It’s Wastewater Worker Recognition Week

April 21, 2014

Salida: Wastewater treatment plant earns Waste Water System of the Year from the Colorado Rural Water Association

February 12, 2014
Salida Colorado early 1900s

Salida Colorado early 1900s

From The Mountain Mail:

The Salida Wastewater Treatment Facility received the 2013 Colorado Waste Water System of the Year Award from the Colorado Rural Water Association Feb. 5 at the Colorado Rural Water Association’s annual conference. The award follows the completion of the city’s wastewater plant overhaul and construction project, which was completed in 2013 and was the largest capital project to date for the city of Salida.

Randy Sack, plant manager, said about winning the award, “We really appreciate this award. It makes us proud that our hard work has been recognized. The crew really deserves this recognition.”

More wastewater coverage here.


Craig: Water and sewer rates climb in 2014

January 12, 2014
Yampa River east of Maybell March 2008

Yampa River east of Maybell March 2008

From the Craig Daily Press (Erin Fenner):

Craig City Council did its first reading of an ordinance Dec. 10 that would permit the city to raise water rates by about 6 percent and wastewater rates by about 12 percent.

The average water-use fee for residents is approximately $55 per month and $20 for wastewater, Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said.

Charter Communications req­uires the city to perform an annual review of their rates, Ferree said. Red Oak Consulting studied the rates, but the city worked to push the rates up less than what was suggested by the study, he said.

“We’ve been raising rates consistently, especially ever since we put in the water treatment plant,” Mayor Terry Carwile said.

The city has to make sure they’re keeping up with changing regulations and keeping a sufficient reserve for their water and wastewater fund, he said.

The rise in water and wastewater rates is because of new environmental regulations, paying back loans on the new water treatment plant and because of the increasing cost of treatment chemicals, Ferree said.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Pueblo plans $1.08 million addition to wastewater plant to meet stricter discharge standards

December 13, 2013
Blue-Green algae bloom

Blue-Green algae bloom

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The city plans to build a $1.08 million addition at the wastewater treatment plant next year to meet long-term changes in water quality rules. The new enclosed concrete plant is being completely funded by a state grant through a $15 million appropriation designed to help small municipalities meet new state requirements which were adopted to comply with federal regulations.

“We’re not cutting any corners with this plant,” said Gene Michael, Pueblo wastewater director.

He said $80,000 will go toward design and engineering, and the plant will have to meet all criteria for new construction. The plant is expected to be complete next summer in order to comply with state requirements to use the grant money prior to 2016.

The regulations concern the concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus — both of which are found in human waste — that are in water released from the city’s treatment plant. Standards adopted this year require less than 15 parts per million nitrogen and 1 ppm phosphorus. The city completed ammonia removal facilities this year that meet those standards, Michael said. By 2022, the standards tighten to 1 ppm nitrogen and 0.17 ppm phosphorus.

Biological processes are at odds in reaching those levels, Michael explained, calling it the “zen of wastewater treatment.”

To meet the nitrogen standard, a fermentation process will be used. Further chemical treatment and filtration, similar to a drinking water plant, will be needed to bring phosphorus to the lower level, he said. The state grant is sufficient to provide fermentation and chemical treatment, but the estimated cost of filtration, about $9.3 million, will have to be dealt with later.

More wastewater coverage here.


Cortez: Some sewer rates skyrocket

December 12, 2013
Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker):

Cortez City Manager Shane Hale said municipal leaders have been meeting with CSD officials to fully understand the impacts new rates would have on city facilities.

“Preliminarily, it looks as though the majority of city buildings will be assessed with exorbitant increases, ranging from four to eight times what the city currently pays for this service,” Hale said.

The most dramatic increases will be felt at the recreation center, where the sewer rates would increase from an average of $93 per month to $762 per month. City Hall, Cortez Police Department, municipal pool and city service center are all projected to see rates increase four-fold.

“From our standpoint, these increases are excessive,” Hale said.

Current sewer rates for the city and other businesses are based on actual metered water usage. City Hall currently uses 3,000 to 4,000 gallons per month of water, approximately half what a single family home is presumed to use.

“The bill for City Hall will go from $29 a month to a proposed $116 per month, or four times what a single family home pays,” Hale said.

Taxpayers would be responsible for picking up the city sewer tab, with total annual municipal sewer collections increasing from $27,600 in 2013 to $52,500 in 2014, according to CSD budget forecasts.

CSD’s new proposed sewer fees would be billed starting Jan. 1. Commercial and municipal rates would be determined based on six different classifications, with a majority of the new rates based on square footage. Hotel charges, however, are linked to the number of units, the hospital is related to the number of beds, and schools and day cares are subject to student capacity. And new rates for the Cortez Journal will be determined based on the number of employees.

CSD officials have indicated that each business type is awarded a Single Family Equivalency (SFE) ratio based on American Water Works Association guidelines. The SFE ratio is then multiplied by the square footage, number of employees or number of beds, for example, which is then multiplied by $30 to determine the business’s monthly sewer rate.

According to CSD budget figures, annual sewer collections from area schools are also expected to nearly double starting next year. CSD officials project the school district’s annual rates will increase from $19,200 in 2013 to $37,920 in 2014…

New residential sewer rates, including single-family residences, duplexes, apartments and mobile homes, contain a flat $30 monthly sewer fee without regard to the number of occupants.

Under the new rate structure, a 10,000-square-foot warehouse would pay $12 per month for sewer; a 1,000-square-foot beauty salon, $51 per month; a 200-seat movie theater, $18 per month; a 5,000-square-foot nursing home, $216 per month; a five-bay self-serve car wash and a 25-space RV park with full hookups, $300 per month; a 5,000-square-foot restaurant or bar, $364.50 per month; a 50-unit hotel with restaurant, $1,035 per month; a 50-unit hotel without a restaurant, $720 per month; and a 1,000-square-foot laundry mat, $357 per month.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


The Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District board is moving ahead with wastewater pipeline

December 9, 2013
Wastewater Treatment Process

Wastewater Treatment Process

From the Pagosa Sun (Ed Fincher):

The Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District board voted last week [week of November 25] to accept a bid from Hammerlund Construction Company for work on a pipeline and pumping stations needed to deliver wastewater from the town’s current lagoon site to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Vista treatment plant.

Art Dilione, special projects manager for Bartlett & West, the company tasked with handling the bidding process for the town, sent a letter to both town manager David Mitchem and Gregg Mayo, special projects director for PAWSD.

The letter, dated Nov. 19, explained how the project was originally bid on Oct. 2, but all of those bids came in well above the engineer’s estimate as well as the project’s budget, so those original bids were rejected and the project was rebid on Nov. 12.

More wastewater coverage here.


U.S. lawmakers introduce Water Protection, Reinvestment Trust Fund Act

November 23, 2013
Wastewater Treatment Process

Wastewater Treatment Process

From Water World:

Today, members of the United States House of Representatives introduced the Water Protection and Reinvestment Trust Fund Act of 2013.

The bipartisan bill would provide a small, deficit-neutral, protected source of revenue to help states replace, repair and rehabilitate critical wastewater treatment facilities by creating a voluntary labeling and contributory system to which businesses that rely on a clean water source could opt-in.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) along with Representatives Tim Bishop (NY-01), John Duncan (TN-02), Donna F. Edwards (MD-04) Richard Hanna (NY-22), Jim Moran (VA-08), Tom Petri (WI-06), and Ed Whitfield (KY-01) introduced the bill.

While it would take over $9.3 billion a year to maintain a clean-water infrastructure, funding has averaged just over $1.25 billion a year since 2000. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given U.S. wastewater infrastructure a grade of “D” in their most recent report card. Last year alone, American communities suffered more than 310,000 water main breaks and saw overflowing combined sewer systems, causing contamination, property damage, disruptions in the water supply, and massive traffic jams.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


New Metro Wastewater Reclamation District treatment plant near Brighton will help fuel development

November 17, 2013
Metro Wastewater District Northern Plant construction November 2013 via the Denver Business Journal

Metro Wastewater Reclamation District Northern Plant construction November 2013 via the Denver Business Journal

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

What do wastewater treatment and economic development have in common? You can’t have growth without the capacity to treat the wastewater that comes with it, according to the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, which treats and cleans what 1.7 million people in the Denver area flush down the drain every day.

And it’s the continuing growth of the metro area — particularly north of Denver in Adams County, Thornton and Brighton — that the district had in mind when it launched a $415 million project to build a new wastewater treatment plant and a seven-mile pipeline to funnel waste to the plant, says Barbara Biggs, the district’s governmental affairs officer.

The project has been in the works for years. Biggs attended her first meeting on it in 1999. The plant, located at U.S. 85 and 168th Avenue north of Brighton, broke ground in January. It’s about 25 percent complete, and is expected to be finished in 2016. It will serve about 300,000 people in parts of Aurora, Thornton, Brighton, and Denver and Commerce City…

When the switch is flipped, the plant will be able to handle up to 24 million gallons of waste per day — enough to handle population growth in its serve area through 2055, said Biggs, who’s been working on the project since 1999. The plant, located on a 90-acre site, is designed to be expanded as needed up to 60 million gallons per day. That’s big enough to handle the needs of 750,000 people, [John Kuosman] said…

The plant is designed to meet new state regulations that require the district to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from the wastewater, in addition to other requirements, before it’s sent into the South Platte River, Biggs said. Removing those two elements from the wastewater stream will reduce algae growth in the river — improving the water quality for fish in the river, people who use it for recreation and also making it easier to treat to drinking water standards, she said.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Video: Will it flush?

November 9, 2013


Greeley’s wastewater treatment plant wins awards for energy efficiency

October 22, 2013
Wastewater Treatment Process

Wastewater Treatment Process

Here’s the release from the City of Greeley:

Greeley’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) recently received statewide recognition for sustainability and energy reduction from the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program and the Colorado Industrial Energy Challenge. The awards ceremonies occurred on October 17 in Denver.

For its energy reduction programs, the WPCF received the Partner of the Year award from the Colorado Industrial Energy Challenge (CIEC). The wastewater plant reduced energy use from 2011-2012 by 11.5 percent. Greeley received the top honor and only six other organizations were recognized. The program acknowledges achievements in energy efficiency for large industrial facilities with more than $300,000 in annual energy costs.

The second award is from the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program (CELP).The WPCF received a Bronze Award for its efforts to reduce energy use at the wastewater treatment plant. The CELP is a voluntary program that encourages and rewards superior environmental performers that go beyond the requirements of environmental regulations and move toward the goal of sustainability.

The WPCF has recently implemented several projects that have contributed to the decrease of energy use. The 2011 installation of high-speed turbo blowers improved aeration at the plant, increased energy efficiency, and lowered energy costs. In 2012, 2,106 solar panels were installed making it the largest solar farm in Weld County. Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department will continue to find ways to make the WPCF and other facilities more energy and cost efficient.

Greeley recently scored some grant money from the state. Here’s the release from the City of Greeley:

Gov. John Hicklooper announced today that 21 municipal wastewater and sanitation districts throughout Colorado will receive a total of $14.7 million in state grants to help with the planning, design and construction of facility improvements to meet new nutrient standards. The City of Greeley’s Water Pollution Control Facility will receive a total of $80,000 for planning and $1 million for design and construction.

“Greeley is in the forefront of water quality and water management. This grant simply helps the City do its job with less cost to residents,” stated Greeley Mayor Tom Norton.

Excessive nutrients harm water bodies by stimulating algae blooms that consume oxygen, kill aquatic organisms and ultimately lead to smaller populations of game and fish. While nutrients are naturally occurring, other contributors include human sewage, emissions from power generators and automobiles, lawn fertilizers and pet waste.

“Coloradoans in rural and urban areas will benefit from these new water standards that improve and protect our water,” Hickenlooper said. “This grant funding will help communities offset the costs of bringing their systems into compliance. In addition, the grants announced today will help ensure safe and healthy water for wildlife, agriculture, recreation and drinking water purposes.”

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission adopted new standards in September 2012 to help prevent harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from reaching state waters. The new regulation requires certain larger domestic wastewater treatment facilities to meet effluent limits for nutrients.

The Nutrient Grant Program will help wastewater facilities with the costs of planning for, designing and implementing system improvements. Funding for the program was made available through HB13-1191 “Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant,” sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer and Ed Vigil and Sens. Gail Schwartz and Angela Giron.

There are about 400 municipal wastewater systems in Colorado. The new nutrient standards apply to about 40 systems and will have the greatest impact on the waters of the state.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Arvada water and wastewater rates to increase for 2014

October 17, 2013
Arvada School circa 1888 photo via ArvadaHistory.org

Arvada School circa 1888 photo via ArvadaHistory.org

From the Arvada Press (Crystal Anderson):

The rate increase, which will affect current water, wastewater and water tap rates, will go before the city council mid-November, and should it be approved, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
According to Jim Sullivan, the director of utilities for Arvada, this is a general, annual increase.

˝The rates change every year, so that there isn’t a sudden jump, by doing small increases, we are allowing for the increase to be incorporated into budgets,” he said.

When the new year begins, Arvada’s water rates will rise around 4 percent adding an additional $1 a month or $12 an year to residents’ water bills. Wastewater rates will also rise around 4 percent, which will increase bills 90 cents a month or $10.80 a year…

The increase comes as a result to increases in raw water by Denver Water and increased service charges by the Metro District. The funds will go towards the water system and the costs associated such as repair materials and maintenance…

Compared to neighboring cities, Arvada has one of the lowest water rates, and is projected to stay low despite a possible increase in 2015.

The public hearing will be held Monday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 8101 Ralston Road, Arvada.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Wastewater: Greeley’s Water Pollution Control Facility reduced energy use by 11.5% from 2011-2012 — Greeley Water

October 16, 2013

Fountain Creek: ‘We don’t think sustainable funds are there through a sales tax’ — John Cassiani

October 12, 2013
Fountain Creek

Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Businesses, not just government, want to see a higher level of commitment to stormwater funding in Colorado Springs. “We’re looking for an ongoing commitment, with a dedicated funding source that’s stable,” said John Cassiani, a real estate consultant who has served on El Paso County’s stormwater task force.

“When you look across the state and see that we are the largest city in Colorado without a stormwater fee, we need one,” Cassiani said. “We don’t think sustainable funds are there through a sales tax.”

The task force wants to base assessments on square footage of property creating either a separate authority or a stormwater district within the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The assessments would appear on property tax bills to avoid the kinds of non-payment issues associated with Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise when it collected fees from 2007-09. Communities would sign on, agreeing to maintain at least the current level of funding for maintenance. The money collected would be spent on critical projects that cross political boundaries, but returned to communities proportionately over time.

Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County commissioners have voted to support the plan, and to gather public input prior to making a suggestion of how to proceed.

No set amounts for stormwater funding have been set, or a timetable developed for when projects would be constructed, City Council President Keith King said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Mayor Steve Bach calls his plan to address flooding a “Storm Water Hybrid.” He proposes regional cooperation through an authority managed by Colorado Springs.

“We have the lion’s share of responsibility and I am not comfortable with the city delegating that to another entity,” Bach said.

Bach plans to use current funding levels on Springs Community Improvements Program bonds that were approved by voters in 1998-99.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While the number of Colorado Springs stormwater projects dropped, cost estimates rose for the remaining projects in an engineering report released Friday. The CH2MHill report was ordered by Mayor Steve Bach, who was alarmed that the city’s stormwater backlog costs apparently rose from $500 million in 2009 to almost $688 million in last year’s estimate by a stormwater task force. The new amount was about $535 million.

The engineers started by looking at a list of 282 projects within Colorado Springs, as well as reviewing stormwater documents going back 40 years, project manager Mark Rosser explained. Those projects were part of the task force’s larger study that identified $850 million in backlog for all of El Paso County, as well as nearly $11 million in operation and maintenance needs.

The consultants removed 44 projects that had been constructed, duplicated or that no longer existed. One of those was a $138 million project to replace all corrugated metal pipe drains in the city.

The remaining projects were rated according to urgency, and in some cases broken out into multiple projects.

“We were dealing with long reaches of streams,” Rosser said.

From that list of 239 projects, about 44 were given high priority, with a total cost of $162 million — more than twice the amount critical projects were estimated at in 2009.

The longer Colorado Springs waits to begin addressing projects, the worse things will get, he added.

“The work doesn’t consider what happened in September and October.”

CH2MHill is working on a similar estimate for El Paso County, expected to be completed in December.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners Terry Hart and Sal Pace don’t want to wade into El Paso County politics, but would like to see tangible results on protecting Pueblo from the ravages of Fountain Creek.

“What are you doing today to protect us and how can we rectify that?” Hart asked El Paso County and Colorado Springs officials at a meeting this week.

The commissioners want to hold Colorado Springs to its commitment to help control stormwater made while seeking federal and county permits for the Southern Delivery System.

Pace, who represented Pueblo in the state House at the time, has always been critical of the decision by Colorado Springs City Council in 2009 to abolish the stormwater enterprise.

While most of council at that time — just one of the nine members sat on the board then — thought voters meant to end what tax crusader Doug Bruce called a “rain tax,” others found the message unclear. That does nothing to help Pueblo, which will spend about $200,000 to clean up after the latest downpour in September.

The city also must convince the Army Corps of Engineers to repair its damaged reinforcement of the bank at 13th Street, where a freeway interchange, railroad tracks and flooding are threatened.

Hart wants county staff to review which of the projects are designed to protect Pueblo as flows cross the county line.

“I’m concerned about the patience level of our community,” Hart said. “It is difficult, given what has occurred. The amount of funding over several years seems to have been drained.”

Pace also is concerned about how recent accounting of stormwater projects has changed in Colorado Springs after the large wildfires denuded huge swaths of landscape.

“The two fires create more of an issue, but it’s been an issue before,” Pace said. “We had large trees uprooted here, and smaller rain events are creating larger flood events. Whatever path is chosen, we have to know it will be successful. There is a lot of skepticism in Pueblo.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Metro District Honored for Excellance in Innovation

October 11, 2013
Metro Wastewater Bob Hite Treatment Plant

Metro Wastewater Bob Hite Treatment Plant

Here’s the release from the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District (Kelley Merritt):

The Water Environment Research Foundation honored Metro Wastewater Reclamation District this week with the Award for Excellence in Innovation for advancing new technology at the Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility (RWHTF).

The District was recognized for collaboration with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to explore and evaluate a shortcut in the wastewater treatment process.

Through shared participation in the studies, both utilities were able to reduce research costs and stretch resources.

The award recognizes organizations that have made improvements to wastewater and stormwater collection, storage or treatment operations, facilities, or processes by applying WERF research.
Chairman of the Board Margaret R. Medellin, District Manager Catherine R. Gerali, RWHTF Director of Operations and Maintenance Steve Rogowski, and Operations Officer Jim McQuarrie accepted the award at WEFTEC 2013, held in Chicago this week.

Over a six-month period in 2012, the nearly $205,000 pilot study was developed at the Metro District to determine if the unique approach would be a solution for long-term nutrient removal needs.

The study showed the treatment outcome with the new process was as effective as conventional approaches, but the results were achieved much more efficiently.

The Metro District was formed under Colorado law in 1961 and is the largest wastewater treatment agency in the Rocky Mountain West. It provides wholesale wastewater transmission and treatment service to 59 local governments, including cities, sanitation districts, and water and sanitation districts. They, in turn, provide retail wastewater service to about 1.7 million people in a 715 square-mile service area in metropolitan Denver.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Salida wastewater treatment plant tour

August 30, 2013

wastewatertreatmentprocess.jpg

From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

City staff led residents through Salida’s largest capital improvement project to date, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, during an open house Thursday [August 15]. Salida Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Randy Sack led about 37 residents through the plant for the first tour of the day, explaining the process that raw sewage takes through the plant to become clean, disinfected water.

Raw sewage enters the facility in the pretreatment area of the plant’s west side. The sewage is run through a bar screen to separate inorganic and organic material and sent to the primary treatment area. In primary treatment, the waste is run through the plant’s clarifier to be separated. Heavy organic materials sink to the bottom and are sent to the anaerobic digester, while the liquids are sent to the secondary treatment area.

In the secondary treatment area, the sewage flows into the Integrated Fixed-film Activated Sludge (IFAS) system, which removes ammonia nitrogen and suspended solids with the help of bacteria in the IFAS system.

After the IFAS system, the water is run through a second clarifier to further separate the materials. Organic material is sent to the anaerobic digester, and liquids are sent to tertiary treatment.

In tertiary treatment, the liquids are run through disk filters to remove any remaining organic material, and the water is then passed under ultraviolet light to kill any remaining bacteria or viruses before flowing out into the Arkansas River.

Organic materials removed from the sewage during the process are taken to the anaerobic digester, where bacteria break down the material into gases, biosolids and water. The biosolids are removed and sent to processing, and the gas is captured and used to heat the facility.

In biosolid processing, the solids are laid out to dry, decompose and sanitize for 1 year. After a year, the facility offers the material free of charge to the public for use as fertilizer.

The new plant has improved the plant’s ability to filter out gases and solids from the water that is drained into the Arkansas River. The outgoing water now meets Environmental Protection Agency regulations that weren’t met prior to the plant’s upgrade.

For instance, the plant has seen a 99.9-percent reduction in ammonia nitrogen in outgoing water, from 27.6 milligrams per liter in 2012 to 0.008 milligrams per liter in July. The EPA maximum limit for ammonia nitrogen is 18 milligrams per liter. The plant has seen a 91-percent decrease in the amount of “suspended solids” in water sent from the plant into the river, from 40 milligrams per liter in 2012 to 3.5 milligrams per liter in July. The EPA maximum limit for suspended solids is 30 milligrams per liter.

More from the article:

Wastewater Treatment Plant finances

• Total cost of the project: $17.6 million.

• How it’s being financed: a $12.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $1.35 million Department of Local Affairs grant (with matching funds from the city) and a $2.6 million USDA loan the city received in 2009.

• Terms/rates: 40-year term at an interest rate of 2.5 percent.

• How it’s being paid for: City Administrator Dara MacDonald said in April when the city adjusted sewer rates, it was done in anticipation of the facility upgrade and the debt service that would come along with it. She said then that revenue from the city’s sewer enterprise fund is projected to cover the cost of the annual payments, along with the plant’s operation and annual maintenance costs.

• Annual payments: The city is required to make a minimum payment of $480,405 each year, but it can make higher payments to lower the amount of total interest paid over the life of the loan. If the city makes only the minimum payments, it will pay $7.1 million in interest over the life of the loan.

City Finance Director Jan Schmidt suggested at a February city council meeting that the city make payments of $542,844, which assumed the previous higher interest rate, which would have the city paying off the loan 8 years earlier and saving nearly $2.5 million in interest. Council will decide each year during the annual budget process whether to pay the minimum or the higher annual payment. She said the city is scheduled to make its first annual payment of $542,844 in September.

More wastewater coverage here.


Fountain Creek: Pueblo County DA asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the July appeals court decision

August 29, 2013

fountaincreekthrucoloradospringsfromdippity.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A dispute over water quality is heading to the state Supreme Court. District Attorney Jeff Chostner today is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a July 18 appeals court decision that Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes erred in ordering the state to redo its assessment of impacts of the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

Reyes issued his decision last year, siding with former District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in finding that the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission ignored its own standards and accepted a “gut feeling” methodology in issuing a federal permit required for SDS.

Attorney John Barth of Hygiene, who has represented both Chostner and Thiebaut in the case, argued that a scientific methodology, including a numeric standard is needed. He argued increased flows on Fountain Creek and changes in the flows of the Arkansas River through Pueblo could increase pollutants like selenium and sediment.

Colorado Springs attorney David Robbins presented counterarguments that water quality issues would be addressed as they arose through an adaptive management plan outlined in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for the project.

During a deposition for a December 2010 hearing, the state employee who performed the analysis for the SDS impacts said he relied on a “gut feeling” in his assessment of impacts.

In the brief that is being filed today, Barth argues that selenium levels through Pueblo will double or triple under SDS changes, yet the state determined there would be “no degradation.”

At the December 2010 hearing, Robbins and Colorado Springs Utilities officials made the case that impacts from SDS won’t show up for years, so numeric standards now would not be applicable.

Reyes ordered the commission to hold new hearings and develop a permit based on scientific standards. A panel of three appeals court judges rejected the Reyes decision, largely on procedural grounds because he did not do a “rigorous investigation” of claims.

Meanwhile, monsoon rains have caused a good deal of damage to Colorado Springs’ stormwater facilities. Here’s a report from Bill Folsom writing for KOAA.com:

Emergency repairs are necessary to the Colorado Springs storm water system following last weeks unusually heavy rain storm. Storm drains have been exposed, there is damage to detention ponds, and erosion has compromised infrastructure.

Storm water mangers have been running the numbers and calculate nearly four inches of rain fell in just hours on the far north side of the city. The amount equals what they call a 200 year storm. “We do not design for a 200 year storm. We’re up to 100 years,” said Colorado Springs Storm Water Manger, Tim Mitros, “So this was a rarity and our storm sewer system was just totally overwhelmed.” The price tag for the damage to the storm water system is approaching one million dollars.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


Video: Can’t flush this

August 28, 2013

Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Ark District are still scuffling over stormwater and Fountain Creek

August 25, 2013

ecoli.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities disagrees with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s interpretation of the city’s stormwater discharge data.

Last month, Lower Ark attorney Peter Nichols said the data showed the volume of discharges had gone up and increased sedimentation and E. coli bacteria in Fountain Creek. Nichols said the data were taken from Colorado Springs state stormwater reports, and his comments were reported in a Chieftain story.

In response to the story, Colorado Springs Utilities looked at the same data and believes there is no correlation of flows or increased contamination due to the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise. Mark Pifher, Southern Delivery System permitting manager for Utilities, made the comments in an Aug. 14 letter to the Lower Ark district. If anything, there is evidence that there is a downward trend of flow, sedimentation and contamination based on reports from a continuous gauge at Security. “Springs Utilities would like to reiterate that it takes stormwater control and water quality within the Fountain Creek basin very seriously,” Pifher wrote in the letter.

He repeated the stance that Colorado Springs officials have taken that a stormwater enterprise or a certain level of funding for stormwater is not required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS.

He added that a U.S. Geological Survey study shows there is more benefit to Pueblo from building stormwater retention ponds downstream from Colorado Springs than by building retention ponds within or upstream from Colorado Springs. Pifher said he wants to talk to the district about its conclusions.

More stormwater coverage here and here.


Reuse: The WISE Partnership gets approval from the Denver Water Board

August 20, 2013

prairiewaterstreatment.jpg

From the Denver Business Journal:

Denver Water last week approved the WISE partnership agreement that clears the way for the utility to delivery treated water to the area’s southern suburbs.

Approval of WISE, which stands for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, formalizes the regional cooperative water project. The agreement calls for the permanent delivery of 72,250 acre-feet of treated water from Denver and Aurora to members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA).

SMWSA was formed in 2004 from the banding together of smaller water utilities in south Denver.
With the agreement now in place, some of the water that currently flows down the South Platte River and out of the state would be recaptured by Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Waters Pipeline and pumped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. There, the water would be treated and piped to the southern suburbs.

The water delivery will begin in 2016. Members of the SMWSA must have infrastructure in place to move the water from the purification facility. The cost of the water and infrastructure for its delivery is estimated at $250 million over the next 10 years. Each member will independently determine how to finance their share of the project.

The participating members of SMWSA are the town of Castle Rock, Dominion Water & Sanitation District, Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, Cottonwood Water & Sanitation District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Rangeview Metropolitan District, Parker Water & Sanitation District, Meridian Metropolitan District and Inverness Water & Sanitation District.

More WISE Partnership coverage here.


Salida: New wastewater treatment plant grand opening August 15

August 6, 2013

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From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

Salida Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Randy Sack sent a letter to nearby residents July 19 apologizing for an odor coming from the plant at the time, stating the smell was caused by “a couple” of incomplete projects that are being wrapped up at the plant. He said he had heard complaints from “a couple people” about the smell, yet he also heard from other residents that they didn’t notice any odor coming from the plant. He said it’s normal for some smell to come from a wastewater treatment plant. City Administrator Dara MacDonald said Monday the city had also received complaints abut the smell “several weeks ago,” around the time the letter was sent to nearby residents. Sack said Monday that the odors have “diminished a lot” since the letter was sent to residents in July. He said he is still waiting for parts for the inspection hatch on the plant’s digester.

MacDonald and Sack said they both hoped the project would be complete in time for the city’s scheduled grand opening for the plant from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 15. “They’re completing the projects as quickly as they can,” MacDonald said.

As previously reported in The Mountain Mail, the total cost of the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade project is $17.6 million. The project is being financed through a $12.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $1.35 million Department of Local Affair grant (with matching funds from the city) and a $2.6 million USDA loan the city received in 2009.

The term of the loan is 40 years with an interest rate of 2.5 percent, below the market rate, City Finance Director Jan Schmidt said Monday. At the time financing was originally approved, the interest rate was set at either 3.25 percent or the rate in effect at the time of the loan’s closing, whichever was lower. When the loan closed in February, the city secured the lower 2.5-percent interest rate.

MacDonald said in April when the city adjusted sewer rates, it was done in anticipation of the facility upgrade and the debt service that would come along with it. She said then that revenue from the city’s sewer enterprise fund is projected to cover the cost of the annual payments, along with the plant’s operation and annual maintenance costs.

The city is required to make a minimum payment of $480,405 each year, but it can make higher payments to lower the amount of total interest paid over the life of the loan. If the city makes only the minimum payments, it will pay $7.1 million in interest over the life of the loan. Schmidt suggested at a February city council meeting that the city make payments of $542,844, which assumed the previous higher interest rate, which would have the city paying off the loan 8 years earlier and saving nearly $2.5 million in interest. Council will decide each year during the annual budget process whether to pay the minimum or the higher annual payment. She said the city is scheduled to make its first annual payment of $542,844 in September.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Eagle River Water and Sanitation District Awarded $1.372 Million Grant

July 28, 2013

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Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced on July 19 that 21 municipal wastewater and sanitation districts throughout Colorado will receive a total of $14.7 million in state grants to help with the planning, design and construction of facility improvements to meet new nutrient standards. The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District submitted three grant applications totaling $1,372,400; each one was fully funded.

“Our staff was very involved with the state in developing these new regulations while simultaneously modeling the regulations’ impact to our capital investment program. This proactive approach allowed the district to strategically position itself to compete for the nutrient grant program funds,” said Board Chairman Rick Sackbauer. “These regulations are the right thing for the environment and these grant funds will reduce the overall cost of compliance to our ratepayers and taxpayers. We are grateful to the state for its contribution.”

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission adopted new standards in September 2012 to help prevent harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from reaching state waters. The new regulation requires certain larger domestic wastewater treatment facilities to meet effluent limits for nutrients.

“Coloradans in rural and urban areas will benefit from these new water standards that improve and protect our water,” Hickenlooper said. “This grant funding will help communities offset the costs of bringing their systems into compliance. In addition, the grants will help ensure safe and healthy water for wildlife, agriculture, recreation, and drinking water purposes.”

Excessive nutrients harm water bodies by stimulating algae blooms that consume oxygen, kill aquatic organisms, and ultimately lead to smaller populations of game and fish. While nutrients are naturally occurring, other contributors include human sewage, emissions from power generators and automobiles, lawn fertilizers, and pet waste.

“The district has long been a steward of our local streams. We are planning the required improvements holistically, across our three wastewater treatment facilities, to provide optimal treatment at a reasonable cost for the benefit of our natural environment,” said General Manager Linn Brooks.

The Nutrient Grant Program will help wastewater facilities with the costs of planning for, designing, and implementing system improvements. Funding for the program was made available through HB13-1191 “Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant,” sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer and Ed Vigil and Sens. Gail Schwartz and Angela Giron. There are about 400 municipal wastewater systems in Colorado. The new nutrient standards apply to about 40 systems that have the greatest impact on the waters of the state.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Fort Collins scores $1 million for upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities to meet new state standards

July 28, 2013

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Fort Collins recently received a $1.08 million grant from the state to help the city’s wastewater treatment facilities meet new state water quality standards.

The grant, from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is part of $14.7 million awarded to 21 cities for similar work. In Fort Collins, the money will be used for improvements at the Drake Water Reclamation Facility to remove phosphorus and biological nutrients from wastewater, and to investigate local carbon sources to determine the best source for further nutrient removal, according to a city release.

Information: http://www.fcgov.com/ utilities.


Gov. Hickenlooper announces $14.7 million in grants for rural, urban wastewater system improvements

July 25, 2013

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Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today that 21 municipal wastewater and sanitation districts throughout Colorado will receive a total of $14.7 million in state grants to help with the planning, design and construction of facility improvements to meet new nutrient standards.

“Coloradans in rural and urban areas will benefit from these new water standards that improve and protect our water,” Hickenlooper said. “This grant funding will help communities offset the costs of bringing their systems into compliance. In addition, the grants announced today will help ensure safe and healthy water for wildlife, agriculture, recreation and drinking water purposes.”

Excessive nutrients harm water bodies by stimulating algae blooms that consume oxygen, kill aquatic organisms and ultimately lead to smaller populations of game and fish. While nutrients are naturally occurring, other contributors include human sewage, emissions from power generators and automobiles, lawn fertilizers and pet waste.

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission adopted new standards in September 2013 to help prevent harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from reaching state waters. The new regulation requires certain larger domestic wastewater treatment facilities to meet effluent limits for nutrients.

The Nutrient Grant Program will help wastewater facilities with the costs of planning for, designing and implementing system improvements. Funding for the program was made available through HB13-1191 “Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant,” sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer and Ed Vigil and Sens. Gail Schwartz and Angela Giron. There about 400 municipal wastewater systems in Colorado. The new nutrient standards apply to about 40 systems and will have the greatest impact on the waters of the state.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Happy 100th birthday activated sludge

June 20, 2013

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From the (Water Environment Federation (Jeanette Brown):

One hundred years ago this year, H. W. Clark and S. De M. Gage from the Lawrence Experiment Station in Massachusetts reported results of studies on the purification of sewage using aeration in the 45th Annual Report to the State Board of Health of Massachusetts. They found that if you aerated sewage, you achieved a clarified sewage and a reduction of Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen. A year later, 1914, a team of British researchers, Edward Ardern and W.T. Lockett, added the concept of recycling sludge, patented the process, and published a paper which first used the term “Activated Sludge.” As we reflect on these past hundred years, we can truly realize the power of these discoveries.

While a few plants adopted the activated sludge process early on, its value was not recognized for many years. In fact, the activated sludge process was not implemented in many cities throughout the United States until after the Clean Water Act in 1972. Over the years, we have modified the process, improved upon it, made it more efficient, and used it to remove nitrogen and phosphorous as well as carbon. Moreover, we have come to understand the process on a microbial level, its complexity and power. I am still overwhelmed when I visit a treatment plant and see the quality of effluent that this amazing process can achieve.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Salida: New wastewater treatment plant in production

April 15, 2013

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From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

Though improvements to the new Salida Wastewater Treatment Facility will not be fully completed for another couple of months, the city has begun treating wastewater at the new plant. The new facility began treating city water in November, and since then the city has been working to finish remaining improvements at the facility, Wastewater Plant Manager Randy Sack said Friday. Remaining improvements at the facility, which Sack said should be completed in the next “couple months,” include work on landscaping, the driveway, curb and gutter, phone and data lines, and painting.

Moltz Construction has been working on the new facility for the past 13 months, Sack said. “It’s working really nice,” he said. “It’s a little bigger. It’s doing a great job with the things we need it to do.”

Sack also said the new plant is all computerized, which allows easier monitoring of its operations. The previous plant was no longer meeting regulations for wastewater plants, City Administrator Dara MacDonald said. The plant was out of compliance with regard to levels of ammonia and biochemical oxygen demands, which Sack said “measure the organic strength of the wastewater.”

Sack said once the final improvements are made to the facility, the city plans to host an open house to invite the public to tour the new facility.

Sidebar on financials

The total cost of the Wastewater Treatment Facility upgrade project is $17.6 million. The project is being financed through a $12.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $1.35 million Department of Local Affair grant (with matching funds from the city) and a $2.6 million USDA loan the city received in 2009. The city will make its first payment on the $12.1 million loan in fall. The term of the loan is 40 years with an interest rate of 2.5 percent. At the time financing was originally approved, the interest rate was set at either 3.25 percent or the rate in effect at the time of the loan’s closing, whichever was lower. When the loan closed in February, the city secured the lower 2.5 percent interest rate. The city is required to make a minimum payment of $480,405 each year, but can make higher payments to lower the amount of total interest paid over the life of the loan. If the city makes only the minimum payments, it will pay $7.1 million in interest over the life of the loan.City Finance Director Jan Schmidt suggested at a February city council meeting that the city make payments that assumed the previous higher interest rate, which would have the city paying off the loan 8 months earlier and paying less money in interest.

City Administrator Dara MacDonald said when the city adjusted sewer rates, it was done in anticipation of the facility upgrade and the debt service that would come along with it. MacDonald said revenue from the city’s sewer enterprise fund is projected to cover the cost of the annual payments, along with the plant’s operation and annual maintenance costs.

Total 2012 revenues for the sewer fund came in at $1,444,641, and total expenditures, which included capital outlay costs for the facility’s construction this year, came in at $8,978,716. Excluding the one-time capital outlay costs this year, the sewer fund had $748,933 in expenditures, which would have resulted in net revenues of $695,708, enough to exceed the cost of the minimum annual loan payment.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Water reuse in oil and gas operations is an expensive undertaking

April 15, 2013

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

While Colorado’s drilling boom produces record amounts of gas and oil, the multiplying wells also are bringing up far greater quantities of a salty, toxic liquid waste — 15 billion gallons a year. If cleaned properly, all that liquid could become safe water to restore rivers, irrigate food crops and sustain communities in an era of drought and declining water supplies. Or at least it could be reused by oil and gas companies to reduce their draw of fresh water from farmers and cities. “You could use that water for anything,” said Steve Gunderson, water quality control director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We’ve got to do our best to make sure we protect our environment. In a state like Colorado, water is our future.”

But Colorado leaders have no policy for reusing oil and gas industry waste. More than half is injected untreated into super-deep wells — filling rocky voids from which oil and gas was extracted. Other waste is dumped in shallow pits, stored in evaporative ponds or discharged after partial treatment under state permits into waterways. Technology exists to clean liquid waste right up to drinking water standards, but it’s expensive, about three times as costly as buying fresh water for drilling and fracking, which runs about 17 cents a barrel, and burying waste untreated for about 70 cents per barrel…

Some companies, such as Encana, treat liquid waste to the point at which it can be reused for fracking more wells. They remove fracking gel and microbes, yet the liquid stays too toxic and salty to irrigate crops. Modern treatment methods — used in Wyoming and other states where geology does not allow safe burial — purify liquid waste so that water can be put back in rivers. This restores aquatic life and eventually helps fill drinking-water reservoirs…

High Sierra’s water-treatment plants near Front Range drilling fields use a combination of mechanical skimming, chemical reaction, reverse-osmosis filtering and biological treatment to transform truckloads of toxic black muck to crystal-clear water…

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, charged with both promoting and regulating the oil and gas industry, has issued 3,191 permits letting companies dispose of liquid waste in evaporative ponds, shallow pits and 300 super-deep injection wells. Disposal in pits and ponds can lead to toxic emissions and contamination of groundwater. Hundreds of the pits in eastern Colorado are unlined, pre-dating rules implemented in 2009. Even under those rules, operators can seek variances that let them avoid installing liners. And companies operating in Washington, Yuma, Logan and Morgan counties have until May 1 before new pits must be lined.

The liquid waste comes from drilling boreholes at oil and gas wells. First, drillers inject about 300,000 gallons of fresh water. Then frackers inject 1 million to 5 million more gallons, mixed with sand and fracking fluids, to loosen oil and gas in shale rock. This all blends with briny underground pools that are often saltier than seawater and laced with metals…

Spills can be devastating — as seen along Colorado’s once-pristine Spring Creek, a tributary of the North Platte River in a wildlife-rich area near Walden, west of Fort Collins. For more than a decade, Englewood-based Lone Pine Gas has been allowed to discharge hundreds of thousands of gallons of what is supposed to be treated liquid waste into the creek under a CDPHE permit. State permits specify the levels of various metals, oil and grease, salts and chemicals that must be removed before discharging waste into surface waterways. But discharges by Lone Pine have degraded Spring Creek to the point that, according to a recent EPA emergency response assessment, aquatic life is impaired. Last April and August, EPA crews found oil-contaminated soil heaped in open, unlined piles and cattle drinking oily water from waste ponds. Lone Pine spilled oil into the creek in 2006 and in 2011 — material that blackened and poisoned creek beds, according to state and federal records. As recently as 2010, CDPHE officials renewed Lone Pine’s discharge permit without review, records show. Now state water-quality officials are suing the company and say they will toughen enforcement under a compliance plan backed by court order…

Today in Colorado, 51 percent of the 326 million to 398 million barrels a year of the oil and gas industry’s liquid waste is injected deep underground, state officials said in responses to Denver Post queries. Another 12 percent is discharged into creeks and rivers — about 1.6 billion gallons a year — under 23 CDPHE permits…

Most fracking now is done using recycled produced water, he said…

Industry leaders “are doing pilot projects right now that are protected by non-disclosure agreements” and investing in filtration technology, Ludlam said. “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


The price tag for Sterling’s deep injection wells for RO brine escalates from $80,000 to $2.3 million

March 29, 2013

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From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (David Martinez):

[Sterling Public Works Director Jim Allen] told the council that Public Works was working on a number of water and sewage issues around the city – most of them directly or indirectly related to construction of the new water treatment plant.

The one that stands out: Deep injection wells used to pump the treated wastewater from the reverse osmosis filtration, estimated to cost $80,000 at the start of the project, will now cost about $2.3 million, according to a March 10 estimate. About $1.3 million of that cost would go toward the construction of one of the two pumps, which is located above the railroad tracks north of the plant…

The wells themselves, buried about 7,000 feet underground, have already been constructed. They were included in one of three bid packages for the project – the other two being a pipeline project and the water treatment plant itself, which is in the final construction stages.

Allen told the council the increased cost comes from the pumping equipment needed, as well as some stainless steel piping needed for the aboveground operation. The pipes might need to handle 2,200 to 2,600 pounds of pressure per square inch, which Allen said is a “monumental number.”[...]

Allen told the Journal-Advocate the $2.4 million also isn’t set in stone; he, Kiolbasa and others will be working with the estimates for a more solid cost…

In related projects concerning the plant, Public Works is continuing to redrill and rehabilitate the city’s raw water wells. The effort is part of a plan to have enough raw water to actually put through to the water treatment plant.

In February the council heard that the plant planned on having the ability to pump more than 7,900 gallons of water per minute, but that it could only pump about 5,500 gallons at that point because of degraded wells.

More infrastructure coverage here.


2013 Colorado legislation (HR13-1044): ‘Perhaps a gray future is not such a bad thing, after all’ — Anna Mitchell #coleg

January 28, 2013

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From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Anna Mitchell):

I do not live in a country where safe drinking water is difficult to come by. Not only is my apartment’s water treated, but I have the means available to take my tap water and purify it further. We have so much clean water that it is used for things that purification is not even necessary for, such as flushing a toilet.

I am fortunate to have access to potable water on command. But that access could be unnecessarily excessive.

For water to be deemed potable, it must undergo an energy-consuming treatment to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards of what is deemed safe to ingest, cook with, and bathe in. However, we use potable water for things like toilet flushing and irrigation despite there being no standards saying our toilet water must be safe to drink.

Greywater, or wastewater that consists of low levels of organic waste, is what drains from bathroom sinks, showers, and washing machines. While graywater is not deemed safe for drinking, there does not seem to be any problems for uses like plant irrigation. Greywater also does not require the same energy-consuming treatment that potable water necessitates.

Water conservationists, led by state Rep. Randy Fischer, have proposed a bill that will recognize graywater systems as a legal process in regions that decide to permit it as such. The bill was recently endorsed by the Colorado Water Congress. While I find water rights to be one of the most infuriating legal institutions in existence, I overall applaud these efforts in sustainability…

My support comes with a few conditions. The amount of effluent, or pollutant run-off, must be kept absolutely minimal. We cannot be initiating sustainability efforts for environmental conservation at the cost of harming the environment in other ways.

There should be absolutely no health concerns that result from having graywater around. The practicality and costs of initiating a system that separates greywater from potable water and black water (water containing large amounts of organic waste, such as from kitchen sinks and flushed toilets) should also be taken into consideration…

Perhaps a gray future is not such a bad thing, after all.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here. More graywater reclamation coverage here and here.


Complete rewrite of state regulations governing septic tanks/leach field systems in the works

January 27, 2013

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The state is going to scrap current regulations governing septic tanks/leach field systems and start anew, San Juan Basin Health Department board members were told Thursday. Greg Brand, the department’s newly hired director of environmental health, characterized the changes as sweeping. They will apply to all new dwellings not covered by a municipality or independent metro district, Brand said. The health department will have a year to bring its regulations into conformity. “My reading is that the new regulations will apply more to site evaluation – soil quality and size – than to installation,” Brand said. “Installers will be following a plan.”

Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said by telephone that the new regulations will constitute a complete overhaul, a major revision. “We’ve been working on this for three years, with involvement of environmental health officials, health departments, developers and system installers,” Gunderson said.

“We were being hammered by local officials because current regulations are too rigid,” Gunderson said. “What applies in the Eastern Plains may not fit in the mountains.

More infrastructure coverage here.


2013 Colorado legislation (HB13-1044): Consumptive use challenge on the horizon if the bill passes?

January 26, 2013

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Patrick Malone):

Sometime in the next three to five weeks, with the flip of a single valve, toilet tanks in the residence hall will fill with recycled water, a testament to [researchers Larry] Roesner and [Sybil] Sharvelle’s work.

“We are very anxious for that first flush,” Roesner said. “We are ready to flush the toilet, but we’re taking some final tests to make sure it’s OK.”

The conversation around gray water in Colorado also faces a new test.

A gray water bill by state Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, has undergone some fine-tuning and appears poised to pass after a similar measure met swift defeat last year. This year’s incarnation faces its first hurdle Monday in the House Agriculture Committee that Fischer chairs.

Fischer’s bill would recognize gray water systems as legal in statute, enable regulation of them to protect public health and grant cities and counties discretion to permit them — or not, if they so choose…

“We can save about 50 percent of the indoor demand by using gray water for toilet flushing, and we can save about 30 percent of overall annual demand by gray-water reuse,” Roesner said. “A household of four could save 58,000 gallons a year using gray water, and a 40-home subdivision would save over 2 million gallons a year.”

“There are not many other conservation practices that would allow you to achieve those types of conservation benefits,” Fischer said.

But that wasn’t enough to get a proposal off the ground at the Legislature last year. In its first committee hearing, Republicans killed it on a party-line vote.

“It’s been interesting, because it seems like a relatively simple idea, yet it’s been so difficult to achieve in legislation,” Fischer said.

Opponents of last year’s version of the bill say concerns that proliferation of gray water systems would harm downstream water-rights holders — not partisan politics — torpedoed Fischer’s first bid.

“That has always been my concern, how it affects downstream water users,” said agriculturally-oriented Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Grand Junction: Sanitary sewer rates are going up in 2013

December 9, 2012

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Duffy Hayes):

It’s been a few years since customers of the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant have seen their monthly bills rise, but plans for each of the next three years call for a boost in customer fees.

A budget adopted this week for 2013 includes a $2.02 rise for basic, minimal-use sewer and wastewater treatment service for Persigo customers, increasing the total monthly service to $17. According to the plan, rates are set to jump $2 in 2014 and $1.75 in 2015.

Mesa County commissioners, who have joint oversight over the wastewater plant with the Grand Junction City Council, heard a number of reasons for the planned rate increases.

Grand Junction City Services Manager Dan Tonello presented a budget for next year that includes a roughly 3 percent increase in operations expenses and a capital plan that is jumping from $2.29 million in 2012 to $4.22 million in 2013.

A big part of the additional expense is to replace aging infrastructure in the system’s collection network. Tonello said 217 miles of the roughly 500 miles of pipe in the system are at “life expectancy” and “beyond their design life.”

“We need to increase the frequency with which we are replacing that — or essentially, 10 or 20 years down the road, we could have a very old system in need of drastic repairs,” Tonello told county commissioners.

Persigo plans to hire two new full-time employees next year. One is expected to help maintain and repair the current system. Another is expected to help serve the Central Grand Valley Sanitation District, which Persigo now manages after a November vote that dissolved the special district.

Also, because there have been no rate increases during the recent economic downturn, Persigo fund balances have decreased, and Tonello said the rate increases will keep those balances above minimally acceptable levels.

Finally, regulations that will require new measurement of nutrients are looming. About $500,000 is being set aside next year to prepare for those regulations, and Persigo hopes to have $11 million collected by 2023 to comply with the new, as-of-yet unspecified standards.

“I’m not real happy about the increase in fees, but I do understand the challenges with capital and maintaining the infrastructure, and I do know that we have one of the smallest monthly fees compared to any other sewer funds,” Commissioner Janet Rowland said.

Despite the fee increases, Persigo customers still enjoy the lowest rates on the Western Slope for sewer service. Staff attribute the low fees to federal participation in Persigo’s construction in the 1980s and the lack of a debt payment for the plant.

Looking beyond 2015, the long-range budget projections show no increase in fees in 2016 and 2017, and 50-cent increases planned for 2018, 2019 and 2020. Tonello cautioned that these are very preliminary projections for these years and “when we actually get there, things could be very different.”

More infrastructure coverage here.


Thornton: Water and sewer rates to increase

November 25, 2012

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From the Thornton Sentinel (Darin Moriki):

City Council unanimously approved a 3 percent water and 6 percent sewer rate increases Nov. 13. Thornton finance director Chuck Seest said both the sewer and water fees will flow into two designated sewer and water funds used to “maintain adequate cash reserves and debt service coverage based on expected future operating and capital costs.” In all, he said the water fund increase will generate about $1 million in additional revenue, while the sewer fund increase will generate an additional $500,000.

Seest said water rates are increased every two years in response to customer demands, regulatory requirements and inflationary costs. He said the looming increase is lower than the recent 4 percent inflation measurements taken over the past two years.

While the ordinance will allow for a 3 percent water rate increase next year, no rate increases are reflected for 2014. Seest said this adjustment will result in a slight average summer residential water bill increase from $50.01 to $51.49 and an average winter residential water bill increase from $19.59 to $20.17.

The second part of the ordinance, which calls for a 6 percent sewer rate increase and no rate increase for solid waste, was attributed to an 8 percent rate increase imposed by the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District for treatment services charged to the city. Seest explained these sewer rates are adjusted annually based on rate increases charged by the wastewater treatment facility. He said Metro Wastewater Reclamation District rate increases must be passed onto customers, because about 72 percent of the sewer fund’s operating costs is dedicated to paying these rates.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Durango is set to double sewer rates over 2013

November 24, 2012

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From The Durango Herald (Jim Haug):

The plan is to double residential and commercial rates by the end of next year. Based on usage of 2,000 gallons of water, the monthly residential rate would double to $15.64 and the commercial rate would similarly increase to $21.84. Beginning in January 2013, consumers would have to pay for only a 50 percent increase because the full implementation of the rate increases would be delayed until December. So residential consumers in January would start out paying a fee of $11.75 while commercial consumers would pay $16.40 a month.

More Animas River Watershed coverage here.


The Brighton City Council green lights new Metro Wastewater treatment plant

November 19, 2012

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From the Brighton Standard Blade (Crystal Nelson):

City Council voted unanimously Nov. 13 during a special meeting to approve on first reading a final plat and development agreement, as well as a condition of use agreement for the property. The final plat will create one large platted lot from the six existing non-platted parcels for the purpose of building the regional treatment facility on the 83-acre piece of property, located at the corner of US-85 and Weld County Road 2, according to Senior Planner Jason Bradford. He said it also includes additional right-of-way dedication for Baseline Road, a 22-foot-wide trail easement along the western and southern edges of the property, an easement for a city drainage channel in the southwest corner of the property and other easements for water meters, storm water and public infrastructure on the property…

A wastewater treatment plant is needed to support communities in the northern metropolitan region because existing facilities will soon reach capacity, according to the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District website. The Northern Treatment Plant will provide wastewater treatment for all or portions of the cities of Aurora, Brighton, Thornton, Denver and the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District.

“Construction will begin in December of this year. You probably won’t see too much activity this year,” said Northern Treatment Plant Project Delivery Manager Bill Brennan, adding the board will award a contract for construction in a week and that the plant is expected to become operational in 2016. According to Brennan, earthwork will take place from January through June, a berm will be constructed around Highway 85 in the spring, the administration building/visitors center will be constructed between July of 2013 and August of 2014, sidewalk and landscaping will be installed during 2015 and the facility is expected to open around June of 2016.

More wastewater coverage here.


Produced water from coalbed methane wells could be an adjunct to supplies according to oil company data

November 13, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Hundreds of coal­bed methane wells in Las Animas County could produce water that could be used for other purposes in the Arkansas River basin, a study shows. A two­year waterquality monitoring program is showing the “produced water” — water that must be removed from coal seams to extract natural gas — is within limits for harmful contaminants like dissolved solids, conductivity, chloride, sodium, boron and iron, Julie Vlier, of Tetra Tech told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday.

“Based on the collection data of the last two years, the quality is quite good,” Vlier said. “Concentrations in the Raton
Basin are lower.” The water ­quality question is important to companies like Pioneer Natural Resources and XTO Energy, which otherwise would have to spend more to inject the water back into the ground. The companies funded the study, which began in 2010. Pioneer alone has about 2,300 gas wells in the Raton Basin, said Jerry Jacob, environmental advisor for the company.

If the water can continue to flow freely into tributaries leading into the Purgatoire River west of Trinidad, it could increase the yield of existing water rights or even improve Colorado’s position in the Arkansas River Compact. Vlier also said the water could help in drought planning or fire mitigation.

The energy companies have state permits that would allow the release of up to 14,000 acre­feet — or 4.5 billion gallons — of water annually. Not all of it would likely reach the Purgatoire River, but it could be used to enhance existing water supplies.

Not everyone on the roundtable agreed with the rosy assessment for produced water.

“They’re taking water out of the same formation as Petroglyph,” said Al Tucker, a member of the Majors Ranch Environmental Committee, who represents Huerfano County on the roundtable. Landowners in Huerfano County say their wells were adversely affected during Petroglyph’s operations, which ended in 2011. In addition to contamination of groundwater, the company may have taken water out of priority, Tucker said.

“There are always bad actors,” Vlier told him.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


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

November 6, 2012

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From the Littleton Independent (Jennifer Smith):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Glenwood Springs is hosting tours of new $22.3 million wastewater treatment plant

October 25, 2012

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Lucky Glenwood Springs residents. From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

The city is offering a series of public tours this week and next to show off the new, 1.9-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant located at the old Chatfield Ranch near the municipal operations center on Wulfsohn Road.

The $22.3 million treatment plant, lift station, sewer pipeline and related facilities have been under construction for the past two years and were completed this past summer. The new plant replaces the old facility near the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers on Seventh Street.

Three tours per day will continue on Thursday, and again on Oct. 30 and 31…

During the tour, Tipton describes the wastewater treatment process, from the collection center at the new lift station on Seventh Street, through three miles of pipeline along Midland Avenue to the treatment plant, and into a multi-stage treatment process. In the end, the more than 90 percent pure water is returned to the Colorado River.

In the laboratory near the end of the tour, the city’s longtime wastewater lab technician Lee Jones compares two beakers of water, one containing sewer water coming into the plant and the other containing the treated water that will go out of the plant into the river.

The latter is as clear as drinking water. In fact, recent readings at the plant indicate 99 percent removal of solids from the treated water.

To get to that stage, after being pumped from the lift station, the water first enters the plant’s headworks building. There, a grit sorter removes the larger sand and grit.

“We want to get as much of the grit out as fast as we can,” Tipton said. “Through this process, we will eliminate 80 to 90 percent of the larger material.”

This is also the most volatile stage of the process, as raw sewer water can produce large amounts of methane gas. The headworks building is “explosion proof,” meaning there are no exposed electrical outlets or other potential sources of ignition. Methane gas detectors and other safety devices will also shut the system down if dangerous levels are detected.

The air ionization system that controls the plant odors is also contained in the headworks building.

From there, it’s on to the oxidation ditches, or ponds, where oxygen is added to the partially desolidified wastewater. Large, submerged paddles in the 20-foot-deep pools keep the water churning constantly.

It’s also during this stage that ammonia and nitrogen are removed from the water. The water flow continues into the “secondary clarifier” ponds, where a rubber scraper continues to remove the remaining suspended solids, which are recirculated back through the system…

An operations lab includes a main computer monitoring station, where plant operators can observe the entire process from beginning to end and can remotely open and close valves and check meters.

Before going into the river, the treated water goes through a final ultraviolet disinfection system. Meanwhile, the biosolids are sent to the digester, and the sludge is eventually hauled away.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


CU-Boulder team wins the 2012 WEF Student Design Competition

October 22, 2012

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Here’s the release from the Water Environment Federation:

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) proudly announces students from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of South Florida as winners of the 2012 Student Design Competition. The eleventh annual competition took place this month in New Orleans, La. as part of WEFTEC® 2012, WEF’s 85th Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference.

The University of Colorado Boulder team’s project “Broadmoor Park Properties Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade” won in the wastewater design category, and the University of South Florida team’s project “Ragan Park” won in the environmental design category. This was the second win for the University of Colorado Boulder (a student chapter of the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association) and the second win for the University of South Florida (a student chapter of the Florida Water Environment Association) in eleven years.

A program of the WEF Students & Young Professionals Committee (SYPC), the Student Design Competition promotes real world design experience for students interested in pursuing an education and/or career in water/wastewater engineering and sciences. It tasks individuals or teams of students within a WEF student chapter to prepare a design to help solve a local water quality issue. Teams evaluate alternatives, perform calculations and recommend the most feasible solution based on experience, economics and feasibility.

Members of the University of Colorado Boulder team included Kristin Johansen, Maria Cabeza, Matthew Huntze, Bailey Leppek, Alexandra Murray and faculty advisor Angela Bielefeldt. Members of the University of South Florida team included Micah Blate, Danielle Bertini, Emily Patrick, Lyudmila Haralampieva, Gabriele Dionne and faculty advisor Sarina Ergas. Both teams received certificates and a $2,500 award as announced by WEF Past President Paul Freedman during a ceremony on September 30.

Sponsored by Black & Veatch, CDM Smith, Greeley and Hansen, and HDR Engineers, this year’s competition was organized by SYPC Design Competition Program Chair Lauren Zuravnsky and Vice Chair Allison Reinert with assistance from Design Competition Program Past Chair Michelle Hatcher and WEF Staff Liaison Dianne Crilley.

For more details, see “College Students” at www.wef.org/PublicInformation.

Here’s the release from the University of Colorado at Boulder:

A team of students from CU-Boulder joined students from the University of South Florida as winners of the Water Environment Federation’s 2012 Student Design Competition. The eleventh annual competition took place this month in New Orleans.

CU’s project “Broadmoor Park Properties Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade” won in the wastewater design category. This was the second win for CU-Boulder (a student chapter of the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association) in eleven years.

A program of the WEF Students & Young Professionals Committee (SYPC), the Student Design Competition promotes real world design experience for students interested in pursuing an education and/or career in water/wastewater engineering and sciences. It tasks individuals or teams of students within a WEF student chapter to prepare a design to help solve a local water quality issue. Teams evaluate alternatives, perform calculations and recommend the most feasible solution based on experience, economics and feasibility.

Members of the CU-Boulder team included Kristin Johansen, Maria Cabeza, Matthew Huntze, Bailey Leppek, Alexandra Murray and faculty advisor Angela Bielefeldt. Both teams received certificates and a $2,500 award as announced by WEF Past President Paul Freedman during a ceremony on Sept. 30.

More education coverage here.


Oct. 18 marks 40 years for CWA; Metro Wastewater upgrades plant

October 19, 2012

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Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District (Steve Frank):

Oct. 18 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA established the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, which treats 130 million gallons of wastewater a day for metropolitan Denver, has been a major part locally of a revitalization of urban waterways that’s taken place since the CWA was enacted in 1972.

The Metro District was established in 1961 to provide secondary wastewater treatment for the metro Denver region. The District’s main treatment plant, the Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility at 6450 York Street, came on line in late 1966. It has undergone continual upgrades since then.

A $211 million upgrade project now underway at the Hite facility to remove ammonia and nitrates from the water Metro discharges to the South Platte River passed the 40-percent-complete stage at the end of September. Construction began in early 2011.

Construction documents show that 45,000 cubic yards of concrete have been placed to date for the South Secondary Improvements Project. This represents approximately 60 percent of the total concrete placement scheduled for the project. In addition, approximately 50 percent of the underground utility work has been completed.

“The project is within its approved budget and is also running approximately two weeks ahead of the early completion schedule,” said Director of Engineering Mitch Costanzo.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “Today 92 percent of Americans have round-the-clock access to safe, clean drinking water that meets national health standards, and more than two-thirds of America’s assessed waterways meet water quality standards,” in a speech at the Water Environment Federation’s annual WEFTEC conference and exposition in New Orleans the first week in October.

“Urban waterways have gone from wastelands to centers of redevelopment and activity, and we have doubled the number of American waters that meet safety standards for swimming and fishing,” Jackson said during her presentation.

The predecessor of the CWA was the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, which was enacted in 1948.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


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

October 18, 2012

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

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

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

“The Animas knits everything together,” Oliver said.

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

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

More Animas River Watershed coverage here and here.


Littleton: City staff is proposing sanitary sewer rate increases of 2.5 percent in 2013 and 3 percent each year 2014 through 2017

October 16, 2012

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From the Littleton Independent (Jennifer Smith):

The Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant is subject to stricter nutrient removal standards as of 2022. In order to accomplish that, city staff says design and permitting for the project needs to begin in 2017, with construction set to begin in 2019.

Currently, customers within city limits pay $233.02 per year; those outside pay $212.21. Staff is proposing an increase of 2.5 percent in 2013 and 3 percent increases every year after that through 2017. That works out to about $6 more a month in 2013 for a single-family home in city limits, up to a total of about $262 a year in 2017.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $15 million, and Littleton splits that evenly with Englewood. However, adding on $5.75 million for required reserves, the city needs at least $13 million in the bank by the end of 2017.

“I can’t think of any other way to do it that’s responsible,” said Charlie Blosten, director of public works.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Pagosa Water and Sanitation scores a $2 million loan for wastewater pipeline

September 7, 2012

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From the Pagosa Sun (Ed Fincher):

Phil Starks, of the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District, reported to town council the approval of a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for a project that would allow sewage to be pumped from downtown Pagosa Springs to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Vista treatment plant, enabling the clean-up of the old sewage lagoon site near Yamaguchi Park…

Although Stark reported success in getting a vote of approval from the water authority, he went on to say, “We have to still do a lot of paperwork. One thing is getting the legal opinion of Mr. Cole (town attorney Bob Cole).” Another is getting the approval of town council, but the sewer line project is still moving forward…

Ken Charles, from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which, along with the state water authority, had a say in whether or not to approve the loan, said, “When I took that proposal back and it had changed from a wastewater treatment plant to this pipeline project, everyone said this was a completely different project and we should ask them to re-apply to the program. I just told them this is a prudent decision in all sorts of ways. You’re saving money in the long run, and you’re avoiding another discharge point into the river. It was a win-win situation, and you let your staff work out the details.”

More wastewater coverage here and here.


South Park: The BLM is gearing up for expanded oil and gas activity

August 25, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

…Aurora Water, local authorities and conservationists are pushing back, demanding careful planning before any land is leased…

“We want to preserve our environment, our water quality, our air quality, our wildlife corridors, our wildlife and fisheries,” [Park County administrator Tom Eisenman] said. “Our economy is based on recreation.”

Aurora Water wants a 1-mile buffer around Spinney Reservoir, utility spokesman Greg Baker said. “We’re concerned about surface contamination,” he said.

The leases being considered for early next year would allow drilling on 2,850 acres, including land within a half mile of Spinney, the large reservoir that holds water for Aurora.


EPA to host free webinar on on public health and environmental issues related to septic systems on Thursday

August 21, 2012

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From the EPA via Twitter:

We’re hosting a free webinar on Thursday, 1 to 3:30 pm ET, on public health & enviro issues related to septic systems. https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/957149114

More wastewater coverage here and here.


The Sterling Ranch development signs up for WISE Project infrastructure and water supplies

August 17, 2012

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From the Castle Rock News (Rhonda Moore):

Sterling Ranch managing director Harold Smethills announced a deal with Aurora Water that will deliver 88 million gallons of water already owned by the development’s provider, Dominion Water. The deal paves the way for Sterling Ranch to begin the plat process with Douglas County as the development moves forward, Smethills said.

At the same time, Sterling Ranch signed a second deal with Aurora Water in a 15-year lease for 186 million gallons of water as a sub-agreement of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement, said Greg Baker, manager of Aurora Water public relations…

Sterling Ranch aims to begin its development process before year’s end and hopes to enter the market as quickly as possible, Smethills said. He hopes to debut Sterling Ranch, a planned development approved for more than 12,000 homes over its 20-year planned build-out, with as many as 2,000 homes in its early phases. “This gets us in the market years before we could have built our infrastructure because the demand is here now,” Smethills said.

More Sterling Ranch coverage here.


Blue River Watershed: Upper Blue Sanitation District wastewater treatment plant employs sealed-pipe system to control odors

August 15, 2012

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From the Summit Daily News (Caddie Nath):

The $32-million plant, which opened its pipes in March, is bringing expanded capacity and cutting-edge technology to the operation…

Equipped with the first water-treatment technology of its kind in the U.S. and a sealed-pipe system to control odors, the clean, spacious facility is the last big capacity-increase project the district ever plans to undertake…

The plant, which processes 2 million gallons per day on its own, is designed to target the key challenges in the business — smell and sanitation standards. Sealed pipes prevent wastewater from ever being exposed inside the plant, while a ventilation mechanism keeps air flowing into, rather than out of, the building, trapping any smell from the facility inside…

Chemical water-treatment technology imported from Europe, and never before used in the U.S., allows the plant to meet Summit County’s rigorous standards for nitrogen and phosphorous.

More wastewater coverage here.


Uncompahgre River Watershed: ‘Good Samaritan’ clean up of Red Mountain Creek in the offing?

August 3, 2012

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From The Telluride Watch (Samantha Wright):

The Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, a grassroots coalition of citizens, nonprofits, local and regional governments, and federal and state agencies dedicated to understanding the Uncompahgre Watershed, would like to do something about this caustic problem child. Red Mountain Creek is, after all, a tributary of the Uncompahgre River, and one of the main reasons why the southernmost portion of the river is deemed “impaired” – or, as some would say, dead, because it cannot support aquatic life.

The coalition has recently identified its top priority as improving water quality so as to remove impaired segments of the Uncompahgre River from the State of Colorado’s list of impaired streams.

Thus, Przeszlowska is watching with interest current efforts headed up by U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to find a way to allow so-called Good Samaritans (ranging from individuals to citizen groups like UWP to governmental and nongovernmental agencies) to take on projects to improve water quality in areas where there are abandoned mines, without fear of incurring liability under the Clean Water Act.

Reclamation experts have found plenty of ways to shore up leaky old mines and reduce acid mine drainage flowing into impaired watersheds. These range from simple fixes, like reducing the amount of water entering into the mine by building plugs or diverting the water around old workings, to treating drainage with settling ponds, wetlands, limestone drains, or some other form of passive or active treatment.

But certain provisions in the federal Clean Water Act create major stumbling blocks to such efforts. The Clean Water Act likes big, perfect fixes – like permanent water treatment pants that cost millions to build and millions more annually to operate, and which convert toxic water into potable stuff that fish can cruise around in.

So-called Good Samaritans have had to walk away from more modest mine cleanup projects for fear that if they don’t bring the discharge water all the way up to CWA standards, they may be sued by a third-party citizen or even another environmental group.

Pat Willits, the executive director of the Ridgway-based Trust for Land Restoration, which helps communities deal with a myriad of issues related to abandoned mining, explains the liability problem like this: “Good Samaritans are spooked by the ‘citizen suit’ provision of the Clean Water Act, which says that if someone suspects a violation of the Clean Water Act, a citizen may begin a legal action and if successful, the defending party will have to pay all of the legal expenses of the citizen’s group. If they are unsuccessful, the defendant does not have recourse to countersue.”[...]

Two decades’ worth of efforts to shield would-be Good Samaritans legislatively by creating a new provision in the Clean Water Act (including, most recently, U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2009), have floundered in Congress, due to fears from environmentalists about opening up the Clean Water Act, even for such benign and altruistic purposes as protecting Good Samaritans…

Fed up with past efforts, Udall is now taking a new approach. He believes that updating, or even simply clarifying, Environmental Protection Agency policy may accomplish pretty much the same thing as legislation in terms of affording legal protection to Good Samaritans.

The agency already has some existing guidance that encourages potential Good Samaritans to enter into voluntary agreements with EPA or federal land management agencies that helps to facilitate certain kinds of Good Samaritan cleanups.

As they stand, these protections are considered good enough protection for Good Samaritans to undertake reclamation projects that do not include direct attempts to improve water quality beyond, for example, rerouting a stream so it does not flow through a mining waste dump, or preventing water from flowing into old mine workings.

More water pollution coverage here.


Northern Colorado Water Utility Science Program Launches

July 10, 2012

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Say hello to GetIntoWater.org. The website is hoping to match educators, water utilities and students looking for a career in water and wastewater distribution and treatment. From the Northern Colorado Project page:

The NoCo WUSP will offer a customized learning approach for each student based on their interests and abilities. Through classroom courses and field training in Fall/Winter of 2012, students will learn important fundamentals of water treatment, wastewater treatment, water distribution and wastewater collection. By March 1, 2013 students will be asked to select the area in which they would like to become certified. Students will apply to take the applicable State of Colorado certification exam. Based on the preferred area of interest, a customized paid internship program will be developed for each student. During the internship program, the student will work with a utility mentor to gain in-depth knowledge of job requirements and duties (for the area of their choice) and study for the certification exam. Finally, the students will be eligible to apply for an On-the-Job Training/Summer Jobs Program for 2013.

There is no cost to participate in the program as a student. However, there is an application and qualification process because space is limited.

More education coverage here.


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

July 6, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Commerce City: Council approves rules governing hydraulic fracturing 8-0

July 3, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

A crowd of about 20 residents wearing bright blue name tags applauded the 8-0 vote. Councilwoman Jadie Carson was absent at the Monday night meeting…

The rules, which will take effect Aug. 1, will prohibit drilling operations on or near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and Barr Lake State Park, under a new wildlife mitigation plan. The rules also create a new level of regulation, requiring individual agreements that the city will negotiate with each company. Certain elements that will be considered in the so-called extraction agreements, such as noise-mitigation plans, water-quality-control measures, restricted hours of operation and permitted lighting, were not passed as specific city rules. They were thought by some to be overreaching and interfering with state regulations on the industry…

“We believe a layered approach to oil and gas development balances community protections with individual rights,” said Mayor Sean Ford. “In amending our existing rules, the city sought to remain within the regulatory framework of the state and be consistent with the recommendations of Governor Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


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