EPA awards CU $4 million grant for research of drinking water purification

October 27, 2014
The water treatment process

The water treatment process

From CUIndependent.com (Gabriel Larsen-Santos):

In early September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted $4 million to CU Boulder’s engineering department to establish a national center to improve drinking water treatment facilities for small towns and rural communities.What do you think?

Known as DeRISK, or Design of Risk Reducing, Innovative Implementable Small System Knowledge Center, this new center will develop sustainable methods to reduce water contaminants.What do you think?

“In order to create more natural and cost-efficient water treatment systems, we’re focused on improving how these systems are implemented, as well as developing technologies that don’t require any chemical addition,” said Professor R. Scott Summers, director of DeRISK and an engineering professor at CU.What do you think?

Hundreds of various contaminants are legally discharged into rivers and aquifers across the United States every day, causing harmful chemicals to flow into drinking water.What do you think?

“This center will facilitate public health for the rural communities that don’t have access to low-cost treatment options,” Summers said.What do you think?

DeRISK has two major focuses — a front end of outreach and ease of communication, and a back end of developing non-conventional technologies for public use.What do you think?

“Part of what we’re doing is evaluating sustainability,” said Elizabeth Shilling, a 22-year-old graduate student researcher and environmental engineering major. “This includes the cost of building facilities, the ongoing cost of operations, and also environmental factors — waste and emissions management.”What do you think?

It’s more difficult for rural communities to afford the scientists and technicians that larger urban water treatment facilities employ. But other resources, such as cheaper and more plentiful land, put some rural communities in a unique position over cities to benefit from non-conventional water purification systems.What do you think?

Examples of non-conventional systems that minimize overall costs include using the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to purify water in ponds, or using bacterial filters that reduce chemical contaminants. Conventional water treatment includes methods like water chlorination, which may be right for some communities, but produces chemical byproducts.What do you think?

Most importantly, DeRISK is developing a uniformed approach to make it simpler and more affordable for rural communities to implement the water treatment technology that suits their environment. Small towns might have miles of pipeline between two houses, so water quality is more likely to degrade in rural areas as it stagnates in the pipes and develops bacterial contaminants.What do you think?

“In order to make it easier for smaller drinking water plants to figure out the best treatment system for their parameters, we’re developing a sustainability index,” Shilling said. “Basically, it will show these small town facilities which technology would be best for them in terms of long term costs and environmental impacts.”What do you think?

One of the many goals of DeRISK is to develop technologies that can be installed in the distribution systems themselves, instead of in centralized water treatment facilities, which is the solution typically utilized across the United States. This would ensure that water remains drinkable no matter how far it travels from the primary treatment center.What do you think?

“We see it as a service to public health,” Summers said. “So that when you stop at a gas station someplace out in the country and you drink from the water fountain, you won’t have to worry if the water’s safe to drink, because that gas station could double as a water treatment facility.”

More water treatment coverage here.


[Clean Water Act] Rule critical for Colorado — Alfonso Abeyta

October 27, 2014
Lily Lake via Rocky Mountain National Park

Lily Lake via Rocky Mountain National Park

Here’s a guest column in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule-making to clarify jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, written by Alfonso Abeyta that’s running in The Pueblo Chieftain:

As a fifth-generation rancher/farmer, business owner and advocate of Colorado’s rural economy, I know first-hand the importance of clean, reliable water to our way of life. That’s why I believe the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act in October represents an important milestone for Colorado’s water resources.

If water is the lifeblood of agriculture, as is commonly pronounced, clean water would have to be its backbone. After all, it’s not just abundant, reliable water resources that we count on for our livelihoods, economy and health. That water must also be clean and safe.

Underscoring how far we’ve progressed as a state and nation on our water challenges, when the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 a full two-thirds of our waterways were too toxic for fishing and swimming — let alone drinking.

Some of our rivers, such as the Cuyahoga in Ohio, were so polluted from the chemicals and toxins being thoughtlessly dumped into them that they were literally catching on fire. Obviously no one wants to live near or rely on such waters. As such, the Clean Water Act passed Congress with bipartisan support to tackle these critical challenges.

Thanks to the Clean Water Act, we now have half as many polluted bodies of water as we did in the 1970s. Today most of us are able to drink from the tap and fish or swim the local river or lake without having to think too much about the safety of the water.

But we still have further to go.

Despite the success of the Clean Water Act, we have real water challenges ahead of us. For instance, one-third of American waterways are still too polluted for fishing, swimming or drinking. These toxic waterways are located in all regions of the country, including right here in Colorado.

One key to improving this situation is addressing critical loopholes in our water policies.

For instance, the Supreme Court severely hampered the effectiveness of the Clean Water Act in 2001 and 2006 rulings that limited protections just to waterways deemed “navigable.” As a result, countless miles of tributary and seasonal streams, rivers, wetlands — bodies of water that feed directly into our water supplies — have gone unprotected.

The politically motivated Supreme Court rulings are clearly against the spirit and intent of the Clean Water Act, and our water resources have suffered as a result. Adding insult to injury, as it turns out, such arbitrary water policies that are not based on logic, common sense or real-world realities are darn near impossible for agricultural water users to follow.

The good news is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently targeted this harmful loophole, with its “Waters of the United States” rule. Under this proposal, the Clean Water Act will again account for the tributary, seasonal and adjacent bodies of water that feed directly into our water resources.

The new rule also maintains helpful exemptions for ranchers and farmers irrigating crops. Win-win landowner actions that lead to cleaner water, more sustainable farming practices and increased profits would also be incentivized.

Following the closing of the extended public comment period on the clean water rule on Nov. 14, Colorado’s congressional delegation should commit to ensuring that the EPA and the White House finalize the rule without delay.

Agricultural producers, rural communities and diverse water users across America are counting on it.

Alfonso Abeyta is a fifth-generation rancher and farmer born and reared on his family farm on the Conejos River near Antonito. He is the founder of Conejos County Clean Water, an advocacy group.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


AG Suthers opposes EPA “Waters of the US” clarification

October 23, 2014

beaverbrook

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

“Contrary to their claims, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed revisions to the definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ poses a significant threat to state sovereignty and an economic threat to businesses and local governments in Colorado,” Suthers said. “I join with the multitudes of other interested parties in asking the federal government to abandon this proposed rule.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that would clarify regulatory authority over streams and wetlands. Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions have clouded the agency’s regulatory powers, and so environmental officials are seeking to secure their authority.

The joint rule-making with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers comes as polluters have escaped fines for violations because the EPA has been uncertain that its authority would hold up in court.

But some see the rule as an overreach by the federal government. They worry that the proposal would give federal regulators broad authority over small bodies of water on private property, including puddles, despite EPA assurances that would not be the case.

Suthers worries that an expansion of EPA jurisdiction over waters in Colorado could have economic impacts for farmers, water providers, small businesses and local governments because of the expense of complying with the increased regulation.

He also suggested that the proposed rule infringes on the states’ authority to protect and manage water resources.

“The extension of Clean Water Act jurisdiction to include water with a significant nexus to navigable waters will certainly result in added regulation over actions that have not previously been subjected to regulation,” Suthers wrote in his letter to the EPA. “The economic impacts of such a jurisdictional expansion will be very significant for those impacted.

“Under the Clean Water Act, Congress preserves the states’ traditional authority to regulate and manage the development and use of land and water resources,” he said.

Not all farmers, however, agree with the attorney general’s position. Smaller family farmers have been supportive of the proposal, including the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

The organization launched a “They Don’t Speak for Me” campaign to demonstrate its support for the recommendation, suggesting that clean water is key to a farmer’s success.

With an abundance of farms and ranches in Southwest Colorado, the issue hits close to home.

“It sounds to me like it’s the same rhetoric as everybody else that opposes the rule,” Bill Midcap, director of external affairs for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said of Suthers’ statement. “We really think this rule is vital for the success of our nation’s farmers, energy development and the health of our communities.”

Midcap disagreed with Suthers’ position on water rights and sovereignty, adding, “the Clean Water Act had nothing to do with water rights. It’s all about the quality of our water.”

But U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said the rule is a direct assault on water rights. He has been at odds with the EPA over the proposed rule for months.

“It is an expansion of the EPA’s regulatory scope without any authority to do so, that disregards state law and privately held water rights,” Tipton said. “This proposed rule could have devastating impacts on water users across Colorado and the nation and restrict their ability to access or put to use their privately held water rights.”

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


Colorado Springs Utilities named “WaterSense Partner of Year” — Monica Mendoza

October 22, 2014

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Colorado Springs Utilities is the winner of the 2014 “WaterSense Partner of the Year” award. The team celebrated Wednesday at the Colorado Springs Utilities Board meeting.

The award comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which publicly recognized Utilities was honored in Las Vegas at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference.

Utilities was presented the award for its “commitment to water efficiency and efforts to educate Americans about WaterSense during 2013.”

By producing and promoting WaterSense labeled products, new homes and programs, WaterSense partners helped Americans save 271 billion gallons of water in 2013 alone —enough water to supply all U.S. homes for 26 days, Utilities officials said. More than 1,500 utility, manufacturer, retail, builder and organizational partners participated.

Colorado Springs Utilities was honored as a 2014 WaterSense Partner of the Year for helping low-income and non-profit housing providers improve efficiency with WaterSense retrofits, supporting apartment owners and managers in property upgrades, helping builders incorporate WaterSense Home certification and educating customers through events, classes, and its WaterSense product demonstration at its Conservation and Environmental Center.

“WaterSense is a crucial venue to discuss conservation and performance,” said Ann Seymour, Utilities water conservation manager. “By leveraging the WaterSense program, we can reach our conservation goals, as well as help customers save water, energy, and money. It’s a true example of win-win.”


EPA Region 8 calls for comments from water managers in West’s arid climate on “Waters of the US”

October 22, 2014


EPA: The economy and protecting water are connected more than you think

October 17, 2014


Comment period for Waters of the US Rulemaking was extended until Nov. 14

October 15, 2014

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


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