County judge’s ruling against a state water quality certification for the SDS project, which will bring water from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, the biggest water project in decades for Colorado Springs Utilities. The multi-million project is well underway, with miles of pipeline already finished and construction started on water treatment plants The appeals court ruled that the state Water Quality Control Commission was correct in approving the SDS water quality certification, according to a press release from Colorado Springs Utilities.

The decision reverses Pueblo County District Court Judge Victor Reyes’ April 2012 ruling against the Water Quality Control Commissions’ unanimous decision approving the 401 water quality certification.

“We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS program director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet State water quality standards. We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has recognized that. It is unfortunate that this matter had to be resolved in the courts, which is a costly process and one that goes against our approach of collaborating with other local governments and stakeholders.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even before he took office, District Attorney Jeff Chostner realized he would have a decision to make on a case he inherited from Bill Thiebaut. Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes ruled in Thiebaut’s favor in April 2012 on a challenge to a Colorado Water Quality Control Commission decision to certify Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System, a pipeline to deliver water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County.

On Thursday, an appeals court overturned Reyes’ order, saying opponents failed to prove their case.

It’s unknown if there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court. “Jeff Chostner is not in his office today, so I have not even been able to talk to my client. I haven’t had time to carefully read the decision,” said John Barth, a Hygiene attorney. “We’re still reviewing the decision and evaluating our options.”

Those options include a petition for rehearing or calling for a writ of certiorari, which would ask to overturn the appeal decision.

Before he took office, Chostner told The Chieftain that an appeal is not automatic. “If it goes against Colorado Springs, I would certainly defend a successful case,” Chostner said in December. “If it goes against us, I would have to read the language of the opinion before making a decision.”

Colorado Springs Utilities officials were happy with the appeals court decision. “We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS Program Director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet state water quality standards.”

From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Colorado Springs Utilities has done all the necessary work to ensure that its Southern Delivery System does not wreck water quality in Fountain Creek, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The ruling is a big win for the utilities’ $1 billion dollar pipeline project and creates “a clean path” for the project to continue, said Keith Riley, deputy program director for SDS. “It means we go forward as planned without adding additional mitigation,” Riley said.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

“Pleased” probably doesn’t even get close to the feeling of those at Colorado Springs Utilities, given a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling upholding the state’s approval of a certification for the Southern Delivery Pipeline water project. Nevertheless, that’s the word used in a news release by John Fredell, SDS program director, regarding the water quality permit issue. The ruling means a hurdle that has been cited by Pueblo County in correspondence with the Interior Department as a roadblock for SDS has been removed.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Fountain Creek: ‘Colorado Springs has taken its job very seriously’ — Steve Gunderson

March 26, 2013

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Barbara Cotter) via The Denver Post:

Nearly 10 years, $450,000 in penalties and $170 million in fixes later, Colorado Springs Utilities is done with a compliance plan the state imposed over series of wastewater spills into Fountain Creek and some of the tributaries that feed it.

“I would say this has been quite a success story, and Colorado Springs has taken its job very seriously,” said Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division of the state Department of Public Health and Environment. “Why we decided to take enforcement action almost 10 years ago is that we were seeing a pattern of problems. Really, it’s amazing how that pattern has largely disappeared.”[...]

Earlier this month, the Water Quality Control Division sent a letter to Utilities officials notifying them that it was closing the books on the order because all requirements had been met.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


‘They ruined my way of life, and the state agencies turned a mute ear to my complaints’ — Brett Corsentino

March 17, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The damage to farm ground caused by water released from gas wells has been lasting while state protection has proven elusive for Huerfano County dairy farmer Brett Corsentino. “I can’t raise feed and I can’t hold anyone accountable. The bottom line is that the state agencies failed to protect me,” Corsentino said. “It’s all about the money these gas companies have. There’s no way to pierce the corporate veil.”

Corsentino farms is in the Cucharas River basin, which is north of the Apishapa and Purgatoire river basins where oil and gas exploration is most active in Southern Colorado. Pioneer Energy and XTO Energy are active in the lower watersheds. They are engaged in studies to show the water quality is sufficient in some cases for release into streams. Some landowners in the Apishapa and Purgatoire watersheds have asked the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to allow CBM releases.

But Corsentino said he was blind-sided by releases from Petroglyph Energy that began in the Cucharas basin in the late 1990s. He claims the water was high in salts and barium, which broke down the soil on his farm. “I used that water and put it on my fields, but didn’t know about (the releases) until 2006,” he said.

The productivity of his soil fell to one-third of its former level, and one-time soil amendments were paid for by Petroglyph. But the state never followed up with testing, and the Oil and Gas Commission said he had proven damage. “It was a joke. Sucks to be me,” Corsentino said.

His warning to other landowners is clear. “There have been four generations of my family here since my greatgrandfather came over from Sicily in 1905. It’s a hard life. We’ve taken care of the ground and it’s taken care of us,” Corsentino said. “We’ve gone through a reorganization, and I’ve lost the equity. At this point, I just want to be able to raise feed for my animals.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Some Las Animas County farmers and ranchers in the Apishapa River basin are concerned that releases of water from oil and gas drilling could render cropland useless. They want water tested — and even treated — before it is released into the river system, saying the danger of increased salinity outweighs any benefit of more water during a drought. “Our main concern is that what happened in Huerfano County doesn’t happen to our soil,” said Gary Waller, who holds senior water rights for fields he irrigates near Aguilar. “We want to be proactive and make sure we do not get contaminated.”

Ken Valentine, whose family irrigates further up in the basin, said a spring above one of its fields was potentially contaminated by a release from coal-bed methane drilling last year. He is also alarmed that CBM water is routinely sprayed on gravel roads throughout the area. “The water should be treated before it’s released into the watershed, either at the company’s expense or those people who are using it for things like livestock ponds,” Valentine said.

They want to avoid the types of troubles Huerfano County dairy farmer Brett Corsentino experienced when Petroglyph Energy dumped CBM water into the Cucharas River in the late 1990s. Water high in salinity and barium ruined his farm ground. “I was harvesting 18-21 tons of corn silage per acre before, and it dropped to six tons after,” Corsentino said. “They ruined my way of life, and the state agencies turned a mute ear to my complaints.”

While the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission required Petroglyph to stop dumping water in 2006 and to help Corsentino try to restore farmland, it ruled in 2011 that Petroglyph no longer had any liability. All say the state should be insisting the water produced by Pioneer Natural Gas in the Apishapa River basin is either of equal quality to surface water, and reinjected into deep wells if it fails to meet standards.

While some in the area contend the water is suitable for livestock and wildlife, the farmers fear it will contaminate their fields — particularly during a drought when there is less natural surface water to dilute the effects. “If the water is good, it should be utilized,” Waller said. “But if it’s not, it will get into the groundwater and onto our place eventually.”

Meanwhile, oil and gas producers in the Purgatorie River watershed have asked the state to relax standards for discharged water. Here’s a report from Steve Block writing for The Trinidad Times. Here’s an excerpt:

A leader of a regional environmental protection group said she’s deeply concerned about the possible lowering of water quality standards in the Purgatoire River Watershed, and asked the Las Animas County Board of Commissioners to write a letter to the Colorado Water Quality Commission, protesting the potential change.

Paula Ozzello of the Southern Colorado Environmental Council (SCEC) spoke at Tuesday’s board work session about the potential dangers of the reduction in water quality standards.

Ozzello, chairperson of SCEC, said XTO Energy and Pioneer Natural Resources have proposed to the commission a reduction in water quality standards for the Lower Arkansas River Basin, specifically the Purgatoire River Watershed and the Apishapa Watershed. She said the XTO and Pioneer proposal would reduce the surface water quality standard, by increasing the allowable level of boron in water used for agricultural purposes from its present level of 0.75 milligrams (mg) per million to a new, and higher, standard of 5.0 mg per million.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.


Durango: The city is becoming proactive in preventing wastewater spills

February 25, 2013

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Here’s an in-depth report about Durango’s sewer system, from Jim Haug writing for The Durango Herald. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Water Quality Control Division has ordered the city to come up with an emergency-response plan, a sewer-maintenance program and a training program.

The city had no such formalized plans in place as late as four months ago, said Steve Salka, the new utilities director.

“The state was leading us in a direction, but I knew we needed an emergency action plan,” he said. “I knew we needed a spill-response plan. I knew we needed a maintenance plan. I just put it all together (and sent it to the state).”

The city has struck a tentative agreement to spend $84,000 on backup generators for its sewer lift stations to bring it into compliance.

More infrastructure coverage here.


CWQCC seeks comments on reorganization of Colorado’s primary drinking water regulations

December 21, 2012

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission:

Since the authority for amending the Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations (CPDWR) has been moved to the Water Quality Control Commission, the Colorado Department of Public Health’s executive management is interested in evaluating splitting up the current CPDWR into multiple regulations similar to the manner in which the Clean Water Regulations are organized.

This web form gives drinking water stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the reorganization of the current Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has scheduled a rulemaking hearing for November 2013 to consider adopting revisions of the Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations (CPDWR). The objective of the proposed revisions is to reorganize, simplify, and clarify the existing CPDWR…

Whether the regulations are split or not, the Department intends to reorganize the regulations at all levels. We will reorganize the order of the articles so they are grouped together more logically – for example, treatment oriented articles would be placed together.

The Department is exploring several options for dividing the current one regulation into multiple regulations. We are seeking stakeholder input on these various options and this survey is a major component of that stakeholder input. The options are as follows:

  • Break the regulation into multi-article regulations that are grouped (examples below)
  • Keep the articles of the CPDWR together as one regulation (with articles organized as noted above)
  • Make each article of the regulation its own separate regulation
  • More Colorado Water Quality Control Commission coverage here.


    Englewood/Littleton: Wastewater treatment plant upgrades to cost $15 million

    November 6, 2012

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    From the Littleton Independent (Jennifer Smith):

    Both city councils recently voted to raise customer fees starting in 2013 to cover the costs of construction, slated to begin in 2019.

    There are two separate issues. First, the plant is subject to stricter nutrient-removal standards as of 2022; council members are quick to call them unfunded mandates from the state. In order to meet them, staff says design and permitting for the project needs to begin in 2017.

    Second, a study showed the plant contributes about half of the phosphorous found in Barr Lake near Brighton and Milton Reservoir near Gilcrest, which causes algae blooms and other unpleasantness in the recreation areas. “The plant has a responsibility to downstream users,” Amy Conklin, coordinator for Barr Lake/Milton Reservoir Watershed Association, wrote on Oct. 28. “It matters how clean our effluent is because people downstream drink it.”

    Centennial Water and Sanitation District, which serves Highlands Ranch and a small portion of unincorporated Douglas County, apparently is the reason for the other half. Its director, John Hendrick, urged Littleton and Englewood officials to work with him to get the standards relaxed. “We are going to take off the gloves, but we’re going to do it initially with a gentle, cooperative approach,” he said.

    “This is a statewide issue, and we need some leadership down there at the Capitol to help us out.” Conklin agrees a collaborative approach is necessary, noting that half of Colorado residents live in the watershed.

    “Gone are the simple days of environmental regulation,” she said. “But if Barr-Milton can pull it off, we may serve as a model of how to bring all sides of these expensive environmental solutions to the table and not to court.”

    Plant manager Dennis Stowe said a statewide coalition against the regulations is currently inactive, reluctant to pursue expensive litigation. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s only input, said Stowe, has been to ask the Legislature to look more closely at the costs inflicted by the regulations. Engineer Sarah Reeves, a private consultant, said a potentially cost-reducing practice of nutrient trading — similar to cap and trade to regulate emissions — isn’t feasible, because there are no workable trading partners…

    “When we get to discharging Perrier, is that going to be good enough?” asked Littleton Councilor Bruce Stahlman.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    Four Corners River Health Workshop recap: ‘The Animas knits everything together’ — Ann Oliver

    October 18, 2012

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    From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

    Two hundred people involved in water-quality issues from Silverton to Northern New Mexico described projects, compared notes and asked questions of others Tuesday. The occasion was the Four Corners River Health Workshop sponsored by the New Mexico Environment Department in collaboration with the Animas Watershed Partnership and the San Juan Soil & Water Conservation District…

    “There are 35 community water systems and 22 permitted dischargers, including 16 sewerages,” Oliver said. “It also provides room and board for 25 of the birds, frogs, fish and mammals identified by states as species of greatest conservation concern and supports at least 10 fishing and boating recreation businesses.

    “The Animas knits everything together,” Oliver said.

    Additional pressure on the river is the presence of nutrients, most commonly nitrogen and phosphorus, which in excess cause algae blooms that steal oxygen needed by other fish and aquatic life. Water-treatment plants and fertilizer from agriculture are major sources of nutrients, she said…

    Peter Butler, chairman of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and a member of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, said new nutrient standards will affect Front Range dischargers long before smaller water-treatment plants such as Durango must upgrade equipment to meet standards.

    More Animas River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Crested Butte: Stricter water quality standards mandated by CWQCC for Coal Creek through town

    October 7, 2012

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    From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman/Alissa Johnson):

    The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission voted September 11 to impose the stricter standards despite an argument from U.S. Energy that nearby domestic wells were pumping water from the Slate River instead of Coal Creek. “Frankly, I don’t even recognize my town in the diagrams presented to you from U.S. Energy,” said High Country Citizen’s Alliance (HCCA) water director Jennifer Bock in reference to the claim that the wells were pumping water from the Slate River. The portion of the creek affected by the decision starts at just below the town’s water supply intake to the confluence with the Slate River. By voting to put stricter regulations on that portion of Coal Creek, the commission voted in agreement with positions advocated by HCCA, Gunnison County, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, and the Gunnison County Stockgrowers.

    The segment of Coal Creek is out of compliance with state water quality standards, and has been since temporary modifications were first put in place in the early 1990s. Bock explained that temporary modifications are put in place when a discharger releasing pollutants into a water body cannot meet quality standards and needs more time to assess the situation. “The legal word in the regulations is uncertainty, so if there’s uncertainty about why there’s a pollution problem, it does give the discharger time to resolve it,” Bock said. In this case, U.S. Energy Corp. was requesting an extension of the temporary modifications and more lenient standards on cadmium, zinc and copper.

    Initially, U.S. Energy proposed loosening the temporary modifications in addition to extending them. Yet the current temporary standards are already significantly above state standards: of 2.3 micrograms per liter for cadmium as opposed to the more typical range of .15 to 1.2 depending on water hardness, and 667 micrograms per liter for zinc. State standards for zinc are typically between 34 and 428 micrograms per liter, again depending on the hardness of the water. After some back and forth, U.S. Energy instead proposed a slight tightening of the temporary modifications to 2.1 micrograms per liter for cadmium and 440 for zinc. In HCCA’s eyes, that amounts to the status quo, but that’s acceptable for the time being if steps are taken to understand where that pollution is coming from.

    In addition to standards for drinking water, the commission granted U.S. Energy’s request for temporary modifications on standards for copper, cadmium and zinc. As part of the decision the Water Quality Control Commission is asking U.S. Energy to develop a comprehensive study on metal loading from Mt. Emmons, which will be the subject of another hearing on December 10 in Denver.

    More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.


    Colorado Water Quality Control Commission: Three Dolores River Watershed creeks get ‘outstanding water’ designation

    September 20, 2012

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    I believe cutthroats were seen doing backflips celebrating the news. Here’s a report from Caleb Soptelean writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

    The Little Taylor, Rio Lado and Spring Creek drainages were selected for protection because they contain Colorado River cutthroat trout. The decision was made on Tuesday, Sept. 11 by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

    The Dolores River Anglers were the “movers and shakers” behind the effort…

    The Dolores River Anglers notified Parks and Wildlife of the existence of the trout between Dolores and Rico north of Highway 145, said Burkett, who worked with Chuck Wanner on the application. The state agency is taking fry from the creeks and using them for brood stock since they are such a pure strain, [Chris Burkett] said…

    The state has given 15 creeks and their tributaries the “outstanding water” designation since 2006, according to Anthony. The largest of these are Hermosa and Rapid creeks. These do not include wilderness areas or national parks.

    More Dolores River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System update: Next Pueblo County DA promises to continue lawsuit over the project water quality permit

    July 6, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Jeff Chostner, who beat District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in the June 26 Democratic primary, said he will pursue a lawsuit now under appeal by the state and Colorado Springs. “It would not be judicially efficient to drop it,” Chostner said Thursday. “We will have the expertise to handle the case within our office.”[...]

    “Assuming that it’s not resolved by the end of Bill’s term, we will continue with the case,” Chostner said.

    Would he take the case to the state Supreme Court if the appeal goes in the state’s favor? “Let’s handle that one when the contingency arises,” Chostner said.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: State Representative Sal Pace calls on Colorado Springs Utilities to halt construction

    June 20, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pace sent a letter to Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach Monday calling for a halt to the $986 million SDS, now under construction…

    “According to your own environmental documents, the SDS will increase Fountain Creek flows by 40 percent,” Pace wrote in the letter. “That increase will now take place without the protections in place that your city promised when you submitted the project to the Bureau of Reclamation for environmental review.”

    As part of its 1041 land-use permit with Pueblo County, Colorado Springs agreed to meet requirements in a record of decision by the Bureau of Reclamation, which included a fully funded stormwater enterprise. “Temporarily stopping the project is the least that your city can do to guarantee the protections downstream communities morally and legally deserve,” Pace wrote.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: The CWQCC will appeal judge’s ruling for project water quality permit

    May 16, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously Monday to appeal the decision. The commission approved staff certification under section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act in 2010, after the decision was protested by Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition…

    “The 401 certification was fully discussed and we’re convinced we made the right decision, controls are in place and that Colorado Springs is in compliance,” said John Klomp, a former Pueblo County commissioner who sits on the state water quality board. Colorado Springs Utilities will join the state in the appeal, said spokeswoman Janet Rummel.

    “We agree with the state of Colorado that the Pueblo district court decision was erroneous and believe the court of appeals will affirm the Colorado Water Quality Control Division’s issuance of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” Rummel said…

    Ross Vincent, of the local Sierra Club and the coalition, said the state decision is not appropriate. “The Water Quality Control Commission’s decision makes no sense to me,” Vincent said. “The state did a really sloppy job in its first review of the water quality impacts of SDS. The facts are pretty clear, and that’s why Judge Reyes ruled the way he did. It would be simpler, faster, and a whole lot less expensive for the state to go back to the drawing board and do the thorough water quality review that the law requires.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


    Sand Creek: So far Suncor Energy has not been able to stanch the flow of polluted groundwater

    May 2, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Neither state regulators nor Suncor has calculated how much cancer-causing benzene and other contaminants have entered the waterways from an underground plume spreading from the refinery under the adjacent Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant. But interceptor trenches, vapor-extraction systems and recovery wells over the past five months have removed about 697,200 gallons of material from the ground, Suncor officials said Tuesday in a response to Denver Post queries.

    A fountain aeration system designed to separate benzene from water, before the creek reaches the river, has been shut down. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulators ordered the shutdown April 24. Health department spokesman Warren Smith said this was done to evaluate the effectiveness of Suncor’s underground walls and extraction systems installed on Metro Wastewater property near Sand Creek. Smith acknowledged “fluctuations” in benzene levels in the creek and river but disputed any overall upward trend…

    “We believe that the permanent solutions being installed and operated — trenching systems and treatment systems on both Suncor and Metro’s property — will effectively isolate and manage the plume and dramatically lower the dissolved benzene level in Sand Creek,” company vice president John Gallagher said in a prepared response. The latest water-test data show benzene levels at 400 parts per billion or higher in the South Platte and at two monitoring wells along Sand Creek. The federal drinking-water standard for benzene is 5 ppb. At the South Platte location (about 50 feet downriver from the confluence with Sand Creek), the 400 ppb detected April 25 was more than double the 180 ppb recorded April 6 and 73 percent higher than the 230 ppb recorded Dec. 2 — when EPA overseers launched an emergency response. Three monitoring sites along Sand Creek were tested April 2-4 and again April 9. During that period, benzene levels at the sites increased — to 150 ppb from 12 ppb; to 490 ppb from 89 ppb; and then to 510 ppb from 73 ppb. On April 25, the two sites nearest the creek bank, where black goo began oozing into the creek in November, still showed benzene concentrations of 410 ppb and 450 ppb.

    More Sand Creek coverage here. More oil and gas coverage here and here.


    2012 Colorado legislation: HB12-1161’Nutrients Scientific Advisory Bd Water Quality’ would suspend nutrient rules from the CWQCC

    April 24, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    …the Pueblo Board of Water Works broke ranks with the Colorado Water Congress and the city of Pueblo Tuesday and voted 5-0 to oppose HB1161. The bill has cleared committee and is awaiting action by the state House of Representatives. The bill would suspend rules adopted by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission last month for review by the legislative Water Resources Committee later this year. A recommendation to the commission would be made by Nov. 1…

    The Colorado Water Congress represents broad interests, many of which operate both drinking water and wastewater systems, explained Paul Fanning, legislative liaison for the water board. “It’s cheaper for drinking water providers to treat it than for dischargers,” he told the board.

    Using political means to answer scientific questions could risk federal Environmental Protection Agency intervention in Colorado water quality regulations, Fanning said.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    Brush: New wastewater treatment plant online

    April 18, 2012

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    From the Brush News Tribune (Katie Collins):

    The project also is one of the most ambitious that the city has seen in years and as of exactly 10:20 a.m. on April 12, Brush’s newest state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant is up and running, ready for all the dirtiest business that Brush can dish its way.

    On hand to get the facility rolling were Brush Mayor Dan Scalise who, along with City Administrator Monty Torres and Wastewater Manger and City of Brush Director of Utilities Dale Colerick, opened the plant in official fashion that morning as Scalise ceremoniously turned the valve to allow wastewater to flow into the facility.
    As of the opening ceremony, just 50 percent of the newest portion of the plant is seeing use as a few more processes are in need of completion, including the building of one more settling tank, completion of the UV filtering system, as well as additional fencing, seeding, grating and solids handling assembly…

    On March 12, 2012, in fact, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission opened hearings on proposed water quality standards for nutrient concentrations in the state’s rivers and lakes as well as limits on anyone who discharges into those waters. Limits were adopted and will be implemented over the next 10 years and the City of Brush’s newest plant was designed specifically to utilize new technologies in order to remove nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrates from the City’s discharge to the South Platte River.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities plans to file appeal of Judge Victor Reyes’ decision about water quality permit

    April 18, 2012

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    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

    While the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment evaluates its next move, Colorado Springs Utilities said Tuesday it plans to appeal the ruling. “Construction is proceeding,” SDS spokeswoman Janet Rummel said…

    The court ruling came after a request for a judicial review from Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition. Thiebaut argued that SDS will lead to potentially damaging water flows back to Pueblo, worsening “the existing flooding and contamination in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.” Thiebaut has a long history of opposing SDS, and during the permitting process, the labor coalition tried unsuccessfully to get Utilities to promise to use union labor for the construction of SDS…

    Rummel said the 401 certification was meant to assure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the SDS project would follow all applicable state water quality regulations and procedures. The certification was a condition of the 404 permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers for SDS. That permit is required under the U.S. Clean Water Act because the project will have permanent and temporary impacts on jurisdictional wetlands.

    Thiebaut told the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper this week that Utilities doesn’t have a valid permit for SDS. “In order for the SDS system to proceed, the owners need to obtain one from the state,” Thiebaut told the newspaper. “Approval of a new 401 certification will require a comment period and opportunity for appeal. In the alternative, the defendants can appeal to a higher court. We are prepared either way.”[...]

    Rummel said the judge’s ruling means that if the appeal is unsuccessful, the state may be required to do additional water quality evaluation. “That may result in additional mitigation for the project. That is what we believe the worst case scenario to be,” she said.

    More coverage from John Hazelhurst writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

    …thanks to SDS, we’ll have more water than we’ll ever need. Our future is assured: Our urban forest won’t die, we can keep our lawns green, and sustain ourselves indefinitely … right?

    Not quite. Even with some surprising decreases to cost projections, SDS will still run about $1.6 billion total, and has already affected our water rates. To help mitigate costs, Utilities would like to make “temporary” deals with users outside the city.

    That’s nuts. Doing so will just enable sprawl, further hollow out our tax base, and put us at risk in the years to come. Temporary deals have a way of becoming permanent. It’s best not to make such deals, and use the water to fuel our infill growth.

    More coverage from Pam Zubeck writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

    Instead of a 120 percent increase [ed. in Colorado Springs water rates] between 2011 and 2017, the hike could be less than half that under a new rate forecast being drafted. The change stems in part from the recession creating more competition among contractors — thus, lower construction costs. But the biggest reason is lower interest rates, which could save $700 million from previous estimates. While officials won’t release new projections until the May 16 Utilities Board meeting, chief financial officer Bill Cherrier says, “What I can tell you is, we probably lopped off several years of rate increases. That would be four years of 12 percent increases, instead of six or seven. Even the ones we need, we believe, will be less than 12 percent. Once we get up to a certain level of rates, we’re likely to see virtually no water increases for quite some time.”[...]

    Cherrier says the city will issue more debt for SDS in August, and in 2013 and 2014 to finish Phase 1 funding for the pipeline, construction of three pump stations and a water treatment plant, which continues even as the city spars with opponents over a water quality permit.

    In 2010, City Council raised rates by 12 percent for 2011 and 2012. Under the initial plan, the typical residential customer’s average monthly bill would have leaped by 120 percent, from $37 in 2010 to $82 in 2017. If the last three years of 12 percent rate hikes aren’t imposed, the typical increase would be 57 percent, to $58.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities plans to file appeal of Judge Victor Reyes’ decision about water quality permit

    April 17, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “We do plan to appeal the ruling,” said Janet Rummel, a spokeswoman for Utilities. “We will need to consult with the state on the timing, but anticipate it will be filed as soon as is practical.”

    The city also would have the option of following Reyes’ order and seeking another set of guidelines from the Colorado Water Quality Control Division, presumably with another hearing before the commission. The state is evaluating which course to take…

    Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut said SDS does not have a valid permit, but needs one for the project to continue. “In order for the SDS system to proceed, the owners need to obtain one from the state,” Thiebaut said. “Approval of a new 401 certification will require a comment period and opportunity for appeal. In the alternative, the defendants can appeal to a higher court…

    Reyes ruled that the adaptive management plan Colorado Springs, the state and other agencies have agreed to is not a reasonable safeguard against contamination of Fountain Creek.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities is, ‘disappointed that the Court disregarded several years of studies and evaluation’

    April 14, 2012

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    From KRDO.com (Rana Novini):

    A Pueblo County judge ruled Friday that the Southern Delivery System (SDS) would further degrade water quality and violates water quality standards in Pueblo County. The SDS water project would divert water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

    District Attorney Bill Thiebaut says he is pleased with the court’s decision. Thiebaut says he filed the lawsuit because the State of Colorado “failed to protect the citizens of Pueblo.”

    Despite the ruling, Colorado Springs Utilities announced they will continue construction of the SDS project while they evaluate their appeal rights. Utilities says it is “disappointed that the Court disregarded several years of studies and evaluation by federal and state environmental agencies and the extensive mitigation already required of the project.”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: ‘District Judge Victor Reyes set aside the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission’s decision to issue a water quality permit to Colorado Springs’ — Chieftain

    April 13, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    District Judge Victor Reyes set aside the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission’s decision to issue a water quality permit to Colorado Springs and ordered new hearings by the commission. The lawsuit was brought by Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and joined by the Rocky Mountain Environmental and Labor Coalition against the commission and Colorado Springs.

    The commission approved a Section 401 permit under the federal Clean Water Act that was approved by the Water Quality Control Division in April 2010. However, in upholding the staff decision to grant the permit, the commission failed to consider scientific evidence and instead relied on “gut feeling” and “best professional judgment” in approving the permit, Reyes said in a 57-page ruling. Under deposition, a staff member admitted that no scientific measurement was used in reaching a decision. Reyes also chided the state for not documenting its findings, not evaluating the impacts of growth and failing to use its own methodology.

    Thiebaut and the environmental groups argued that the impact of 800,000 people living in El Paso County by 2030 had not been fully considered, and that water quality in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River would be significantly degraded…

    Ross Vincent of the Sierra Club praised the decision as well. “Clean water is really important, and the agencies we rely on to keep it clean are not getting the job done,” Vincent said. “The decision shows Colorado Springs Utilities is not above the law. Urban growth and water quality are unavoidably linked and the state must consider those links when evaluating big projects like SDS.”

    More coverage from Pam Zubeck writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

    The decision is a blow to Colorado Springs Utilities’ SDS pipeline project, now under construction, that will bring water here from Pueblo Reservoir. Utilities’ spokeswoman Janet Rummel explains in an e-mail to the Indy:

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Water Quality Control Division (Division) issued a 401 water quality certification under the Clean Water Act for the SDS project in April 2010, certifying that SDS would comply with all applicable state water quality requirements. The Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition (RMELC) and Pueblo County District Attorney, Bill Thiebaut, then appealed the CDPHE 401 certification for SDS.

    Following extensive review, including testimony from experts at a hearing in December 2010, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously in January 2011 to confirm the SDS 401 Certification issued by the Water Quality Control Division.

    Today, we received Pueblo County Judge Reyes’ ruling regarding the RMELC and District Attorney Thiebaut’s request for a judicial review of the Commission’s affirmation of the Division’s certification. The judge reversed the Commission’s ruling and sent the case back to the Division to revise the 401 Certification.

    We are disappointed that the Court disregarded several years of studies and evaluation by federal and state environmental agencies and the extensive mitigation already required of the project.

    We are currently evaluating our appeal rights and coordinating with the appropriate state and federal agencies.

    Construction of the SDS project is proceeding — providing hundreds of regional jobs and infusing tens of millions of dollars in the southern Colorado economy — while we work to resolve this issue in the courts.

    Meanwhile, Colorado Springs has filed an application in water court to build a terminal reservoir for SDS on Williams Creek (same site planned for the Flaming Gorge pipeline), according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The Utilities reservoir is part of a future phase of the Southern Delivery System. The first phase of SDS is a 50-mile long, 66-inch diameter pipeline, new outlet works at Pueblo Dam, three pump stations and a treatment plant now under construction. Completion is expected in 2016. To fully use the pipeline’s entire capacity, the reservoir would be built to provide terminal storage before water is treated. It would be developed in the 2020-25 timeframe. A March filing in Division 2 Water Court indicates a 129-foot high dam, spanning 8,100 feet would detain about 30,500 acre-feet of water. Water would come through the Williams Creek drainage, exchanges from other sources and direct deliveries from SDS…

    It’s no secret that Colorado Springs has had designs on the site for years. The site was part of a water court exchange application Colorado Springs filed in 2007, when it was listed as an alternative site in the SDS study. After problems with Colorado Springs’ first choice for SDS terminal storage at Jimmy Camp Creek, to the north of Williams Creek, surfaced in 2008, the Bureau of Reclamation identified Williams Creek as the preferred location. In 2010, the El Paso County planning commission approved the site for location of a reservoir. In 2011, under state legislation adopted the previous year (HB1165), the State Land Board approved sale of land for the reservoir.

    But much of the site is on private land owned by the Norris family, which has filed to create the Marlborough Metropolitan District…

    The Marlborough district would be to construct a 30,000 acre-foot reservoir for regional use as well as recreation. Located south of the Colorado Springs site, it could be expanded with a higher earthen dam, according to engineering reports. The site also is identified as terminal storage for Aaron Million’s Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal…

    There are major differences in approach. Utilities plan would require relocating part of Bradley Road, while the Norris plan does not. The Norris family also has discussed sharing revenue from storage fees with the State Land Board as an alternative to buying that portion of the land, Duncan said.

    More coverage from Ryan Maye Handy writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

    The crucial 401 certification, which has been battled over for two years, is headed back to the Colorado Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division. The division granted the certification for Utilities’ Southern Delivery System, a 62-mile-long pipeline, in April 2010. Pueblo County Judge Victor Reyes upheld concerns about the project and reversed a January 2011 decision by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to confirm the certification, according to Janet Rummel, a spokeswoman for the project. The 401 certification is a prerequisite for the only remaining obstacle in the project’s completion — a 404 permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…

    Since 2010, the SDS project has battled with the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Thiebaut over its 401 certification. Thiebaut and the coalition challenged the project’s certification when it was granted two years ago.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Environmental Working Group: The drinking water used by millions of Americans is contaminated!

    April 12, 2012

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    Colorado is debating new standards for nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater streams to reduce nutrients in surface water ahead of a federal mandate.

    Here’s a research paper on the problem from the Environmental Working Group (Olga V. Naidenko/Craig Cox/Nils Bruzelius). Here’s the executive summary:

    Water that runs off fields treated with chemical fertilizers and manure is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus, two potent pollutants that inevitably end up in rivers and lakes and set off a cascade of harmful consequences, contaminating the drinking water used by millions of Americans. Treating this water after the fact to clean up the contamination is increasingly expensive, difficult and, if current trends continue, ultimately unsustainable. The only solution that will preserve the clean, healthy and tasty drinking water that people expect is to tackle the problem at the source. This paper explains why.

    Nitrate, the most common form of nitrogen in surface and groundwater, is directly toxic to human health. Infants who drink water with high nitrate levels can develop an acute, life-threatening blood disorder called blue baby syndrome. high nitrate levels in water can also affect thyroid function in adults and increase the risk of thyroid cancer.

    Phosphorus stimulates explosive blooms of aquatic algae, including the especially dangerous cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that produce toxins that can be deadly to pets, livestock, wildlife – and people. Toxins pro- duced by cyanobacteria can harm the nervous system, cause stomach and intestinal illness and kidney disease, trigger allergic responses and damage the liver. Even after a brief exposure, cyanobacterial toxins can cause skin rashes, eye irritation and breathing problems.

    The cascade continues when utilities try to combat these and other threats by treating drinking water with chemical disinfectants such as chlorine. Treating algal contamination this way gives rise to carcinogenic disinfection byproducts, whose levels typically spike during the summer months – when algae blooms peak. Commonly used measures to reduce algal contamination add hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to water utilities’ treatment costs. Algae can also give tap water an unpleasant taste and smell, a recurrent annoyance for agricultural areas and the water utilities that serve them.

    This report focused on four states in the core of the Midwestern corn belt – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Nutrient overload in surface and groundwater is a significant water quality problem for these states, making nitrate and phosphorus levels higher and algal blooms more frequent compared to national averages.

    To tackle polluted source water, water utilities in the region are often forced to install expensive treatment plants that can cost millions to install and operate. USDA economists estimate that removing nitrate alone from drinking water costs more than $4.8 billion a year. The cost of dealing with algal blooms is particularly daunting. The total capital cost of water treatment that would address cyanobacterial blooms and cyanotoxins, can range between $12 million and $56 million for a town of 100,000 people.

    The only true solution is to confront the issue upstream, at the point where pollution – much of it from farms – first flows into America’s precious surface water and groundwater. This year’s debate over renewing the federal farm bill is a referendum on America’s commitment to protecting our drinking water supplies at the source.

    With the exception of large animal feeding operations, farm businesses are exempt from the pollution control requirements of the federal Clean Water Act, and few states have authority to compel farm businesses to adopt practices that reduce the amount of farm pollution reaching our rivers, lakes and bays. As a result, the farm bill, which is renewed every five years, serves as the primary tool for addressing the environmental damage caused by polluted runoff from agricultural operations.

    Congress should take three steps to ensure the new farm bill protects drinking water:

    · Reform Farm Subsidies – Congress should end direct payments, reduce subsidies for farm insurance programs and refuse to create new farm entitlement programs that encourage all-out production to the detriment of the environment. Instead, lawmakers should help farmers when they suffer deep losses in yields and provide options for them to purchase additional crop and revenue insurance at their own expense.

    · Renew the Conservation Compact — Congress should renew the “conservation compliance” provisions of the 1985 farm bill by relinking wetland and soil protection requirements to crop insurance programs. In addition, legislators should require farm businesses that receive subsidies to update their conservation plans and should strengthen the government’s enforcement tools.

    · Strengthen Conservation Incentive Programs – Congress should strengthen programs that reward farmers who take steps to protect sources of drinking water. In addition to providing adequate fund- ing, Congress should expand “collaborative conservation” tools that award funds to groups of farmers working together to protect drinking water sources. Greater focus should be placed on restoring buffers and wetlands that filter runoff of farm pollutants.

    Meanwhile, here’s a analysis closer to home from Dan Randolph running in The Durango Herald. From the article:

    In 2002, the Animas River through Durango experienced algae blooms, and with the possibility of low water levels again this year, the risk is again on some of our minds. Right now, the Animas River in New Mexico, from the state line down to Farmington, where it joins with the San Juan, is out of compliance with New Mexico’s nutrient standards. This is not a theoretical issue…

    For a decade, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and hundreds of stakeholders from throughout the state have wrestled with developing nutrient standards for Colorado’s rivers and streams. In March, the commission preliminarily adopted a two-pronged approach to nutrients that reflects Colorado’s needs and abilities. The proposed rules recognize that meeting new standards will take both time and flexibility. The rules include a generous implementation timeline for wastewater treatment plants to upgrade their systems, and voluntary programs for farmers and ranchers.

    The system the Water Quality Control Commission has set out will be refined to meet the individual needs of each stream or river during the regular review of water-quality standards done for metals and other pollutants, and treatment-plant reviews. Known as the triennial review process, each of Colorado’s nine river basins is studied in turn, and standards are determined. Under the new rules, these standards will now also include nutrients. The San Juan, Dolores and Gunnison basins will undergo this review process later this year.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    Becky Long: ‘Phosphorus and nitrogen are incredibly prevalent…we’ve ignored it for 20 years’

    March 23, 2012

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    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    “Phosphorus and nitrogen are incredibly prevalent. They’re in animal waste, human waste, fertilizer, and we’ve ignored it for 20 years,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. If left unaddressed the pollution causes algae blooms and dead zones in waterways, impacting aquatic wildlife and Colorado’s outdoor recreation opportunities. Long said she’s encouraged by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission’s early support for the new standards limiting nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The rule is still subject to challenge at subsequent hearings, as well EPA review and final approval. Long said the standards go beyond simply protecting aquatic life and human health by addressing potential impacts to recreation…

    Phosphorus has been identified as a potential problem in Cherry Creek reservoir. In the high country, effluents from Grand County have affected water quality in Grand Lake. The two pollutants are a problem anywhere there’s a lot of effluent going back to the stream, for example downstream of the metro wastewater treatment facilities east of Denver, Long said, explaining that the new rules are forward looking and will protect water quality for the next 50 years, as the state’s population grows by up to 5 million.

    While she expects some challenges from agricultural stakeholders and perhaps some municipalities, Long said the rules are written with built-in flexibility and can be implemented in phases, as waste water treatment plants plan for future upgrades. State water quality regulators were responsive to small- and mid-sized communities as they crafted the rule, she said.

    Finally, it’s important to remember that the pollution generated in Colorado have impacts far beyond the borders of the state. Addressing the issue of nutrients here helps tackle the serious issue of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, Long said. “We need to own the fact that this is us causing the problem. It’s not Mr. Burns, it’s us, every time we flush the toilet. If we don’t pass the state rule, we could meet the same fate as Florida. The EPA will write a rule that’s a lot more stringent and we’ll lose our chance to do this at the state level,” she said.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    Colorado adopts new standards for phosphorus and nitrogen in wastewater treatment plant releases ahead of anticipated EPA rules

    March 17, 2012

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    From NBCNews11.com (Andie Adams):

    The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has given preliminary approval to regulations that would limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in bodies of water statewide.

    “When you get too many nutrients in a water body, then it can make algae bloom more, then when that dies, it robs the stream of oxygen. So you can have problems for fish and aquatic organisms,” said Hannah Holm, coordinator of CMU’s Water Center…

    “Some people are making the argument that it’s not clear that nutrients are really a major environmental and water quality problem here in the Grand Valley,” said [Hannah Holm, coordinator of CMU's Water Center].

    But water director Jennifer Bock with the High country citizen’s alliance said for this area, the regulations would be preventative. “We’ve seen bad algae on the Front Range and we want to protect the west slope so this is just a good first step to get ahead of the problem,” said Bock.

    The rules are broken down into two sets. The first would require large wastewater treatment plants, like Grand Junction’s Persigo plant, to control their nitrogen and phosphorus levels. “Those guys will be affected in the next couple of years. Their permits will come up and they’ll work with the state to see what they need to do to come in with compliance,” said Bock.

    The second set would require that all bodies of water comply with the nutrient amounts by 2024. That includes drainage authorities and districts. “We have to monitor this and make sure the quality is what these regulations require it’s going to cost a lot of money to do that,” said Kevin Williams, manager for the Grand Valley Drainage District.

    He said he is worried that these regulations will become an unfunded mandate. “A benefit analysis that was done is that right now in this first phase, this is going to encumber the people of the state of Colorado almost $2.5 billion, and it’s unfunded. In other words, the state isn’t helping us out,” Williams.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby) via Google Groups:

    After nearly three days of public testimony and several more hours of deliberation, the nine-member commission gave its initial approval late Wednesday of more than 600 pages of new regulations that are designed to limit how much nitrogen and phosphorus can be in the state’s rivers and streams.

    The final regulations will be reviewed again in May, with the new regulations going into effect June 30, said Steve Gunderson, executive director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. “The commission gave preliminary approval to much of the water control division’s final proposal regarding nutrients management,” Gunderson said. “The only major substantive difference is relaxation of the total inorganic limitation for existing facilities from 10 milligrams a liter to 15 milligrams.”

    He said the new rules will impact only the largest wastewater treatment plants in the state, which account for 10 percent of all plants. Those 44 plants include the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant in Grand Junction. Wastewater treatment plant officials statewide, who opposed the new regulations, said it could cost them up to $2 billion in new equipment, saying those costs will be borne by ratepayers. Persigo officials estimated their new costs at upwards to $24 million.

    Gunderson, who calls high nutrient levels one of the biggest water-quality challenges facing the nation, said the limits are designed to protect the state’s waterways from too much algae. High algae levels can create oxygen-dead zones that can kill plants and aquatic life.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    EPA launches new website about nutrient pollution

    March 13, 2012

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    Here’s the link to the shiny new EPA website about nutrient pollution.

    Thanks to the Colorado Environmental Coalition Twitter Feed (@coenviroco) for the heads up.

    More water pollution coverage here.


    Colorado is proposing new nutrient standards for nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater streams

    February 28, 2012

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    I missed this opinion piece in favor of tougher nutrient standards from Ross Vincent and Seve Glazer that is running in The Pueblo Chieftain. It was part of a point/counterpoint that the Chieftain ran on Sunday. Here’s my original post. Thanks to Desmid for the heads up in the comments for the post. Here’s an excerpt from the article I missed:

    …imagine our disappointment at learning that the city of Pueblo has joined forces with some other municipal dischargers in attempting to weaken new clean water protections proposed by the state health department. The issue in this case is nutrients — predominantly chemicals containing nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients are commonly found in lawn and agricultural fertilizers, in some commercial products (such as cleaners), in some industrial discharges, and in human and animal excrement. They find their way into our streams and lakes primarily in urban, suburban, and industrial discharges, and in urban and agricultural runoff. Here on the Front Range, the biggest sources are municipal sewage and stormwater discharges.

    When nutrient pollution is allowed to accumulate in our lakes and rivers, it can harm aquatic life, sometimes causing fish kills. In drinking water, it can compromise human health because some nitrogen and phosphorus compounds are toxic and others can react with disinfectants used to kill bacteria in drinking water treatment facilities to form cancer-causing disinfection by-products. Levels of both nitrogen and phosphorus in parts of the Arkansas River basin are already more than 10 times higher than what should occur naturally, and we should expect those levels to get worse if Colorado’s Front Range population continues to grow as expected.

    Some cities, like Pueblo, are arguing that the cost of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus levels in their discharges will be too high, that no one will want to pay for the necessary treatment, and that we should only address part of the problem — the phosphorus part — because only treating for phosphorus will be cheaper.

    That is a stunningly shortsighted and ultimately self-defeating argument. It is eerily reminiscent of the complaints we sometimes hear from big industrial polluters when science reveals problems with pollutants in their discharges. If the state fails to act responsibly on both phosphorus and nitrogen pollution now, it is likely that the federal government will step in with more stringent requirements, with shorter fuses and even more costly solutions.

    If the city’s arguments prevail, all the city will have succeeded in doing is to delay the inevitable. The nitrogen pollution problem will not go away. As ratepayers, we will be required to invest in phosphorus-only treatment now and then we will be hit again later with additional and duplicative improvements in our city’s wastewater treatment systems to deal with nitrogen.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    The City of Pueblo supports the phosphorus-only alternative for proposed new nutrient standards for wastewater treatment plants

    February 26, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column written by Gene Michael [wastewater director for the city of Pueblo] running in The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The state’s original proposal, Regulation 31, would set stringent standards for phosphorus and nitrogen that would cost approximately $25 billion to implement statewide, according to a cost-benefit study conducted by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority.

    An alternative, Regulation 85, would reduce the immediate cost to about $2.5 billion statewide by postponing the more stringent requirement for 10 years. In addition to cost considerations, there are flaws in the scientific methods used to develop the proposed standards that are too complex to discuss here.

    Either of these alternatives would require a greater level of wastewater treatment than Pueblo’s water reclamation facility can provide. It will be necessary to raise wastewater rates to comply.

    Pueblo supports the third alternative, which sets standards for phosphorus only. The phosphorus-only alternative would cost only about $521 million statewide, because removing nitrogen to low levels is much more costly than removing phosphorus. We know it will work because Colorado has successfully used phosphorus-only controls to protect large lakes and drinking water reservoirs, including Lake Dillon, Chatfield Reservoir, and Cherry Creek Reservoir for more than 20 years. Pueblo’s water reclamation facility will be able to meet a phosphorus-only limit without taking on more debt for construction of new facilities.

    Pueblo and the United States in general have a split personality when it comes to water quality. On one hand, everyone knows we need and want clean water. On the other hand, nobody wants to pay. And therein lies the issue. The living cells of your body produce waste products that the body has to eliminate. And when we do, the materials we flush away are rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. With nutrients, you cause the issue, and you have to pay for it.

    More wastewater coverage here and here.


    Proposed new state nitrogen and phosphorus standards for wastewater plants are under attack

    January 22, 2012

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    Here’s a report from Barbara Cotter writing for The Colorado Springs Independent. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The proposed regulations are meant to address a stronger nationwide push from the Environmental Protection Agency to cut the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus discharged from wastewater treatment plants into rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. But opponents question the science used to support the need for the regulations, and warn that water bills could double or even triple for some Colorado ratepayers if municipalities are forced to upgrade their facilities.

    Earlier this month, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper urging him to block the proposed regulations. The same day, Republican state Sen. Steve King of Grand Junction introduced a bill that would essentially place a moratorium on the adoption of regulations.

    “This action is not mandated by federal law, nor is it based on any demonstrated adverse environmental impacts occurring in Colorado waters from our facilities,” the PPACG wrote to Hickenlooper. “The cost of implementing such regulations on small and medium-sized communities will be staggering, and we ask for your intervention to stop this regulatory mandate.

    Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, defends the science, but acknowledges that compliance could be costly. However, he notes, only about 30 percent of wastewater plants in Colorado would be affected by the regulations, which are, at the outset, more lenient than what some environmentalists might consider ideal.

    Mostly, he says, the state needs to act before the EPA steps in. “We continue to believe that is to Colorado’s benefit to start addressing the nutrients so it’s not forced on us by means of a lawsuit of the EPA dictating to us what needs to be done,” Gunderson says…

    To [Tad Foster, a Colorado Springs environmental attorney specializing in water quality issues], the site-specific approach is ideal, but given the reality of the situation, he and the Colorado Nutrient Coalition are proposing that limits be imposed on phosphorus, not nitrogen, at least for the time being. “Why? Because the cost of doing total nitrogen is six times the cost of doing total phosphorus,” Foster says.

    He estimates the cost to wastewater plants to control just phosphorus would be $635 million, compared with $2.46 billion to regulate both nitrogen and phosphorus. And that’s just to meet less restrictive standards. To go whole-hog with the “ultimate set” of restrictions for nitrogen and phosphorus would, according to varying estimates, cost from $20 billion to $25 billion.

    Gunderson says the state is proposing regulations on both nitrogen and phosphorus for a reason. “Our science, and what we assert, is, you really have to address both of them,” he says. “If you address one and not the other, you’re not going to see a lot of progress. They’re both fertilizers; if you put nitrogen on your lawn and not phosphorous, your lawn will still turn green.”

    But the proposed regulations do not impose the most restrictive limits, he says. “It starts knocking it down. We’re trying to find a way to start putting a dent in this thing,” Gunderson says…

    Still, there’s fear among many communities that they’ll be socked with a massive bill. Like the PPACG, the Colorado Rural Community Coalition wrote a letter to Hickenlooper that was signed by 12 wastewater dischargers in El Paso County, expressing concern about the regulations. Gunderson says that about half of the opponents who have signed letters wouldn’t be affected by the current proposal.

    Gunderson understands the opposition to the regulations, but says doing nothing is not an option. “I continue to believe that it makes sense to do this here, rather than having it forced upon us, which one day it will.”

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    Officials with the Colorado Water Quality Control Division say the new rules are needed to prevent even stricter ones from being imposed on the state by the federal government. At the same time, local wastewater experts say the proposed rules, known as Regulations 31 and 85, will do little to nothing to clean the state’s waterways. The issue centers on the amount of nutrients that end up in the state’s rivers and lakes. Having too many nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus — causes algae to grow. That, in turn, saps oxygen from the water, creating so-called dead zones, places where nothing can grow and fish can live, said Steve Gunderson, executive director of the water division.

    While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn’t mandating what Colorado is considering, the federal agency ultimately will impose something even more stringent if the state doesn’t act on its own, he said. “The EPA has been pushing for states to do something for quite a few years,” Gunderson said. “It is one of the nation’s biggest water quality challenges. (The nutrients) causes a water body to get choked. It will rob the water body of oxygen, and it will raise the pH, the level of corrosivity, in the water. It can adversely impact aquatic life.”[...]

    The division has filed about 600 pages worth of rules and other accompanying documents with the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission that call for lowering phosphorus and nitrogen levels to virtually zero over the next 10 years. The commission is holding a public hearing on the rules in the spring, with an expectation of having them go into effect by June 1…

    Eileen List, industrial pretreatment supervisor for the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant in Grand Junction, said the city still is studying the proposed rules, but that it could cost as much as $24 million to comply with just with one portion of them. “When you get into Reg 85, there are impacts not just to wastewater facilities, but there are impacts to stormwater facilities as well as drinking water facilities,” List said. “This is where the city is still in the process of understanding the regulation.”[...]

    So far, officials from 32 local entities have signed a letter complaining about the proposed rules, including the Clifton and Orchard Mesa sanitation districts, the Grand Valley Drainage District, the Battlement Mesa Metropolitan District and the towns of Rangely, Cedaredge, De Beque and Nucla. In the letter that is to be sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper by the end of the week, the officials say the regulations will cost all of them about $2 billion to be in compliance, and ask that he delay it until more scientific research can be done. “The state has not been able to show us that Colorado has a problem with nutrients,” said Michael Wicklund, manager of the Monument Sanitation District, who started the letter. “There is no funding from the state for any of this, or the federal government.”[...]

    Eric Brown, the governor’s press secretary, said Hickenlooper will allow the public hearing process to run its course, and doesn’t plan to intercede.

    Meanwhile, state Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes next month calling for a five-year moratorium on the rule, to give local communities more time to study its impact. King said the proposed regulation is contrary to an executive order issued by the governor earlier this year to limit state regulations that prove too onerous while the state is recovering from the recession.

    More wastewater coverage here.


    CWQCD’s proposed stricter wastewater treatment plant effluent standards for nitrogen and phosphorus will be costly

    December 27, 2011

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    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    Officials with the Colorado Water Quality Control Division say the new rules are needed to prevent even stricter ones from being imposed on the state by the federal government. At the same time, local wastewater experts say the proposed rules, known as Regulations 31 and 85, will do little to nothing to clean the state’s waterways.

    The issue centers on the amount of nutrients that end up in the state’s rivers and lakes. Having too many nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus — causes algae to grow. That, in turn, saps oxygen from the water, creating so-called dead zones, places where nothing can grow and fish can live, said Steve Gunderson, executive director of the water division.

    While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn’t mandating what Colorado is considering, the federal agency ultimately will impose something even more stringent if the state doesn’t act on its own, he said. “The EPA has been pushing for states to do something for quite a few years,” Gunderson said. “It is one of the nation’s biggest water quality challenges. (The nutrients) causes a water body to get choked. It will rob the water body of oxygen, and it will raise the pH, the level of corrosivity, in the water. It can adversely impact aquatic life.”[...]

    The division has filed about 600 pages worth of rules and other accompanying documents with the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission that call for lowering phosphorus and nitrogen levels to virtually zero over the next 10 years. The commission is holding a public hearing on the rules in the spring, with an expectation of having them go into effect by June 1…

    Local wastewater experts…say there’s no scientific evidence that shows all wastewater treatment plants are releasing too many nutrients, and have asked for more time to research the matter…

    The commission is to vote on the proposed rule in March, but the city only has until Jan. 20 to file a prehearing statement if it intends to challenge any part of it…

    So far, officials from 32 local entities have signed a letter complaining about the proposed rules, including the Clifton and Orchard Mesa sanitation districts, the Grand Valley Drainage District, the Battlement Mesa Metropolitan District and the towns of Rangely, Cedaredge, De Beque and Nucla. In the letter that is to be sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper by the end of the week, the officials say the regulations will cost all of them about $2 billion to be in compliance, and ask that he delay it until more scientific research can be done…

    Meanwhile, state Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said he plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes next month calling for a five-year moratorium on the rule, to give local communities more time to study its impact…

    Gunderson said all this may be much a-do about nothing. He says the division already has limited the scope of the proposed regulation only to larger plants, and is willing to limit it even further to include specific areas of the state.

    More wastewater coverage here.


    Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County D.A. Thiebaut files appeal over the Colorado Water Quality Control Division’s issuance of a water quality certification permit for the project

    March 16, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker):

    The appeal, which was filed in Pueblo District Court, names Colorado Springs Utilities, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and Steven H. Gunderson, director of the water quality control division, as defendants. Thiebaut claims their actions to approve a certification for SDS were arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law. He has asked the court to reverse the decisions by the division and commission, and declare they exceeded their jurisdiction or abused discretion in issuing the certification. The appeal also asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the water quality division and the commission from taking any action contrary to the court’s order…

    It also claims the approval of the certificate by the Water Quality Control Division and its commission failed to comply with public notice requirements and anti-degradation requirements. The division’s certificate and the commission’s affirmation of the permit” was not based on a reliable scientific or quantitative methodology or competent evidence,” the suit stated…

    Further, the appeal claims that the determinations SDS would cause no significant degradation to water quality on the Arkansas and Fountain or that water quality standards would be met weren’t supported by any facts, data or analysis in the record…

    Finally, the appeal claims the Water Quality Control Division failed to conduct a full analysis of whether SDS would degrade water quality or whether the degradation was necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the area.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Gunnison River basin: CPDHE orders U.S. Energy Corp. to clean up water from the Mt. Emmons mine

    January 14, 2011

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    From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

    The first thing to know is that the town of Crested Butte drinking water is fine…

    The state is demanding that U.S. Energy Corp, the company that ultimately owns the Mt. Emmons Project molybdenum mine, correct the situation immediately. U.S. Energy CEO Keith Larsen said the company is confident the situation will be rectified. “We can work through the issues. We want to have a face-to-face meeting with the state to talk about the things found in the report,” he said. “But the crux of the issue is, what is the obligation of a landowner to treat those waters that are contaminated with heavy metals that migrate onto your property during a heavy runoff?”

    The state’s Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has given U.S. Energy until this week to respond to findings outlined by the department. An official “Compliance Advisory letter” was sent to U.S. Energy at the end of December. That letter “is intended to advise US Energy Corp. of possible violations of the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, its implementing regulations and permits, so that it may take appropriate steps to avoid or mitigate formal enforcement action.” The company must begin increased monitoring of the water immediately and “prepare a plan to reduce concentrations to below the standard, review with the Division and implement the plan as approved by the Division.” A progress report is expected by February 1 with regular updates expected throughout the year.

    According to the letter from the state, sampling conducted by the mine company on its property between the fall of 2008 and the fall of 2010 showed violations in water quality standards. In May 2009, huge violations of the water quality standards in terms of heavy metals including aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead manganese, pH and zinc were found. The samples in some cases were more than 30 times the upper limit of the state’s standards. For example, the upper limit for cadmium is 4.3 micrograms per liter but 140.6 micrograms per liter were found. The upper limit for aluminum is 750 micrograms per liter. But the sample showed 11,497.9 micrograms per liter…

    “I think what happened was that naturally occurring seepage from the mountain after the snowfall runoff picked up some metals,” Larsen continued. “We are the ones monitoring the situation.” “I think what it gets down to is, what is the obligation of any landowner to treat offsite heavy metals that migrate onto your property with heavy runoff. Is that our obligation?

    Other landowners in the Crested Butte area might be subject to the same responsibility.” [High Country Citizens’ Alliance executive director Dan Morse] said HCCA feels the polluted water is coming off U.S. Energy’s private land and unpatented mining claims. “We understand there is a bulkhead in the 2000 level of the Keystone mine [2,000 feet below the Mt. Emmons peak] that is holding back about 170 vertical feet of water,” said Morse. “The question is, does all that water create artificial seeps and springs that allows polluted water to reach the surface? Are there fractures in the rock causing this water to get to the surface and ultimately pollute Coal Creek? The fact is, Coal Creek is contaminated with heavy metals… and the question remains, are they from this source?”

    More Gunnison River basin coverage here.


    The Colorado Water Quality Control Division asks for more dough and personnel

    January 14, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    John Klomp, a former Pueblo County commissioner who now sits on the state Water Quality Control Commission, said there aren’t enough people working in the division to police every waterway. At the same time, there needs to be emphasis on Fountain Creek and Klomp is working to assure the manpower is available to evaluate information provided to the state. “Fountain Creek is a higher priority. It needs to be monitored and monitored regularly,” Klomp said.

    The Water Quality Control Division listed the primary “workload drivers” that will lead to the shortage of manpower in the memo:

    - Population growth, that increases demand for a static or declining water supply and increases the number of permits needed. The state has nearly doubled the number of stormwater permits since 2004, for example.

    - New and revised rules and regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency will mean more complex permit enforcement.

    - The number of samples requiring evaluation jumped from about 640,000 in 2002 to more than 1 million last year. Court rulings require more things be monitored. For example, a 2009 ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an EPA rule exempting pesticide applications from discharge permits. That action alone will increase the number of discharge permits by 2,000, or 20 percent of the state total.

    - Aging and failing water and wastewater infrastructure will increase demand for funds, as well as state oversight.

    The impacts of trying to keep up with the required work would mean the division has to prioritize inspections, focusing primarily on emergencies. That would reduce protection, the memo states. The division responds to 40 to 60 emergency situations annually.

    Right now, the state annually inspects less than 3 percent of 5,500 activities covered under stormwater permits, and less than half of the state’s 2,000 wastewater discharge facilities. About 200 wastewater facilities are discharging domestic waste to groundwater without a permit, endangering the quality of groundwater.

    More water pollution coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Colorado Water Quality Control Commission affirms the state Water Quality Control Division’s decision for 401 certification for the project

    January 12, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The certification is needed before work on SDS may begin…

    At a hearing in December, lawyers for the coalition and Thiebaut argued that numeric standards are needed to determine how SDS will affect levels of contaminants such as selenium and E. coli in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

    Colorado Springs and state lawyers argued for an adaptive management plan, which was described in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement for SDS, that would provide flexibility in dealing with future problems…

    Colorado Springs lawyers also defended the city’s 2009 decision to eliminate a stormwater enterprise that figured heavily into protection of Fountain Creek, assuring the state that other provisions were in place to control stormwater.

    “It’s pretty clear to me that the division and the commission have bent over backward to accommodate Colorado Springs and its SDS partners,” said Ross Vincent of the local Sierra Club, a member of the coalition. “Without seeing the written decision, it’s inconceivable to me that the commission can justify supporting the division’s decision.” Vincent pointed to a budget briefing by the division last month, which acknowledged that the division does not have adequate funding to perform all of the duties required by the Legislature. The Dec. 22 memo claims the division would need more than 30 additional employees to keep up with the current workload of permits and inspections. The adaptive management plan relies on Colorado Springs to monitor itself, in much the same way that other compromises have been negotiated, Vincent said…

    [Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut] said he will wait until a written decision is issued before deciding how to proceed. “Our office is disappointed with the decision and direction of the Water Quality Control Commission. We will assess our legal options after receiving the written decision,” Thiebaut said. “The Bureau of Reclamation’s study showed that the SDS project will further degrade water quality in Pueblo County. Yet again, Colorado Springs will benefit from the project and Pueblo will be harmed,” he said. Thiebaut also questioned the state’s ability to enforce water quality laws. “I am concerned that the Water Quality Control Division does not utilize adequate information when making their decisions, and they fail to effectively respond to the current and future challenges of protecting and restoring the integrity of Colorado’s water bodies, including our Fountain Creek and Arkansas River,” Thiebaut said.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Colorado Water Quality Control Commission affirms the state Water Quality Control Division’s decision for 401 certification for the project

    January 11, 2011

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    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

    The Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut had appealed the 401 certification. They claimed that SDS failed to comply with all applicable state water quality requirements, among other assertions. They asked the commission to set aside the certification or send it back for further review.

    Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, a strong proponent of SDS, hailed Monday’s vote, saying the attempt to overturn the 401 certification was rooted in politics. “I think it highlights again that Bill Thiebaut is all about political grandstanding than actually prosecuting or spending his time on issues,” Rivera said…

    The 401 certification was a prerequisite to the 404 permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the last major approval Utilities needed for SDS.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Colorado Water Quality Control Division 401 certification challenge recap

    December 15, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Colorado Water Control Commission, which oversees the division, heard testimony on the appeal of the certification at an all-day meeting Tuesday. The commission did not reach a decision, choosing to consider some points in executive session and deferring discussion and a ruling to a meeting at a later date. The case apparently is the first time a Section 401 certification has been appealed in Colorado…

    Rather than set numeric standards for selenium, sulfates and E. coli levels that will increase as a result of SDS, the state chose instead to allow monitoring and cooperative action outlined in the adaptive management plan, Barth said. “There was no analysis done, and everything was based on a gut feeling,” Barth said in summarizing an eight-hour deposition of John Hranac, the state employee primarily involved with the Section 401 certification…

    Barth continued to hammer on his point that there need to be specific limits on discharges because the streams already are impaired. Barth also said the state failed to look at how increased sanitary sewer and stormwater flows that will result from SDS will affect water quality on Fountain Creek and in the Arkansas River. The state ignored the demise of a stormwater enterprise that was used in the EIS adaptive management plan, he said. The division also didn’t take into account the high number of violations of water quality laws Colorado Springs has had over the past 12 years, he added. “There have been repeated violations that resulted in fines from the division and from federal courts,” Barth said, pointing out that some of the sewer line breaks were a direct result of lines crossing channels that washed out during floods. “Now you add more water? It’s putting more flame on the fire.” Barth, along with the coalition’s attorney Susan Eckert, asked the commission to either deny certification or remand the decision to the water quality division to develop numeric standards and analyze growth as a part of the process.

    Colorado Springs argued that the scope of the certification is narrowly defined as a step toward a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow digging and dredging in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. “The pipeline and treatment plants (in SDS) do not include any discharges,” said Jennifer Hunt, an attorney for Colorado Springs…

    During questioning by Colorado Springs Utilities’ attorney David Robbins, SDS Project Director John Fredell said growth will occur with or without SDS, and that the project has other purposes — including providing redundancy of water delivery systems, reliability of service and development of water rights. Annette Quill, the state’s attorney, argued the adaptive management plan is enforceable, and defended the division staff as using their “best professional judgment,” not a gut reaction, to make the decision to certify SDS. The state favored the adaptive management plan rather than a strict limit on contaminants, said Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division. “An adaptive management program made sense, because you could study this thing to death and still not be conclusive,” Gunderson said. “Fountain Creek involves as much scrutiny as any basin in the state, and we’re definitely going to be involved.”

    More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

    State regulators Tuesday delayed a decision until next month on a dispute involving Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System water pipeline. The group Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut have challenged a water-quality certification obtained by Utilities in April.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission will hear Fountain Creek water quality objections Tuesday

    December 12, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Water Quality Control Commission will meet Tuesday in Denver on an appeal by the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and [Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut] of certification issued to Colorado Springs Utilities and its SDS partners under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The state Water Quality Control Division certified SDS, a project that would build a pipeline from Pueblo Dam to serve Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West. The permit was issued earlier this year, and is necessary for a separate permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that allows construction of a pipeline across Fountain Creek.

    “The division has, in effect, done nothing more than simply rubber-stamp the prior proceedings of the federal and local agencies that reviewed the SDS project under other programs,” said Joe Santarella, attorney for the coalition.

    Here’s an interesting side story from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Colorado Springs Utilities approached former Pueblo County Commissioner John Klomp shortly after his final term ended in 2005 to promote the Southern Delivery System.

    He turned them down.

    The information was included in a disclosure statement by Klomp, who is now a member of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, as the commission prepares to hear an appeal of SDS certification under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act.

    Meanwhile the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board heard a proposal for a regional stormwater authority in the Fountain Creek watershed. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The board is reviewing the proposal by Summit Economics, a firm that has done Colorado, national and global economic research since 1981. Senior partners include Dave Bamberger, Tom Binnings, Paul Rochette, Mike Anderson and Tucker Hart Adams.

    They propose a $37,500 project that would include interviews with key people and development of alternatives to provide funding for needed stormwater control projects. The main results would be to develop a stormwater funding that would meet state and federal regulations at a minimal cost to property owners. It would protect infrastructure in both incorporated and unincorporated areas of El Paso County. At the same time, a sustainable source of funds for both water quality and recreation on Fountain Creek would be identified.

    The proposal is pegged on the decision last year by the Colorado Springs City Council to eliminate a stormwater enterprise that was integral to the environmental impact study by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Pueblo County 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has scheduled a rulemaking hearing in Denver on June 7

    May 28, 2010

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    From The Crested Butte News (Mike Horn):

    The majority of the revisions to Regulation No. 31 are being proposed by the Water Quality Control Division, with the Colorado Mining Association and the Colorado Wastewater Utility Council submitting additional proposals. The proposed revisions include changes to criteria for, among others, dissolved oxygen, E. coli, and molybdenum. Temporary modifications of standards and anti-degradation to protect high-quality waters are also on the docket, as is adoption of new provisions authorizing variances to water quality standards in limited circumstances.

    More Colorado Water Quality Control Commission coverage here.


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