Georgetown: Meter replacement project nearly complete

July 16, 2014

Georgetown Colorado

Georgetown Colorado

From the Clear Creek Courant (Beth Potter):

Georgetown is about to complete its water-meter replacement program, and rather than asking homeowners to foot the $550 installation bill, the town took out a loan and got a grant to cover the cost. The town is replacing 660 meters because they were not accurately recording how much water homeowners were using. The town board discussed the issue for two years, trying to determine the best way to foot the cost.

The town received a $170,000 grant in 2013 from the state Department of Local Affairs and has taken out a loan for $211,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to pay the rest of the cost. The loan is for 30 years at 4.1 percent interest, according to town administrator Tom Hale.

Residents will repay the debt through increases to their water bills, though Hale is unsure how much the increase will be. The $211,000 loan is part of a larger amount the town has borrowed to pay for renovations to the Georgetown Lake dam. He expects water rates to reflect the entire loan repayment in 2016.

Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson said having residents pay for the new water meters through small increases in their water bills would be “an easier pill to swallow” for most people.

The town hired a company from Utah to replace the meters, which will allow a meter reader to drive down the street to collect meter data.

The primary purpose of replacing the meters, Abrahamson said, is to improve their accuracy and help the town better assess how much water residents actually use.
More than 87 percent of Georgetown’s 597 water users needed new meters. The radio-read meters cost $400, and installation costs $150. The remaining 75 were installed within the last couple of years and don’t need to be replaced.
Based on readings from the new meters, the town may determine whether it can lower water rates.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Conservation front and center in Broomfield

July 7, 2014


From the Enterprise Broomfield News:

Broomfield offers two water conservation programs to help residents save water and money. Residents and businesses could qualify for an irrigation audit and/or rebates if they receive treated water from Broomfield.

Free irrigation audits are provided by Slow the Flow Colorado, a nonprofit program of the Center for Resource Conservation. To schedule an irrigation audit, call 303-999-3820 ext. 217 or go to

Water rebates help offset the cost to replace inefficient toilets and irrigation components. More information on rebates, including qualifying models and residential rebate instructions, go to

More information on water conservation, including lawn watering guidelines, can be found at

More conservation coverage here.

Westminster piloting native grasses to replace Kentucky bluegrass in some parks

June 24, 2014


From The Denver Post (Austin Briggs):

The new grass coming up on the west side of Kensington Park isn’t replacing a die-off — it’s replacing grass that was killed off.

Parks officials this year used an herbicide to kill the Kentucky bluegrass that had been there prior to planting native seeds — including fescue, rye and Canadian bluegrass.

The new ground cover will conserve water and save the city money, said Jessica Stauffer, the community outreach coordinator for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Library department.

“We went $200,000 over budget last year in watering costs for our parks,” Stauffer said. “The native grass being seeded stays greener longer and means fewer taxpayer dollars used for maintenance.”

In addition to Kensington, England and Oakhurst Park II are also being re-seeded in select spots totaling 8.4 acres away from playgrounds and high-traffic areas.

The new blend, which will grow between eight to 10 inches tall, won’t need to be mowed because it will follow a natural cycle of dormancy and growth, said parks supervisor Jerry Magnetti.

“We’ll do a second seeding this fall,” Magnetti said. “It’s a low-grow, low-maintenance seed mix that will fill in and look beautiful, especially in the fall and cooler months.”

While it’ll take another year or two for the grasses to establish, the goal is to see how this experiment works and perhaps apply it to a citywide program amid a long-term drought and rising water costs.

In 2005 the Department of Parks, Recreation and Libraries used 216 million gallons of water at a cost of $863,675 and in 2012 this grew to 319 million gallons and $1,362,975.

An acre of established native grass with trees and shrub beds costs about $500 a year to maintain, compared to $2,100 for Kentucky bluegrass.

More conservation coverage here.

Clear Creek Courant series [Part 1] about the past, present and future of Clear Creek

June 18, 2014

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Check out Ian Neligh’s retrospective about Clear Creek and the heydays of mining and logging (The Clear Creek Courant). Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Editor’s note:This is the first installment of a three-part series examining the past, present and future of Clear Creek…


There’s a monument in Idaho Springs hidden away in the parking lot of the former middle school. The giant boulder pays tribute to George Jackson, an adventurer and fortune hunter, who discovered gold in Clear Creek 155 years ago.

According to Don Allan, vice president of the Idaho Springs Historical Society, Jackson’s curiosity to follow the creek west into the mountains with only a couple of dogs by his side led to the country’s second largest gold rush.

Like a row of dominoes, Jackson’s discovery led to an onslaught of pioneers and ultimately in 1876 to the formation of a state.

“(Jackson) decided to go over and take a look down at the crick, and his curiosity brought him here to the confluence of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek,” Allan said. “When I talk with people about our community and how we got here, it was because of one man’s very good curiosity and a piece of gold.”

Jackson discovered gold in January, and by June, more than 400 people had settled in the area.

Natural hot springs drew more people into the area. Allan said in the Idaho Springs museum’s photography collection, there’s a photo of more than 50 employees standing in front of the hot springs.

“Once the stream was panned out, they panned all the gold out of the crick. Then they had to dig and make mining mills,” Allan said. “And this crick was integral to the milling of all the gold and silver in this area.”

The creek was used to support the mining industry such as the Mixel Dam in Idaho Springs, which was formed to help power mining mills and to create electricity. In 1864, silver was discovered to be the main mining mineral in Georgetown, and by 1877, the railroad reached Idaho Springs.

According to “A History of Clear Creek County,” the area at one point had 48 different towns with names such as Red Elephant, Freeland and Hill City. It is estimated that several thousand mines crisscrossed the mountains around Clear Creek as people sought their fortunes first along its banks and then in its mountains.

Those unlucky in gold sometimes found their way into the county’s second largest industry: logging. Early photos of the surrounding hillsides show them stripped of trees. But in time, the mining and logging industry waned, the frenzy slowed and the towns disappeared until there were only four municipalities left: Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Empire and Silver Plume. By World War II, the county’s mining industry has come almost to a complete halt.

But the stream once called Cannonball Creek, Vasquez Fork and lastly Clear Creek remained.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s “Urban Waters Bike Tour” recap

May 17, 2014

It was a grand time the other day cycling along the South Platte and hearing about current projects, operations, hopes and plans.

The tour was from the Confluence of Clear Creek and the South Platte River to Confluence Park where Cherry Creek joins the river.

Along the way we heard about Clear Creek, water quality in the South Platte Basin, infrastructure investments, and education programs.

A recurring theme was the effort to reach out to a younger generation through the school system.

Darren Mollendor explained that the program he honchos attempts to get the students to connect to their neighborhood parks. This includes an understanding of pollution, pollution abatement, and habitat improvement. He invited us all to go camping at Cherry Creek Reservoir when students from the upper and lower Cherry Creek watershed get together later this summer.

Michael Bouchard (Denver Parks and Recreation) detailed planned improvements along the river through Denver. Most of the new facilities will also have an education focus, including native flora at some locations.

Metro Wastewater is one of the largest clean water utilities in the nation, according to Steve Rogowski. The Metro District is directing a huge investment to comply with tougher treatment standards.

At the Burlington Ditch diversion Gray Samenfink explained operations under the ditch. The ditch is a supply for Barr Lake, other reservoirs, and direct irrigators. Several municipalities also take water off the ditch. The new diversion and flood control structure replaced the old dam at the location.

Caitlin Coleman (Colorado Foundation for Water Education) was tasked with keeping the tour on track. That was no easy task. When you get young and older, students, water resources folks, educators, conservationists, scientists, attorneys, engineers, and ditch riders together there’s going to be a lot of stuff to talk about.

Click here to go to the CFWE website. Become a member while you are there. That way you’ll know about these cool events in advance so you won’t miss the fun.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

Clear Creek: Colorado’s hardest working river?

March 24, 2014
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From All Wet: The Colorado Water Blog (Allen Best):

Dave Holm called Clear Creek “perhaps the hardest working river in Colorado,” and to back up that statement he noted that it provides water for 400,000 people and has the second most numbers of rafters in Colorado.

As for fish? Well, not so good. “It’s a rough and tough stream, and it’s tough on fish,” he said at a March 20 presentation before the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. “They really get beat up.”

Holm directs the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, which was set up in 1990. He explained that after just a handful of people at the first meeting, 100 people were affiliated with the group by 1994.

The foundation seeks to clean up and improve Clear Creek, no small task. It was the site of Colorado’s first industrial-scale mining, first placer operations and then tunneling. This occurred at Central City, on the north fork of the creek, and also at Idaho Springs. Other mining towns in the drainage include Black Hawk, Georgetown, and Silver Plume…

The foundation has done 80 projects altogether, but the creek still has major troubles. Interstate 70 probably has the “biggest physical impact.” The creek has been channelized to make roof for the four-way highway, creating what amounts to a “rip-rap gulley.”

Holm also described how the doctrine of prior appropriation benefits the creek. “Colorado’s—rococo comes to mind—legal framework for administering water rights,” he said. But that first-in-right means that most of the water in Clear Creek gets left there until far downstream, where it issues from the foothills into the piedmont of the Front Range.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Restoration: North Empire Creek acid mine drainage mitigation

February 4, 2014
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation will spend $536,000 to remove the waste and re-vegetate the area between April and August. David Holm, the foundation’s executive director, hopes the mitigation will begin to make the water less acidic, eventually allowing plants to grow along the creek’s banks and fish to live in its waters.

However, he doesn’t want to mislead people into thinking the creek will be perfect when the work is complete.

“So how will it look afterward?” Holm asked. “We hope the stream corridor is going to look pretty good. There’s not going to be mine waste in it. It is going to look like a natural stream, and it is going to have vegetation on both sides as far out as we can get it.”

Empire Mayor Wendy Koch lauded the effort, saying the stream does not currently support life of any kind.

Koch said an Empire resident once questioned why he could never find deer, elk or any wildlife in that area.

“Well, that’s why,” Koch said of the stream and its acidity level. “(The project) will support our various wildlife, everything from bears to birds and anything in between.”

The project will be paid for by Miller Coors, which gave $394,000; the watershed district; the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety; and in-kind donations from the county, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

Holm said the stream has a pH of 3, compared to a neutral pH of 7.
“When you get down to pH 3, you’re into 10,000 times more acidic than what you’re really going for,” Holm said. “So acidity is a real problem in North Empire Creek. There are very high elevations of copper and zinc. Both of those are very toxic to aquatic life.”

Holm said the stream also has toxic levels of iron, aluminum and manganese…

Holm said the area has an interesting history, being one of the earliest mining sites in the state.

“Initially, they did hydraulic mining in this area, which involves high-pressure hoses that are used, essentially, to wash the unconsolidated soil and subsoil … which in this area had disseminated gold deposits,” Holm said. “But it is a brute-force, ugly kind of mining that results in the hill slopes really not having a growth medium when it is said and done.”

More water pollution coverage here.

Georgetown: DOLA grant will help rate payers pay costs of replacement meters

July 28, 2013


From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson signed an agreement on July 9 to accept a $170,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs to help subsidize the cost of its water meter replacement program. “It a pretty big project, and obviously we’re very pleased and grateful to the department of Local Affairs for their continued support in modernizing our infrastructure,” Abrahamson said.

The grant provider still has to sign its portion of the agreement before it is made official. Installation will get underway sometime in 2014. Approximately 600 meters need to be replaced at a cost of $550 each. The grant will pay for roughly half of the price. The town has to fund the additional $230,000 of the project’s cost. The town board will decide in the coming weeks how much of the town’s matching funds will come from the municipality, or if homeowners will need to pay a portion of the cost for equipment and installation.

More infrastructure coverage here.

CDPHE and Cotter Corp agree on a plan to end the Schwartzwalder Mine’s pollution of Ralston Creek with uranium — pumping and treating groundwater

October 3, 2012


The two parties have agreed on the geology and now believe they can pump enough water to lower the levels of water in the main shaft 150 feet below the Ralston Creek alluvium. The same approach being used at California Gulch; the perpetual pumping and treating of groundwater. Proof that the energy costs for uranium extraction sometimes never end. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The latest test data show that highly toxic water in the Schwartzwalder mine’s main shaft seeps underground into Ralston Creek, which flows to Ralston Reservoir.

A settlement deal requires Cotter to pump and treat millions of gallons of water and lower the level to 150 feet below the top of that 2,000-foot-deep shaft. This is intended to prevent uranium — in concentrations up to 1,000 times the health standard — from contaminating water supplies.

Cotter also must provide $3.5 million in financial assurance money to ensure cleanup of the mine west of Denver is done and pay a civil penalty of $55,000. Another $39,000 in penalties is to be waived.

The deal, approved by state regulators, ends Cotter’s lawsuits challenging state orders to clean up the mine and the creek. A state judge ruled in favor of regulators and Cotter appealed the decision.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Ceratium and gomphosphaeria are blooming in Arvada Reservoir

August 19, 2012


From the Arvada Press (Sara Van Cleve):

Because of the extreme heat this summer, several kinds of algae, specifically ceratium and gomphosphaeria, have sprouted in Arvada Reservoir. “It’s the extended period of it that’s causing it to grow,” said Wendy Forbes, communications manager for the city of Arvada. “There is not enough fluctuation in temperatures.”

As the algae dies, it releases into the water a harmless chemical that causes the change in smell and taste, Forbes said. Though some residents have tasted and smelled the algae’s effects in their water, Forbes said, it is completely harmless.

“Arvada Water is adding carbons to the system to help with some of that,” she said. “It should stop once the algae is gone.” It takes about four days for water to pass through the purification system completely, so it takes about that long to collect enough data to see if the extra carbon is helping.

More water treatment coverage here.

Clear Creek Watershed Festival September 15

July 26, 2012


Click here to go to the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation website for all the skinny on the celebration. Here’s an excerpt:

Join us for our fourth annual family-oriented event to learn about the Clear Creek Watershed. Lots of fun & entry is FREE!

• fishing • gold panning • face painting • food • live music

• 30 environmental education PASSPORT STATIONS with engaging activities

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here and here.

CDPHE: Cotter Corp diverted Ralston Creek past its Schwartzwalder Mine to minimize discharge of uranium into creek

April 12, 2012


From (Thomas Hendrick):

The Colorado health department had ordered Cotter to divert water from the creek away from the Schwartzwalder Mine so that pollutants wouldn’t get into the creek water. Ralston Creek flows into a Denver Water reservoir that provides drinking water.

The health department’s water quality control division says Cotter completed a pipeline Tuesday to divert up to 8 cubic feet per second of creek flows past the mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Cotter plans to route Ralston Creek through a temporary pipeline around the Schwartzwalder Mine

March 6, 2012


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Nobody wants Cotter Corp.’s re-routing of Ralston Creek to be permanent. Federal biologists say the pine-studded creek corridor through a picturesque canyon is habitat for the endangered Preble’s Jumping Mouse

Cotter work crews on Monday were completing a 21-foot-deep concrete-and-steel structure designed to channel all surface and shallow groundwater through an 18-inch-diameter black plastic pipeline running 4,000 feet around the Schwartzwalder Mine, once the nation’s largest underground uranium mine. As a condition of its 10-year federal permit, Cotter must irrigate the creek corridor to ensure that trees and wildlife survive. “This is a temporary bypass that will allow us to do the permanent fix,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We really are trying to do the right thing here.”[...]

Cotter also has agreed to use excavators and seven sump pumps to remove uranium from contaminated groundwater near the mine’s 2,000-foot-deep shaft, where uranium levels top 24,000 ppb. The sump pumping and subsequent treatment of contaminated groundwater over the past 18 months has removed about 1 ton of uranium that otherwise could have flowed into metro drinking water. That uranium sits in a guarded facility here until it can be trucked to a radioactive-waste dump…

State mining inspectors say uranium-laced water inside the mine shaft “is finding other ways out of the mine pool” and into groundwater and the creek beyond the mine. “The only way to fix that,” [Loretta Pineda, director of Colorado's Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety] said, “is to draw down the mine pool and treat it.”

Cotter favors a different approach. While Hamrick acknowledged there may be some underground pathways between the mine shaft and Ralston Creek, he and Cotter health physicist Randy Whicker on Monday said pumping toxic water out of the mine makes no sense.
Such a project would require construction of a large plastic-lined waste pond, with the cost likely to exceed $10 million, and perpetual pumping of groundwater that would continue to fill up the mine shaft and turn toxic through contact with exposed minerals.

Better, Cotter contends, would be to keep the super-toxic water inside the mine shaft and treat it in there. Mixing molasses and alcohol into uranium-laced water would cause bacteria already present inside the mine shaft to multiply, Hamrick and Whicker said. These bacteria would bond with uranium particles, separating uranium from water so that it could settle deep underground.

More nuclear coverage here. More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here.

Clear Creek County scores $75,000 for greenway design

January 9, 2012


From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

The county was…awarded $75,000 to create design documents for the Clear Creek Greenway project connecting Jefferson County to the Twin Tunnels area through Clear Creek Canyon. The plan will also allow for easier access to the Oxbow Parcel and western Clear Creek County.

The greenway, envisioned to run along Clear Creek from the Jefferson County border to the Continental Divide, is intended to link communities with a string of open spaces, trails and parks. The project is not expected to be finished for another 10 years.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has partnered with the county on the project near the Twin Tunnels as part of CDOT’s effort to expand the area.

CDOT officials are planning to add a third eastbound lane on Interstate 70 between Idaho Springs at mile post 241 to the base of Floyd Hill at mile post 244, where the highway already opens to three lanes.

The $60 million project would likely begin construction in April 2013, with completion later that fall.

Meanwhile, according to County Commissioner Tim Mauck, as part of the first phase, CDOT will construct a greenway trail from the old game check behind the Twin Tunnels to just shy of the Hidden Valley Interchange.

As part of the second phase, CDOT will complete the trail from the game check station to the Idaho Springs Baseball Fields, although CDOT has not identified project funding and a timeline.

In addition, Clear Creek County Open Space was formally asked by GOCO to submit an application for a $4 million grant to further construct the greenway trail from the county line to as far as the funding would stretch.

“I project this GOCO grant to bring significant greenway improvements to Clear Creek County in the near future,” Mauck said. “Ultimately it will leverage further resources and willpower to complete the Clear Creek Greenway Trail through our community, providing our citizens and businesses with a tremendous recreational facility to utilize.”

Broomfield water history

December 24, 2011


From the Broomfield Enterprise (Joe Rubino):

The Turnpike Land Co. launched development on Broomfield Heights, a precursor to incorporated Broomfield, in 1955 along the north side of the recently built Denver-Boulder Turnpike, completed in 1952. The city’s water originally came from a pair of lakes on the family farm land of Adolph Zang, ditch water rights and three large wells, according to local historian Silvia Pettem’s 2001 book, “Broomfield: Changes Through Time.”

By May 1955, work had begun on a water main from nearby Great Western Reservoir, which was fed by Clear Creek through the Church Ditch. It would be Broomfield’s main source of water for its first decade as a city.

In 1970, as Broomfield’s population grew to more than 7,000, the city, under the leadership of a then recently hired City Manger George Di Ciero, used federal funding to purchase an 11-million-gallon-per-day allotment from Denver Water. According to Pettem’s book, a Daily Camera article that ran in 1970 referred to the purchase as “all the water (Broomfield) will ever need.”

That proved short-lived, as it was just three years later that radioactive contamination was first found in Great Western Reservoir. The terrifying revelation that the nearby Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant had leaked contaminants into city drinking water sent many locals running out to buy bottled water, Pettem wrote.

After a 1989 FBI raid on Rocky Flats, Broomfield spearheaded regional efforts to protect area water supplies and eliminate Great Western Reservoir as a primary water source. In 1989, Di Ciero dispatched crews to dig a diversion ditch to prevent water from Rocky Flats from getting into the reservoir. Those efforts were joined by surrounding downstream cities, such as Westminster and Thornton.

“That was a monumental effort and Broomfield, I would have to say, took the lead on it,” Joyce Hunt, Thornton assistant city manager, said of the diversion ditch and ensuing battle to curb pollution form Rocky Flats.

After that, with the support of Colorado Rep. David Skaggs and $52 million from Rocky Flats manager, the U.S. Department of Energy, Broomfield sold some of its water rights and bought an allotment of Windy Gap water from Boulder. After the construction of a pipeline from Windy Gap storage spot Carter Lake and a new water treatment facility near West 144th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, Broomfield at last had a clean, safe water supply.

“The new water supply was key to securing water for our future,” [Kirk Oglesby, Broomfield's code enforcement manager and unofficial town history resource] said.

While Broomfield is always looking for ways to firm up its water supply, the drought that struck Colorado in the mid-2000s demonstrated the city was prepared to handle shortages, Oglesby said. While neighbors Lafayette and Louisville were forced to stop lawn watering in the city limits or fall back on Boulder for support during the drought, Broomfield’s supplies held firm, Oglesby said, and the city “didn’t experience much difficulty at all.”

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Cotter Corp hopes to sell uranium that is being collected from groundwater sump pumps at the Schwartzwalder Mine

November 11, 2011


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The uranium west of Denver “is not as concentrated as yellowcake” but “is considered source material for licensing purposes,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said, estimating the value at around $50 a pound. Cotter would like to sell the uranium, Hamrick said. He said the uranium poses little risk. For anybody trying to obtain uranium illegally, “there would be easier low- hanging fruit than us,” he said.

The uranium was collected from tainted groundwater by 10 sump pumps Cotter installed along Ralston Creek, below the mine. The uranium and other captured contaminants are removed before water is pumped into the creek, which flows into a Denver drinking-water-supply reservoir for 1.3 million metro residents.

In an Oct. 11 letter to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Cotter officials said 1,440 pounds of uranium had been removed as of Sept. 16 and was stored at the mine. They also disclosed “elevated concentrations of uranium in alluvial groundwater near the Old Emergency Discharge Pond” near the mine.

State mining regulators ordered Cotter to pump out and treat contaminated water in the mine shaft. Cotter challenged the state orders, and Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt recently ruled in favor of the state. Cotter officials now contend they can clean Ralston Creek simply by relying on their newly expanded pumping system. “Cotter has utilized intensive monitoring efforts and data evaluations to aggressively develop and implement measures to expand capture/treatment of alluvial groundwater in order to improve water quality in Ralston Creek as soon as possible,” the company’s letter said. The sump system has been effective, “significantly increasing capture and generally reducing levels in the creek.”

The system relies on an ion-exchange process using resin beads that the uranium gloms onto to remove it from water. Cotter switches out the loaded resin beads and uses the tanks the resin arrives in to store extracted uranium.

More nuclear coverage here and here

Clear Creek watershed: Cotter Corp promises to clean up discharges from the Schwartzwalder mine

October 13, 2011


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“Whatever the courts tell us to do, we will do,” Cotter president Amory Quinn said in a telephone interview from San Diego. “We will follow the letter of the law. If they demand we pump and treat, I guess we will pump and treat.” He did not commit to a timetable for that cleanup, though a creek-diversion pipe around the mine should be done by Jan. 31…

“We look forward to seeing Cotter’s plans and financial warranties for complying with the board orders,” Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety director Loretta Pineda said. Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt recently ruled in favor of state mining regulators in one of two lawsuits Cotter filed challenging orders to clean up the Schwartzwalder mine. That decision clears the way for removal of contaminated mine water and the posting of sufficient bond money to protect Ralston Creek, which flows into a Denver drinking-water-supply reservoir.

A decision is expected soon on Cotter’s second lawsuit, which challenges Colorado’s ability to enforce orders. Colorado Department of Natural Resources officials say this decision will help define what the state can do when companies defy legally valid orders.

On Wednesday, Quinn pointed out that Cotter has installed a sump system along Ralston Creek, below the mine. This apparently has reduced the concentrations of uranium entering the creek. Data provided by state officials shows readings ranging from 713 parts per billion in February to 39 in June. In July, the most recent reading available, the level had increased to 89 parts per billion. The state limit is 30 parts per billion. “We’re making that standard periodically,” Quinn said. But low flows in the creek during dry months, he said, result in uranium concentrations that are higher.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Clear Creek Watershed Festival included education about the history of the watershed

October 10, 2011


Dr. Ellen Wohl’s book Virtual Rivers: Lessons from the Mountain Rivers of the Colorado Front Range looks at Front Range Creeks currently and tries to reconstruct the past, before the influences of humankind, primarily logging, mining and water diversions. At the recent Clear Creek Watershed Festival history was front and center as well. Here’s a report from Ian Neligh writing for the Clear Creek Courant. From the article:

The festival was hosted by the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, which dedicates itself to improving the ecological, recreational and economic conditions in the Clear Creek Watershed. The festival educates by offering fun activities as educators look at pieces of the watershed, thereby teaching visitors about the watershed in its entirety…

“This is part of Colorado’s tradition. This is part of our culture. Colorado would not be Colorado, Idaho Springs would not be here, Denver would not be there (if gold hadn’t been found),” Long said.

Down several educational booths, Deb Zack with the Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety talked with people about the side effects of mining. “We’re here to support the local efforts to educate the public about the hazards of abandoned mines and trying to get the word out about what we do,” Zack said. She and others in her department look for grant money to mitigate abandoned mines on people’s property and to close them off as a free service. “Honestly I work in this area, reclaiming abandoned mines, so I’m interested in meeting a lot of the people who are my neighbors — and people out here know their land better than I ever could,” Zack said.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Loretta Pineda, director of Colorado’s Division of Mining Reclamation and Safety on Cotter Corp and the Schwartzwalder Mine: ‘I want to get this remediated. If Cotter wants to continue to fight this in court, that’s up to them’

October 4, 2011


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“I want to get this remediated. If Cotter wants to continue to fight this in court, that’s up to them,” said Loretta Pineda, director of Colorado’s Division of Mining Reclamation and Safety. “We’re rapidly losing another construction season. … Cotter could at least be doing work on a diversion.”[...]

Cotter last year filed a lawsuit accusing regulators of abusing their discretion with orders to clean up Schwartzwalder. But Friday, a Denver District Court judge ruled that Colorado’s Mined Land Reclamation Board was correct to order the de-watering of the 2,000-foot mine shaft and impose penalties. Earlier in the week, state health officials ordered Cotter to divert creek water around the mine and find the source of the contamination.

Buoyed by the Friday ruling, state regulators met with state Attorney General John Suthers’ staff Monday about their possible next steps…

In 2007, a state mining inspector detected the water contamination. About two years ago, the state officials began raising concerns, and last year they started pressing for a cleanup. Cotter has argued that toxic groundwater filling its 2,000-foot-deep mine shaft is not connected to Ralston Creek.

The health department order last week would require Cotter to install a concrete wall and to funnel water into a pipe that would carry Ralston Creek around the mine and then, below the mine, back toward Ralston Reservoir. It’s a temporary solution until a pump-and-treat operation is set up…

…state law requires companies to post sufficient bond money to guarantee that cleanup work will be done without falling to taxpayers. But the bond posted for Schwartzwalder is not enough to cover costs of pumping and treating uranium-laced water from the mine, state mining inspector Tony Waldron said. State officials said they’ll press now for a larger bond as well as de-watering of the mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt rules in favor of Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board with regard to the Schwartzwalder Mine

October 1, 2011


From The Denver Post:

The decision by Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt cited “an ample evidentiary basis” for the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board’s findings…State inspectors several years ago discovered the problem: that uranium in the mine shaft reached up to 1,000 times the state standard, with contaminants rising to the rim of the shaft. It wasn’t until April 2010 that mining regulators ordered Cotter to remove the contamination by draining the mine. On Tuesday, state health officials ordered Cotter to divert creek water away the mine and find the source of the contamination.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter ordered to build bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine

September 29, 2011


Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Mark Salley):

On Tuesday, the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment amended its June 1, 2010 notice of violation/cease and desist order, and required Cotter Corporation to build a bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County to minimize the discharge of uranium-laden water into Ralston Creek.

Schwartzwalder Mine is an underground uranium mine near Golden that opened in about 1953 and was acquired by Cotter in 1966. Cotter operated the mine from 1966 until 2000 when mining operations ceased.

The Water Quality Control Division learned in 2010 that discharge from the mine property contained elevated levels of uranium that exceed surface water standards under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.

Cotter completed the majority of the corrective actions required by the June order, but discharges of uranium and other mine-related pollutants to groundwater and surface water from the facility have continued.

Water sampling at the site from June 2010 through July 2011 show concentrations of uranium in the groundwater and surface water that continue to cause or contribute to an exceedance of the 30 micrograms per liter stream standard.

The amended order dated Sept. 27 requires Cotter to submit a plan to the department no later than Oct. 7 for the design and construction of the temporary structure (i.e., pipeline) that will divert Ralston Creek steam flows past the Schwartzwalder facility. Construction is to be substantially completed by Jan. 31, 2012.

The amendment to the June 1 order further requires Cotter to evaluate and enhance its groundwater capture and treatment system and to submit a plan and time schedule for the
aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources at the mine.

Steve Gunderson, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said the department has continued to work closely with the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to regulate the Schwartzwalder facility.

Gunderson said, “While Cotter implemented the majority of the corrective actions required in our June order, pollutants are continuing to reach the creek. This step is necessary to help protect groundwater and surface water.

“As the agency that regulates drinking water for the state, we also continue to work with public drinking water systems that rely on waters from Ralston Creek,” said Gunderson. “Those three providers (Denver Water, City of Arvada, and North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District) continue to serve drinking water to their customers that meets safe drinking water standards. Although drainage from Schwartzwalder has continued to reach the surface waters of Ralston Creek, the drinking water from those systems remains safe for consumption as a result of downstream attenuation at Ralston Reservoir and Blunn Reservoir, and treatment techniques utilized by the public water systems.”

More coverage from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Cotter Corp., which owns the defunct Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County, has until Oct. 7 to submit a design- and-construction plan for a bypass pipeline. That pipeline is to be “substantially completed” by Jan. 31. Additionally, Cotter is required to submit a plan and time schedule for the “aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources” at the mine…

On Wednesday, the state said the company had “completed the majority of corrective actions” but added the pipeline requirement after it became clear pollutants were still reaching the creek…

Cotter has had numerous problems with the state over the years. Most recently, the company filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Mined Lands Reclamation Board, accusing it of abusing its discretion when it ordered Cotter to pump out and treat the uranium-tainted water in its mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Idaho Springs: Clear Creek Watershed Festival September 17

September 8, 2011


From email from the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation (Christine Crouse):

Join us at the 3rd annual CLEAR CREEK WATERSHED FESTIVAL on Saturday, September 17, 10am – 3pm, creekside at Courtney-Ryley-Cooper Park in Idaho Springs.

Learn what a watershed is; what makes the Clear Creek Watershed so unique; and how we impact the watersheds we live, work, and play in.

Participants receive a WATERSHED PASSPORT and reusable tote bag to collect give-aways from 33 environmental education PASSPORT STATIONS. Learn about water and mineral resources, water quality, sustainable development/living, alternative energy and transportation, mining history, mine remediation, ecotourism, wildlife/habitat, and more.

Upon completion of the passport circuit, watershed explorers are rewarded with a cool color-changing water bottle, BBQ lunch, and ice cream. The festival is free of charge, but participants have to earn their passport stamps, prizes, and food coupons by engaging in the activities. There will be fly-tying and fishing, live music, goldpanning, facepainting, snow making, a model wind turbine, and much more!

The festival offers an out-of-the-classroom learning opportunity and the information lends itself to interesting family and class discussions/lessons on watersheds, natural resources, water science, and sustainable living.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Restoration: Trout Unlimited’s West Denver Chapter to tackle stream reach in Clear Creek near Mayhem Gulch

August 9, 2011


From The Denver Post (Daniel Smith):

The Canyon Reach project, with multiple funding sources, will begin near Jefferson County Open Space Park’s Mayhem Gulch, then continue upstream to near the paved turnout just below the junction of Colorado 119 and U.S. 6.

The project, which will require heavy construction equipment, should help correct some of the problems. Some of the natural rocks in the creek will be moved to create “better winter habitat, deeper holes and feeding lanes and just places for fish to survive the winter,” he said. Edwards said 15 elements will be used, including cross vanes, U-shaped large rock structures that create turbulence that constricts stream flow and deepens the channel to create spawning beds and wintering pools. A J-hook structure in stream beds also will create deep habitat in curves and protect banks from erosion. A toe-wood structure, a newer concept, uses tree trunks, layered with willows and blankets of organic material, that will help streamside riparian growth in the rocky stream. The project’s $264,000 price tag will be covered by a $168,700 grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Fishing is Fun program, $60,000 from the Jefferson County Conservation Trust Fund, and $20,000 from the Water Conservation Board.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado and Cotter, Corp don’t agree on cleanup at the Schwartzwalder Mine in the Ralston Creek watershed

June 28, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter has filed a lawsuit challenging the state order…

State mining regulators “continue to coordinate closely with CDPHE in reviewing and monitoring on-site activities, as well as ensuring environmental protections are in place to protect drinking water supplies,” Pineda said. “Cotter has submitted a proposal to install a bypass that would divert ground and surface water around the mine, and the company is continuing to provide DRMS with information needed to fully review this proposal.”

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Meanwhile, Cotter has received permission to use an impoundment pond that the state of Colorado claims leaks, according to a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The tailings impoundment at Cotter is about 157 acres and includes two retention areas. One is closed and contains about 2 million cubic yards of material. The second area is open and receiving materials related to the mill demolition, including the 90,000 gallons of sludge. It contains about 2 million cubic yards of material and is about half full, according to the health department. Cotter’s vice president for milling operations, John Hamrick, said the sludge is about 95 percent kerosene, used to process uranium. Before the sludge is moved to the impoundment, it will be mixed with another material. “It’s like kitty litter,” Hamrick said Monday. “It becomes a solid.”

Eventually, new sludge and solvents dumped into the leaky impoundment will be neutralized, health department spokeswoman Jeannine Natterman said. “More contamination is not going into that (Cañon City) area.” Hamrick said Cotter disputes the health department’s assessment of the impoundment. “We disagree with the state, that the impoundments are leaking,” he said…

Toxic plumes have been detected moving underground toward Cañon City and the Arkansas River. Most recently, officials disclosed that the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene has been detected in groundwater at concentrations up to 360 times federal health limits.
“It has been confirmed that no trichlroethylene has gotten into Lincoln Park (neighborhood in Cañon City),” Natterman said. Cotter officials “are still poking holes, taking samples” to characterize that plume, she said. “Cotter is responsible for all the sampling and analysis. All data have to be quality-controlled by us.”

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Georgetown residents toast newly reconditioned water and wastewater facilities, with tap water of course

April 7, 2011

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From The Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Of the $9.1 million, $3.3 million went to the water treatment facility for improvements, which included filtration upgrades, rehabilitation of the existing storage tank and a new 400,000-gallon storage tank.

The town’s wastewater facility received a $5.8 million upgrade, with major improvements to the treatment process. Of that money, the town will have to pay back, interest free, $3.8 million over the next 20 years.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Central City: Water meters going in for residences, water rates to go up

January 7, 2011

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From the Weekly Register Call/Gilpin County News (Lynn Volkens):

Following public hearings, with no one from the public speaking either for or against, the Council approved Ordinance 10-15 and 10-16. The first ordinance amends Chapter 13 of the Municipal Code to require all residential units to install water meters and all commercial units to replace water meters. Commercial meters in use now have been found to be inaccurate. The City is purchasing all of the meters at an approximate cost of $281,000. Meter installation will begin in January. Residents will be billed for half of the cost of their meters (approximately $100) by adding about $2 to the monthly billings over a four year time period. Billings will go to the monthly format beginning in January 2011. The City will pick up the other half of the residential meter cost and pay for installation. Commercial water users must pay the full cost of meter replacement and installation and will also have their payments spread out via their water bills over a four year period. Once water use is being metered, the City will be able to accurately track water usage and bill accordingly. Leaks and other problems will also be identified more easily. Residents will be responsible for maintaining the meters in good working order and should contact the City for a list of contractors who can make repairs when needed. The meters are warranted for ten years.

The second ordinance (10-16) adopts water rates and fees. The 2011 water rates reflect an increase of 20% for all water users and may increase by that much each year for the next five years. Once the data from the meters is sufficient to determine actual usage, the City may find it does not need to increase the rates that much. A tiered system will also be developed at a later date so that those who use more than the base allowance of water will have steeper payments. For 2011, the residential base-rate will be $135.50 (Senior rate, $108) per quarter (but will be billed monthly). The current quarterly rate is $112.50. The commercial base-rate for 2011 will go from the current $180 to $216. The rate increases are designed to generate approximately $59,247 in annual revenue with the result of making the Water Fund self-sufficient in five years.

Each residential or commercial unit is to have its own tap, water line and meter-i.e. there is no sharing of this equipment, although there is some provision in the code for integrated units. If the City finds multiple users, the situation will be corrected and, once the water mains are laid in the street in front of those properties, the “new” water users will have to pay for their own tap, water line and meter. Water users are responsible for repairs and maintenance of the water line from the curb or property line to the structure being served.

The City plans to send brochures to water users and hold meetings so that citizens can learn more about the meters and rates. Those meetings are tentatively scheduled for the last two Wednesdays of January and the first Wednesday in February.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Central City: Water rates going up

December 21, 2010

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From the Weekly Register Call/Gilpin County News (Lynn Volkens):

Per approved Ordinance 10-15, the City will require water meters on all water-using units within the City. The requirement does not endanger any of the City’s water rights, City Manager Alan Lanning told the Council, and the intent is to be able to pay for the water system that currently serves 457 water users in the City. There will be numerous meetings and other community outreach efforts to inform citizens of details. The City expects to pay $220,000 to purchase, up front, all residential meters needed. Installation is included in that amount. For commercial replacement meters and installation, the City will pay, also up front, $61,000. The cost to purchase and install each residential meter is $200. Property owners must pay half that cost, payable at $25 per quarter over the next year. That cost could be offset by paying less for their water, once the exact amount of use is determined by metering. A public hearing has been scheduled for this ordinance on December 21, 2010.

That same date will be the public hearing for Ordinance 10-16 which adopts water rates and fees for water services. The ordinance proposes an across-the-board 20% increase in all water rates. For residents, that means the 2011 quarterly rate will be $135.50 (up from $112.50). Senior citizen owner-occupants will see their rate go from $90 to $108 (achieving the reduced rate by showing proof of age 65 or over, and filing an application for it with the City Clerk). The increased rate for commercial users is $216 with additional charges for quantities that exceed 45,000 gallons per quarter. Hauled water will go up from $45 to $54 per thousand gallons. Adjustments will be made for seasonal water users, such as the Opera House Association. The rates are calculated to recover some of the cost of operating the water system and are estimated to generate $59,247 in additional revenue for the Water Fund. In 2012, the meter data will be reviewed and a tiered rate system developed.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado fines Cotter for violation of August cleanup order

November 20, 2010

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From The Denver Post:

The board also imposed the $55,000 in penalties contained in the August order and added an additional penalty of $39,000 for Cotter’s failure to take any action since then.

More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder mine cleanup update

November 18, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter’s attorneys conceded that Cotter has not taken a step toward complying with an existing state order to pump out and treat toxic water filling the Schwartzwalder mine. That mine sits upstream from Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to 1.3 million metro-area residents…

“We are entitled to know what compliance would look like,” Cotter attorney Nea Brown said before the state Mined Land Reclamation Board. Board members then read aloud a prior order requiring Cotter to pump water from the mine to a level at least 500 feet below the opening of the mine. There was an Aug. 31 deadline. “I’m just a farmer from down east, but I can read that,” said board chairman Ira Paulin, who represents the mining industry at state hearings. “It says you have got to implement it.”

Brown argued that the required corrective actions are broad and unclear and that Cotter would need time to move in equipment and have a place to put the water it removes…

Board members will continue their hearing today, when they will decide whether to impose additional fines of up to $1,000 a day for 78 days, issue new violations and a “cease and desist order” that essentially repeats state demands. Cotter separately has taken its case to Denver District Court, filing a lawsuit against the state. It asks that a judge block state efforts to order the cleanup and impose fines and accuses the state mined lands board members of abusing their discretion.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter Corp sues the state over cleanup order at the Schwartzwalder mine

October 7, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The lawsuit, recently filed in Denver District Court, accuses Colorado’s Mined Lands Reclamation Board of abusing its discretion when it ordered Cotter to pump out and treat uranium-tainted water that inspections have shown to be rising toward the rim of Cotter’s defunct Schwartzwalder mine…

At issue is whether state regulators had enough evidence to order the cleanup and impose fines. Cotter is seeking a judge’s order to reverse both of those actions…

The lawsuit is the latest step in a standoff between Cotter and the state. Regulators have moved to increase a $55,000 fine against Cotter for failing to comply with cleanup orders. Since April, they’ve repeatedly ordered Cotter, a subsidiary of San Diego-based General Atomics, to pump and treat toxic water filling the mine along Ralston Creek. The creek, which flows into Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir, contains uranium at levels far exceeding health standards for drinking water. Cotter in July began pumping contaminated water from surface alluvial ponds along the creek. But the most- contaminated water in the 2,000-foot- deep mine shaft is untouched. Cotter contends the water in the mine shaft is not connected to groundwater. State mining regulators argue that water in the mine is connected to groundwater and the creek.

More nuclear coverage here and here. More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter, Corp’s cleanup plans at the Schwartzwalder mine fall short according to state regulators

August 27, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“Pumping just from the alluvium will not be sufficient to mitigate the uranium-contamination problem,” said Loretta Pineda, Colorado director of mining, reclamation and safety. “(State regulators) have ordered Cotter to pump and treat from both the alluvium and the mine pool.”

State officials recently fined Cotter $55,000, then suspended all but $2,500 on the condition that Cotter initiate a cleanup by Aug. 31. That could include any action, such as positioning the right equipment at the mine. State regulators, Pineda said, “believe the mine pool poses a significant risk to surface water (and are) vigorously pursuing the enforcement action. . . . The state fully intends to hold Cotter accountable for permit violations.”

Of greatest concern is Ralston Creek, which flows into Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir and contains uranium levels exceeding health standards. Cotter “strongly disagrees” with state regulators, according to a June letter sent to the Colorado attorney general from Cotter attorney Charlotte Neitzel. “Although Cotter believes it has not violated the statutes and regulations,” the letter said, the company “recognizes the importance of taking action for the situation at Ralston Creek.”[...]

Cotter contends that the highly toxic groundwater filling the shaft, where uranium levels far exceed health standards, does not reach Ralston Creek.

“(Denver Water) supports the state’s order for Cotter to treat the groundwater in the mine,” spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “We’re very concerned with maintaining the quality of our source waters and hope Cotter complies.” Tests along Ralston Creek indicate uranium concentrations as high as 310 parts per billion, above the 30 ppb standard for drinking water, Chesney said. “Our treated water is meeting drinking-water standards, and our current treatment process is able to handle uranium at these levels. However, that could change in the future,” she said. “Installing a new system would be costly.”

More nuclear coverage here and here. More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter Corp starts Schwartzwalder mine cleanup

July 9, 2010

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From The Denver Post:

The owner of a defunct uranium mine leaking pollution along a creek that flows into a Denver Water reservoir has launched a cleanup as ordered, state officials confirmed Thursday. Cotter Corp. installed a system that can pump and treat up to 50 gallons per minute of contaminated water from inside its Schwartzenwalder Mine, west of Denver in Jefferson County.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder uranium tainted water cleanup to start in July

June 15, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Operators of a defunct uranium mine accused by the state of contaminating groundwater and a nearby creek have agreed to begin a cleanup by the end of July. “We intend to comply to the best of our ability,” Cotter Corp. vice president John Hamrick said. Cotter will pump and treat tainted water from inside its Schwartzwalder mine in Jefferson County, then seek a state permit before releasing treated water back into Ralston Creek, Hamrick said…

Cotter was responding to a cease-and-desist order issued June 1 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Fines as high as $10,000 per day could be imposed. Cotter officials and state regulators have been negotiating.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources mining regulators sent Cotter a separate notice saying they have reason to believe Cotter has failed to comply with permit requirements designed to protect the environment.

State regulators have pressed to get the company to pump and treat the toxic water in the mine. “We’re in the process of establishing that system,” Hamrick said. State officials “have given us until July 31. We expect to have it by that date or before,” he said…

Residents of Denver, Arvada and the North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District depend on the reservoir for drinking water. Municipal-water providers say their filtration systems remove uranium but aren’t designed specifically for this. Denver Water and others have been urging a swift cleanup.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment orders Cotter to stop flows from Schwartzwalder

June 11, 2010

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From the Associated Press:

The state health department is taking action because Cotter Corp. has been discharging pollution without a permit and uranium levels in the water are significantly exceeding the safety standard, Steve Gunderson, director of the state water quality control division, said Thursday. The agency sent the notice earlier this month. The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety has sent a separate notice to Cotter saying it believes the company is violation of several state laws. Cotter could face fines of up to $10,000 if found in violation. The Denver-based company didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Hearings are scheduled July 14 and 15 to consider whether Cotter should face penalties.

Uranium was detected in raw water going to the west-Denver suburb of Arvada, Gunderson said. The city’s water treatment plants can filter out the uranium, but disposing of the contamination could become a problem.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Lawson welcomes their shiny new whitewater park

May 26, 2010

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From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

The park celebrated its grand opening May 22. It includes boulders that create specialty chutes and waves for kayakers and other boaters along the 450-foot stretch of Clear Creek just upstream from Mile Hi Rafting. The park also has improved parking and a changing station with environmentally friendly toilets. Eighty percent of the funding for the $400,000 whitewater park comes from a Federal Highway Administration grant through the Colorado Department of Transportation. The rest is split between the county Open Space Commission and Clear Creek County…

The project was overseen by Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, which did designs at similar whitewater parks in Golden, Steamboat Springs and Buena Vista. Groundbreaking for the park was held last August, and work was finished in the creek by mid-autumn to protect the fisheries. Helseth said the creek was moved to one side behind a cofferdam to allow work to be done on the park. “They put those boulders exactly where they wanted them to make the perfect waves for kayaks, and then they actually grouted them into place,” Helseth said. “So now they won’t shift and move anymore, and they’ve really been laid out according to what they have identified as the optimal spacing for kayakers.”

More Whitewater coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado orders Cotter to start treating the water at the Schwartzwalder mine

May 22, 2010

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From the Associated Press via The Durango Herald:

The Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety said Thursday it doesn’t believe the plan would prevent uranium from contaminating Ralston Reservoir, which supplies some of the Denver area’s drinking water. Loretta Pineda, the agency’s director said Cotter has been directed to resume treating the water and submit a new plan within two weeks.

From The Denver Post:

The state Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety rejected the protection plan Cotter submitted last month and instructed the Denver-based company to submit a water-treatment plan within two weeks, the agency said in a news release…Cotter had proposed a man-made wetland and a chemical filter to capture uranium leaking from the mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado orders Cotter to start treating the water at the Schwartzwalder mine

May 21, 2010

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

The mining division required Cotter to begin water treatment at its Schwartzwalder uranium mine west of Arvada by July 31.

“The mining division took bold and decisive action to protect our drinking water,” Jefferson County Commissioner Kathy Hartman said in a release. “I am pleased to see immediate action to protect Ralston Reservoir.”

Uranium levels at the mine itself exceeded 1,400 times Colorado water quality standards.

“Thousands of people depend on clean water from Ralston Reservoir, and we can’t afford for Cotter to drag its feet cleaning up their mess,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate with Environment Colorado and a Jefferson County resident. “The mining division deserves praise for taking strong action.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Evergreen: Flushing the pipes

May 21, 2010

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From the Canyon Courier:

The Evergreen Metropolitan District will begin the annual water-main flushing program the first week of June and continue through the summer. Affected areas will be Tanoa, El Pinal, Wah Keeney Park, Hiwan Hills and Hiwan. The purpose of water-main flushing is to remove fine particles that settle in the water mains that cause color, taste and odor issues. If you have any questions, contact the Evergreen Metropolitan District at 303-674-4112.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Arvada and Denver officials are pressuring state mining regulators to force Cotter to cleanup the Schwartzwalder mine

May 20, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The latest water-quality tests showed that Ralston Creek below Schwartzwalder mine carried as much as 390 parts per billion of uranium, which is 13 times higher than the 30 ppb health standard. Contamination of groundwater at the source — inside the mine — exceeded the standard by 1,000 times. Drinking water remains safe, Denver Water and Arvada authorities said, because uranium is removed from Ralston Reservoir water by municipal water treatment plants. Still, even after treatment, uranium levels appear to be rising in some systems. In Arvada, reservoir water tested at 7.2 ppb before treatment. Uranium in drinking water sent to the city’s household customers increased to 1.2 ppb in April from 0.9 ppb in January.

“We’re urging the state to take immediate action,” said James McCarthy, Arvada’s chief of regulatory and environmental compliance. “We’re not retooling for uranium removal. That’s not just something you can turn a switch and do. That’s why Cotter has to do something about this. Why didn’t they make it known sooner?”

Jefferson County officials said they’ve been in regular contact with state regulators. The reservoir’s owner, Denver Water, “would like to see immediate and aggressive steps to ensure that reclamation of the mine is completed in a timely manner,” spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.

Colorado’s top water-quality overseer sent a memo May 10 to the mining regulators recommending swift action. “If a permanent solution cannot be implemented in a very short time frame, then an interim solution, such as pumping and treating as much contaminated water as possible, should be launched immediately,” wrote Steve Gunderson, director of water quality control for the state health department. Cotter’s mine “is causing a violation of stream standards. That’s the thing we’re waiting to get addressed. They cannot have a discharge that is violating stream standards,” Gunderson said Wednesday.

More Schwartzwalder coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: State Water Quality Control Division nukes Cotter plan for Schwartzwalder mine mitigation

May 12, 2010

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From the Associated Press via

Cotter Corp. has submitted a plan to state mining regulators to reduce uranium levels in Ralston Creek from the closed Schwartzwalder Mine. The water flows into a reservoir that supplies some of Denver’s drinking water. The Water Quality Control Division of the state health department told mining regulators in a memo Monday that Cotter’s plan doesn’t reduce uranium in the water to acceptable levels…

The state Office of Mined Land Reclamation expects to decide by May 19 whether to approve or reject Cotter’s plan or seek more information.

Meanwhile here’s a look at HB 10-1348 and how it will impact Cotter’s plans for their mill in Cañon City from Marjorie Childress writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

A controversial plan to open an old uranium mine on Mt. Taylor near Grants, New Mexico, faces an obstacle in the new law passed by the Colorado legislature that forbids increased operations at uranium mills until the mill companies clean up sites contaminated in the past. The Cotter Uranium Mill, just a little over a mile south of Cañon City is owned by the same company that owns the Mt. Taylor mine and is the designated recipient of future Mt. Taylor uranium ore. Under the new law, which Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has yet to sign, Cotter would not be able to accept the ore, at least not any time soon. “This is not unexpected,” John Hamrick, vice president of milling at Cotter, told the Cañon City Daily Record. “This bill will prevent us from processing the Mount Taylor ore.”

Click through and read the whole article — there is a lot of good detail.

More HB 10-1348 coverage from Matthew Beaudin writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The bill will essentially require companies to clean as they go, curtailing the toxic sites that dot the Western landscape and the towering cleanup costs that saddled taxpayers. (Colorado alone has shelled out more than $1 billion to cleanup the industry.) Last week, the Senate voted 24-9 in favor of the bill and the house later readopted the bill resoundingly, 60-3. Now, it waits for Ritter to vault it into law…

Hilary White, Sheep Mountain Alliance’s executive director, helped work on the measure and said Ritter will sign the bill “shortly.”[...]

Taxpayers have spent more than $950 million to clean up toxic pollution at past uranium milling operations located primarily on Colorado’s Western Slope, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “It means that the bad actors in the uranium industry will not be allowed to operate if they are in violation of contaminating the environment,” White said. “It’s been shown time and time again that uranium companies just walk away from their messes.”[...]

Jeffrey Parsons, a senior attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, which supports the bill, said there’s no guarantee Cotter will be able to get ore from Mount Taylor, which is considered sacred land by as many as 30 Indian tribes. White said the measure will also increase bonding obligations for operators in hopes of stanching the costs of future cleanup. All told, the Naturita mill site cost $67 million to clean up and the Uravan site, designated a Superfund site, cost $120 million to clean, White said. Also according to Sheep Mountain, Energy Fuels, the company planning to build a mill in Paradox Valley, plans to put up $12 million in bonding. Bonding in general, she said, was “less than adequate.” “The industry is a mess and needs to be cleaned up,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado natural resources and health regulators don’t yet agree with Cotter for proposed remediation at the Schwartzwalder Mine

April 29, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Denver Water and environmentalists on Wednesday demanded an aggressive cleanup to protect public health. They say drinking water is safe because water treatment plants remove uranium. State natural resources and health regulators are reviewing a cleanup proposal that Cotter submitted eight days ago. Cotter’s proposed options include:

• Rerouting Ralston Creek through pipes around the mine. This could harm aquatic life but prevent contamination from reaching Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir.

• Creating an artificial wetland that gradually could filter out uranium. Critics said this could be too slow.

• Installing a barrier to filter the uranium from water before it gets to the creek or groundwater.

• Digging out toxic soil 20 feet deep at the mine and hauling it to a disposal site. That remedy may depend on whether groundwater links to the mine, more than 2,000 feet deep…

“If we can demonstrate there’s no communication between the mine pool and the groundwater that results in a measurable impact, then we may not have to do anything with the mine pool,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We all agree there’s a problem. We’re working to address it.”[...]

“If (Cotter’s proposal) is determined to be deficient, (state regulators) will ask for the deficiencies to be corrected,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Theo Stein said. State inspectors documented contamination in 2007, records show. They negotiated with Cotter, which argued that the mine was not a facility subject to state law. The law was changed in 2008 to include uranium mines. In 2009, regulators rejected Cotter’s initial cleanup plan as inadequate…

Denver Water officials are waiting for results from water tests done last week at Ralston Creek and Ralston Reservoir, spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “The faster the parties can agree on a plan, the better it will be for everyone,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder Mine uranium tainted water threatens Ralston Creek/Ralston Reservoir

April 17, 2010

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Groundwater near the Schwartzwalder Mine contains uranium levels that are 1,000 times higher than the human health standards, according to an Associated Press article. The contaminated groundwater is near Ralston Creek, which flows into Ralston Resevoir. The resevoir supplies water to Denver and Arvada.

John Hamrick, Cotter’s vice president of milling, said the company had been working with the Department of Reclamation and Mining Safety to address the issue. “We have a plan that is due to them Monday about different remedial alternatives,” Hamrick said. The mine is located north and west of Golden. Hamrick said it started operations in the 1950s and was closed in 2000.

He said there were three parts to the mine when it was in operation: the underground mine, an ore sorter and a water treatment plant for water used in the mining operation. The company has a license through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the ore sorter and water treatment plant. “We’re in the final process of terminating that license,” he said…

Hamrick said the groundwater flow from the creek goes through waste rock from the mine and that is probably where it is picking up uranium. While the mine itself has water in it, that water level is steady. “We do not think that the mine water is getting into the creek,” he said.

Here’s some history for the mine from Wikipedia:

In 1949 janitor and weekend prospector Fred Schwartzwalder discovered uranium at an abandoned copper prospect in Jefferson County about ten miles northeast of Central City and eight miles north of Golden. The deposit consists of Tertiary hydrothermal veins filling fracture zones oriented predominantly NNW-SSE in gneiss, schist, and quartzite of the Precambrian Idaho Springs Formation. The chief ore mineral is pitchblende, which occurs with adularia and ankerite. Schwartzwalder could interest no one in his discovery, so he drove the first adit of the Schwartzwalder mine by himself, made the first ore shipment in 1953, and sold the mine in 1955. The Schwartzwalder mine was the source of more than 99% of the uranium produced from the Front Range province. The mine operated until 1995, producing 17 million pounds (7700 metric tons) of uranium oxide. The mine is owned by General Atomics subsidiary the Cotter Corporation, which estimates that there are an additional 16 million pounds (7300 metric tons) of uranium oxide resource remaining in the mine.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Uranium concentrations in groundwater 30 feet beneath the brim of the Schwartzwalder Mine exceed the human health standard for uranium by more than 1,000 times, according to state records reviewed Thursday. Unhealthy concentrations also were detected in Ralston Creek, which eventually enters Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to Denver and Arvada.

Denver Water managers say no uranium contamination has entered the drinking-water supply…

Neither Cotter nor the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for water quality, notified Denver Water. “It would have been nice to know,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s manager of operations and maintenance. Denver Water now will increase testing for uranium, Good said, calling on Cotter to clean it up. Because Denver’s Moffat water- treatment plant is closed for maintenance, no Ralston Reservoir water currently enters Denver’s drinking-water system, Good said. “Our water is safe,” he said, “but it’s a little bit troubling that (uranium) is coming into our reservoir in those concentrations.”[...]

Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety “does not believe conditions requiring an emergency response currently exist. If they should arise, (the state) can require Cotter to pump and treat mine water to bring down levels and ensure groundwater is not jeopardized,” state spokesman Theo Stein said.

From the Associated Press via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Cotter vice president John Hamrick says they’re considering several methods to deal with the contamination, including creating a wetland.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Idaho Springs wins the Colorado Rural Water Association ‘Wastewater System of the Year’ award for 2009

April 10, 2010

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From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Water/wastewater superintendent Chris Brownell said the award is a big achievement, considering the shape of the facility in past years. “We were the embarrassment of the industry until about four years ago,” Brownell said. “We just turned it around (from the) top down.”[...]

“In this case the reason we were nominated and got (the award) was because of nutrient removal, and so it is just operational changes,” Brownell said. “The plant was not built for or designed to do what we’re doing, so it is just quality people.”

Brownell said downstream users nominated Idaho Springs for the award — users who once were less than pleased with the wastewater leaving the city. “We were actually nominated by down-streamers who used to hate us,” Brownell said…

Water/wastewater employee Mike McElhaney was given the 2009 Rookie Wastewater Operator of the Year.

More wastewater coverage here.

Clear Creek restoration

October 21, 2009

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From The Denver Post (Charlie Meyers):

This quasi-urban creek, where many tens of thousands of vehicles speed past daily on an interstate highway, is returning to nature through a restoration project on its upper reaches…

As for Clear Creek, Caraghar’s mission becomes even more personal. “My family drifted here as miners way back when. Now we’ve come to realize what we did. Now we know it was ignorance. If you drew a circle around the four forks of Clear Creek, you’d describe a Superfund site. I feel a lot of responsibility.” He gets release in part from the talks, which some believe call too much attention to the watershed. “I get grief from talking about Clear Creek, but there’s 28 miles to fish. If you’re willing to do some bushwhacking, that distance grows. Most people aren’t willing to walk very far from where they park. I call it the 200-yard margin, and it’s why I spend so much time fishing the upper creek.”

More coverage from The Denver Post (Charlie Meyers):

A Denver resident, [Miles Williams] is a retired Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University who, as subcontractor to Frontier Environmental Services, has taken the lead in what has become a love-in for Clear Creek, one of the most abused, neglected and intriguing streams in the state. First, as a board member of West Denver Trout Unlimited, he served as director of the heralded Golden Mile project that breathed a $250,000 revival into the creek just upstream from the town of Golden. Work was completed last year. Now he has taken the lead in a similar surge of fundraising for what will be the Courtney Riley Cooper Park in Idaho Springs. “I spent nearly 2,000 hours on the Golden Mile project,” he said. “I was so naive and inexperienced. This second time around it took about one-eighth the time. I learned what was important and what was not and where to go for help.”

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Golden: Pilot project to test lowering of pharmaceuticals and other pollutants with education program

September 25, 2009

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From (Meredith Knight):

The study specifically targets consumer products such as shampoo, antibacterial soaps and lotions that contain chemicals that persist in the water system after they are washed away and have unknown health effects for aquatic life, according to Project Manager Sara Klingenstein. Millions of dollars are spent on studying the toxic effects of these chemicals, but little is done to study protection, EIS director Carol Lyons said. “To our knowledge nobody aside from ourselves is conducting a project to prevent contaminants of emerging concern from getting in the water,” Lyons said. In the next few months IES hopes to have a list of recommendations people could implement to reduce their chemical footprint, or the amount of chemicals they put into the wastewater system, according to Lyons.

Musk ketone, for example, is a chemical fragrance often included in shampoos and other scented products. “It’s designed to be very persistent,” Klingenstein explained, so the product’s fragrance lasts. But that means the chemical does not break down in wastewater and is ingested by the tiny krill and other organisms that larger fish eat. The contamination can then be passed on to larger organisms.

Initial water samples have been taken from the city’s wastewater system to establish baseline levels of the chemicals. EIS will conduct surveys to find out about people’s buying and using behaviors. The project’s goal is to reach 400 to 500 households.Then, the six-month community-based social-marketing campaign will begin. Klingenstein said the outreach would be interactive, rather than just providing information. She envisioned “Tupperware parties without any Tupperware” where neighborhood groups would gather to learn about contaminants, how to read labels to find them in products, and what alternative products are available. After that, water samples and consumer surveys will be taken again to see what impact the study had. If the study proves successful, EIS will make the program available to other cities and include other emerging contaminants…

The Institute for Environmental Solutions will be checking levels of more than a dozen emerging contaminants before and after its educational campaign in Golden. Those chemicals include atrazine, an herbicide, triclosan, an antimicrobial agent found in antibacterial soap, bisphenol A, found in plastic water bottles, and methylparaben, an antifungal agent used to preserve foods.

More water pollution coverage here and here.

Clear Creek Watershed Festival recap

September 22, 2009

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From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

They came in throngs to the information booths along Clear Creek to learn about the watershed, listen to music and play games, all the while trying to stay dry. I think there is an awful lot of good stuff going on,” Ed Rapp, president of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, said while working in an information booth. The foundation is a nonprofit charged with improving the ecological, recreational and economic conditions in the Clear Creek Watershed.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Clear Creek Whitewater Park

August 21, 2009

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From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

An official groundbreaking was held Aug. 11 for the Clear Creek Whitewater Park at Lawson. Plans for the park include specially engineered boulders that will provide chutes and waves for kayakers and other boaters along the 450-foot stretch of river just upstream from Mile Hi Rafting. Seating also will be provided on terraced rocks on the south bank. Other additions will include parking and a changing station with environmentally friendly toilets. Eighty percent of the funding for the $400,000 whitewater park comes from a grant from the Federal Highway Administration through the Colorado Department of Transportation. The rest is being split between the county Open Space Commission and Clear Creek County. According to Pete Helseth, chairman of Clear Creek Open Space, the stretch of Clear Creek is well known in boating communities. He said the stream’s path through the area was carved in the 1960s while Interstate 70 was being built…

Helseth said the idea behind the whitewater park is to take the existing boulders, improve the course, and make it into something more permanent. The project will be overseen by Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, which did the designs at similar whitewater parks in Golden, Steamboat Springs and Buena Vista.

More whitewater coverage here.

Grizzly Creek: Home for greenback cutthroat?

July 29, 2009

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Charlies Meyers (The Denver Post) is always looking for a new trout stream. He reports that a stretch of Grizzly Creek is above a stream full of mine runoff. That effectively blocks other species from the stretch. Here’s the report. From the article:

Janowsky is leading a broad- based team of experts poised to begin restoration on more than 2 miles of a creek whose sparkling headwaters rise off the flank of 14,267-foot Torreys Peak, a popular climbers’ destination just south of the Bakerville interchange off I-70. Funded in large part by MillerCoors, the Forest Service and Trout Unlimited and bolstered by a small army of volunteers, the effort will begin the first week of August with a launch of equipment and materials that will make the creek suitable for fish while erasing a rash of environmental scars. A buck-and-rail fence will be installed to prevent motorized incursion, while a mile of unauthorized road will be obliterated to further aid in stream protection. At the same time, a single-track trail will be maintained for hiking and other backcountry uses. Design and construction will be managed by Frontier Environmental Services, the firm that earlier was contracted by West Denver TU to design and build the so-called Golden Mile on Clear Creek. The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation will oversee the project once it has been completed, an effort that includes on-ground remediation and metals reduction…

“It’s the perfect chemical barrier to keep fish from coming in from down below,” said Paul Winkle, area biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

More Coyote Gulch conservation coverage here.

Standley Lake/Clear Creek Source Water Protection planning group open house July 30

July 25, 2009

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Here’s a release from City of Northglenn Public Communications via

*** The location for this event has been moved to the Community Room at West View Recreation Center, 10747 W. 108th Ave., in Westminster. Plague has been confirmed at Standley Lake Regional Park, and most of the park is closed. The time and date remain the same. ***

Residents and elected officials are invited to attend an open house at the Standley Lake Visitors Center on Thursday, July 30th between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. Participate in ongoing efforts to protect clean drinking water and gather information while enjoying refreshments and a relaxing afternoon by the lake. The Standley Lake/Clear Creek Source Water Protection Planning group is hosting this meeting to gather input on the Standley Lake Source Water Protection Plan. The plan is focused on identifying phosphorus and nitrogen sources and ways to reduce the levels of these fertilizers in Standley Lake.

Clear Creek and Standley Lake provide drinking water for over half a million people on the Front Range. Recipients of this water include residents of Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Golden, Arvada, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster. Effective protection of these water supplies requires collaboration from local government representatives, planners, state and federal agencies, and community members and organizations. Everyone is encouraged to attend this event. Presentations and posters will provide information on pollution prevention strategies and will provide details of the Source Water Protection Plan. In addition, you will have the opportunity to learn more about how you can help to protect the health of Standley Lake and the quality of your drinking water.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is funding this effort through a $50,000 grant, which is supported by in-kind funding from a wide variety of stakeholders.

For additional information about the meeting or the planning group, contact Rob Buirgy, protection plan coordinator, at 303-953-8342 or, or go to

More Coyote Gulch Clear Creek coverage here and here.

Renaissance on the River at Clear Creek

July 11, 2009

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From the (Dennis Pleuss):

Welcome to the Renaissance on the River at the Clear Creek Whitewater Park, more affectionately known as the Golden Playpark by those who frequent the waters. [Jessica] Vose was just one of many people who have taken advantage of the free instruction offered by Denver-based Renaissance Adventure Guides every Wednesday evening, where everyone from beginners to regulars take to the water for a little relaxation and some thrills. The only cost is a $10 charge for those who need to rent equipment…

The Clear Creek Whitewater Park is one of the most popular places in the area, if not the state, to kayak. Dedicated in 1998, the 800-foot course is divided into sections and runs from the Clear Creek RV Park to Lions Park to Golden City Hall to Golden Feed and wraps up at Vanover Park. The City of Golden continues to make improvements to the course, and in 2002 added six more drop structures. That makes the Playpark a golden place to kayak, whether you’re interested in river running or playboating in the various drops and pools…

Renaissance Adventure Guides also offers instruction with pool sessions at the Golden Community Center, teaches weekend classes at Chatfield Reservoir and also takes kayakers on weekend trips to Glenwood Springs. The Renaissance on the River at Clear Creek is in its fourth year, and RAG does the free nights every Wednesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. from April to September, provided the water levels are running high enough.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.


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