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

August 15, 2012


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


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


Say hello to 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


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


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.

Wastewater: New Glenwood Springs lift station a big part of the new wastewater treatment system

July 2, 2012


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Nelson Harvey):

The effluent’s three-mile journey will be possible thanks to a new sewage lift station that is nearly completed on the Seventh Street site. City sewers will route waste to the lift station, where a series of pumps will propel it three miles westward through two 16-inch pipes to the new plant.

On a tour of the new lift station, city Water and Wastewater Superintendent Buddy Burns was like a kid showing off a shiny new treehouse he’d just built. Burns, who has worked in wastewater treatment for the city since the late 1970s, said the new plant will have an average daily capacity of 1.9 million gallons, up from 1.1 million at the existing plant.

He demonstrated a new automated filter system that will remove debris from the wastewater stream, wash it, compact it and drop it in a nearby Dumpster. And he showed off the lift station’s two gleaming pump galleries that will push waste to the new plant. They are equipped with backup diesel generators, in the event of a power outage…

Burns said that the switch to the new plant would take two to three weeks after it begins in July, as operators gradually divert increasing amounts of the city’s wastewater to ensure the new system is functioning well.

A completion date in early August would wrap up the project several months ahead of schedule, as the city’s contract with Salida-based firm Moltz Construction allows until November 2012 to finish the job. Construction began in the spring of 2010…

The new lift station on Seventh Street has an air ionization system meant to keep odors contained in sewage canals. Operators hope this will dispense with odor complaints from nearby residents and businesses, which are now common during the summer months.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: The CWQCC joins Colorado Springs Utilities in appeal of recent ruling about the project water quality permit

May 30, 2012


From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Colorado Springs Utilities isn’t alone in thinking Pueblo County District Judge Victor Reyes made a mistake.

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has voted unanimously to stand with Utilities in opposing Reyes’ decision to overturn the state’s 401 water quality certification for the Southern Delivery System. Reyes had ruled the state commission didn’t adequately account for Fountain Creek pollution caused by the SDS pipeline, which will increase Colorado Springs’ water supply by a third by 2016 by delivering water from Lake Pueblo. After certification in 2010, the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut sought judicial review, resulting in Reyes’ ruling.

State Commissioner John Klomp, a former Pueblo County commissioner, made the motion to appeal the ruling, noting that sufficient controls are in place and that Colorado Springs complies with the rules, the Pueblo Chieftain reports. Utilities spokesperson Janet Rummel says SDS construction continues.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District is spending $1.2 billion to meet discharge permit requirements

May 27, 2012


From the Arvada Press (Darin Moriki):

The Denver Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District, which serves all but three cities in Jefferson County, is carrying out a $1.2 billion construction project to upgrade its treatment facilities to comply with discharge permit requirements. Steve Frank, the Denver Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District’s public information officer, said $211 million of that amount is being spent to construct a secondary treatment area to filter out additional ammonia and nitrates from treated waters. He said the project is scheduled for completion by Jan. 1, 2015.

State water-quality officials are considering more changes to discharge regulations…

Like many of the other 59 local governments served by the treatment plant, the city of Arvada passes wastewater treatment costs to homeowners and charges an additional fee to maintain the city’s 408-mile sewer system. Steve Wyant, Arvada’s wastewater superintendent, said the city is already addressing needs to replace miles of aging sewer infrastructure and expanding it to accommodate growth in the city’s northwest corner, including Candelas. He said the project cost is already estimated at almost $12 million.

More wastewater coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities appeals recent permit decision by Judge Reyes

May 27, 2012


From (Rana Novini):

Colorado Springs Utilities says the April ruling is unfortunate and they have always met water quality standards. They joined the City of Colorado Springs, and the State of Colorado in filing an appeal against that ruling.

On Friday, Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut stood near the Fountain Creek Flood Control marker in Pueblo and vowed he would not stop fighting against SDS. He held up two jars of water: one he said was from Lake Pueblo, the other from Fountain Creek. “You can see (the latter jar) is rather muddy and contaminated as compared to the Lake Pueblo water,” Thiebaut said. He attributes the pollution to Colorado Springs’ development projects, saying the runoff ends up in Fountain Creek. He says that Colorado Springs takes the clean water in Pueblo Reservoir and returns used, dirty water to Fountain Creek.

Mark Pifher of Colorado Springs Utilities works directly with water quality regarding SDS. He tells KRDO NewsChannel 13 that the pollution in Fountain Creek has nothing to do with SDS. “At this point in time, Southern Delivery is not yet operational. So that’s the ambient condition, if you will, of Fountain Creek,” Pifher said.
In a written statement from the Tenth Judicial District, Thiebaut claims the pollution in Fountain Creek has caused illness to Pueblo County residents. But Pifher says Utilities has never been made aware of any illnesses.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (John Norton):

In April, District Judge Victor Reyes ruled on a suit filed by Thiebaut and threw out a state water quality permit the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission gave the project.

Reyes ruled that the commission ignored potential impacts of growth on Fountain Creek water quality and failed to follow its own procedures in upholding a 2010 permit under section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

Friday afternoon, Thiebaut called on the state and Colorado Springs to give up the appeal. He held up jars of clear Pueblo Reservoir water and cloudy water from Fountain Creek.

Standing near the flood control marker across from the El Centro del Quinto Sol community center, he said, “Now, Colorado Springs wants to take this pristine (lake) water, use it in Colorado Springs and then discharge more of its used wastewater and stormwater into Fountain Creek.

From the Colorado Springs Independent:

…a new study from Summit Economics LLC says Colorado Springs residents pay less ($4.63 per capita annually) than those of every other Front Range city. The average is $52.11. To reach that average, El Paso County would have to impose a half-percent sales tax (50 cents on a $100 purchase), a property tax of 5.8 mills ($93 on the tax bill of a $200,000 house) or a $5.35 per month fee per home. Any of those taxing methods would yield the roughly $36 million a year needed to tackle a $600 million backlog for the county, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain and Monument, the study says.

And the issue lies here, not downstream in Pueblo County, which accounts for only 1 percent of the region’s stormwater infrastructure needs, the study found.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which covers portions of Pueblo and El Paso Counties, funded the study, and its manager Larry Small says the board is eying a November 2013 election if a tax increase is sought.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

Bach said his administration inherited “upwards of a billion” dollars in unfunded capital needs, including stormwater, and that the city needed to “come to grips” with the problem. “The day of reckoning is in front of us,” Bach said.

The lack of stormwater funding has other consequences that City Attorney Chris Melcher has said obligates Utilities, a billion-dollar-plus enterprise of the city. Stormwater is a crucial element of the 62-mile Southern Delivery System water pipeline that Utilities is building between Colorado Springs and Pueblo…

The Board of Pueblo County Commissioners, which issued the so-called 1041 permit for SDS, is now applying pressure on the city, too. The board sent Bach and the council a letter May 3, saying it was “encouraged” by reports that the city was exploring ways to fund stormwater but that it needed to act fast…

“A key component was the Stormwater Enterprise,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, in December 2009, only a few months after it obtained its SDS permits, Colorado Springs Council voted to abolish its Stormwater Enterprise fees.”

SDS spokeswoman Janet Rummel said the city’s stormwater issue is much broader than SDS. “Not only is utilities infrastructure impacted by stormwater run-off, but City and County roads and bridges are also affected for example,” she said in an email.

More coverage from the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

After the enterprise was dismantled in 2009, the Springs City Council assured Pueblo County that a replacement funding source would be developed, Pueblo County commissioners note, but more than 2.5 years later, no such funding has been secured.

Pueblo County issued a construction permit for SDS, and that permit could be rescinded if Colorado Springs doesn’t live up to its promises.

County President Pro Tem Jan Martin wrote a letter to Pueblo County dated May 10, two days after Bach talked of a stormwater-related “day of reckoning” awaiting the Springs. In it, Martin says, “Protecting our watershed is a high priority for City Council …”

Really? Where’s the evidence? Rather, the Council is busy getting its package of road projects together to be included in an extension of a sales tax for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. The tax doesn’t sunset until the end of 2014, but Councilors and others are rabid to get it renewed and want it on this November’s ballot.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

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

May 16, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.

Hot Sulphur Springs: Denver Water along with Grand and Summit counties to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement today

May 15, 2012


From the Associated Press via The Aspen Times:

Denver Water and the leaders of Grand and Summit counties are set to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at noon Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs. Denver Water and nearly three dozen Western Slope water users announced the proposal last year. Eagle County and its water districts became the first to sign in February. The endorsement of the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs and some irrigation districts is still pending.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

Red Cliff is back in the water and wastewater business

May 13, 2012


From the Vail Daily:

According to a release from the district, Red Cliff and the district mutually decided in mid-April to end the operations agreement and arranged for the contract to expire May 12. Red Cliff’s former and current Board of Trustees supported the decision.

“In 2007, the district brought industry expertise and financial assistance to improve Red Cliff’s drinking water facility and treatment processes,” district director of operations Todd Fessenden said. “We helped bring the new wastewater treatment plant to fruition and upgraded other system components. We agree with Red Cliff that now is a good time to transition to a new operator to run the town’s systems.”

The district provided technical expertise and support to Red Cliff while the town successfully secured funding for a new wastewater treatment plant, which was subsequently built and put into operation in October 2010. Some of the funding Red Cliff secured required upgrades to the town water distribution system, including installation of water meters at every residence and business in town. District staff completed that project between 2007 and 2009 and also coordinated a rehabilitation of Red Cliff’s drinking water facility in 2008.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Sand Creek: Metro Wastewater is concerned that Suncor’s groundwater contamination could affect timeline for secondary treatment structure

May 11, 2012


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The Metro Wastewater project is designed to remove ammonia and nitrates from Denver’s treated wastewater before it is discharged back into the South Platte River — part of $1.2 billion in improvements at the plant. CDPHE’s water-quality division has required the improvements to meet standards set by the federal government by 2015. Metro Wastewater must construct a large aeration basin structure where secondary treatment can be done. Metro excavation crews have dug out more than 130,000 cubic yards of dirt, pumping groundwater from the emerging hole. Construction crews have begun to build up the new structure.

The toxic plume appears to have approached the excavated area but has not entered it, Metro Wastewater spokesman Steve Frank said. “What we want from Suncor is to continue working on solving this problem,” Frank said. “We intend to do everything we can to remain in compliance with our discharge permit. Compliance is the norm for us.”

Suncor officials on Thursday said they will comply. “We’re meeting with Metro and are working with Metro to understand their construction plans and make sure we do everything we can to allow them to effectively do their work and meet their timelines,” Suncor vice president John Gallagher said. “This is really a potential problem rather than a problem.”[...]

The CDPHE notice to Suncor orders:

• A detailed map of the plume showing where benzene and other contamination exceeds state standards under the Metro Wastewater property.
• Monitoring of the groundwater outside the current extrapolated boundaries where the plume is believed to be — in areas where there’s no current contamination.
• New test wells and a groundwater monitoring plan within 30 days.
• A cleanup work plan, within 60 days, specifying how Suncor will reduce the contamination that has spread from its oil refinery under neighboring property.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: ‘Colorado Springs remains in compliance, and is in regular contact with Reclamation’ — Kara Lamb via the Chieftain

May 11, 2012


Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. [ed. The link does not take you to the article in the Chieftain's new format as of 5:11 AM. I had to scroll through the online paper to find it.] Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado Springs remains in compliance, and is in regular contact with Reclamation, spokeswoman Kara Lamb said this week. “Reclamation has not issued a permit. We are not a regulating agency,” Lamb explained. “What we have done is enter into a series of contracts with Colorado Springs Utilities and the other SDS participants.

“The contracts are based on the environmental compliance measures outlined in the final Environmental Impact Statement and associated record of decision and permits issued by other entities which do have regulating authority.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: ‘Pueblo will not pay for the failure of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise’ — Jeff Chostner

May 1, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re paying five times per capita in Pueblo County, while El Paso County has five times the resources,” Chostner said. “Pueblo will not pay for the failure of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise. This has implications for the 1041 permit.”

The Fountain Creek board got its first look at a regional stormwater study by Summit Economics that suggests a coordinated regional approach is needed to meet a backlog of more than $750 million in stormwater management needs. The study, which will be finalized after the sponsors have a chance to review it, also points out that Colorado Springs pays only $4.63 per capita for stormwater protection, less than one-tenth of the Front Range average. Pueblo pays $25.81 per capita.

Chostner, who guided the Fountain Creek board away from contributing any money to the study, was adamant that it is not Pueblo’s responsibility to pay for stormwater projects in Colorado Springs, which abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009. As part of 2009 Pueblo County 1041 conditions, Colorado Springs agreed to provide $50 million to the district over five years after SDS goes online in 2016. Chostner balked at the economists’ suggestion that some of that money could defray stormwater costs. “This board decides how to spend that,” he said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Windsor: Oil and gas exploration and production is moving southwest of downtown next to the Cache la Poudre River

April 29, 2012


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Great Western Oil and Gas Co. is proposing to drill 19 new natural gas wells within the town of Windsor near the shore of the Poudre River. The wells will be drilled from two separate sites southwest of downtown near the Larimer-Weld county line, allowing the company to drill beneath residential neighborhoods remotely.

Some of the wells will be drilled beneath the Poudre River, and some will be drilled beneath homes using a method called “directional drilling.”

Here’s a report about oil and gas exploration and production produced water from Andrew Wineke writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

After the well is drilled, after the target formation is fractured and as the oil and gas begins flowing up the well, wastewater comes along with it. As Colorado Springs and El Paso County wrestle with the sudden interest in drilling in the area, what to do with that wastewater is a big concern.

As much as half of the fluid used to fracture the rock gradually returns to the surface as flowback water, emerging from the well along with the oil and gas over a period of weeks. Many rock formations, including the Niobrara, also contain water, often briny and laden with minerals, that comes out of the well as what is called produced water, over several years. “Produced water can be nasty, nasty stuff; other places you can drink it,” said Thom Kerr, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which oversees oil and gas drilling in the state.

Getting rid of flowback and produced water is a challenge for drilling companies, since it’s generally too toxic to simply be poured out on the ground — although the state allows drillers to spread produced water on roads if it meets a purity standard. Some of the flowback fluid can be put through filters and reused at the next well.

Ultra Resources, a Houston, Texas-based oil company, is drilling three exploratory wells in El Paso County and has applied for permits to drill three more, two of those on Banning Lewis Ranch in Colorado Springs. The company isn’t recycling the water for those initial wells, officials say, but company officials say it will if it moves on to large-scale drilling.

Meanwhile, water providers are looking to cash in on sales to water haulers. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

[Platte River Power Authority] often sells its water for agricultural uses, but because all the region’s reservoirs are full, irrigators didn’t come to the utility looking to buy excess water this year, said Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat, who sits on the PRPA board of directors. “We’re sitting with surplus water,” she said. “There are several places that have asked us for excess water. Some are municipalities and others are the oil and gas industry directly.”

“We’re sitting with surplus water,” she said. “There are several places that have asked us for excess water. Some are municipalities and others are the oil and gas industry directly.” Now, she said, the PRPA board members must ask themselves if they’re comfortable with determining specifically where the excess water should go. “Do we sell it, or do we need the resources?” Weitkunat said. “I don’t know where everybody stands on this.”

Environmentalists, including Save the Poudre, are taking umbrage at the idea of selling the water to the energy industry because they’re unhappy that PRPA water from the Colorado River could be used for hydraulic fracturing, a water-intensive process they believe is harmful to human health and the environment.

Oil and gas exploration is heating up down by Del Norte. Here’s a report from Judith Stone writing for the Del Norte Prospector. From the article:

According to Wilson, oil companies often have the absolute right to drill, especially in connection with split estates, when the minerals are owned by the oil company and land by a surface owner. In that case, he said, oil companies can drill regardless of zoning or homeowner’s association laws. On the front range, Wilson said, companies are drilling within 300 feet of schools; in rural areas, the state limit is 150 feet within any property by right.

According to Wilson, the owner fares better when the mineral rights are part of the property, but he or she but can still have those rights taken by what is known as a “forced pool.” A forced pool says that part of the objector’s product is being extracted, so the rights must be pooled in order to determine each person’s share of revenues.

The only way to avoid any of this,Wilson emphasized, is to effect local county commissioner control now via home rule. By enacting home rule, Wilson said the commissioners can protect the land for its water users, citizens who like to breathe clean air, and everyone who enjoys a peaceful Valley.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

16 Organizations Praised for Environmental Compliance: Perfect compliance with industrial wastewater discharge permits

April 24, 2012


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

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District has named 16 metro area organizations Gold Award winners for perfect compliance with their industrial wastewater discharge permits during 2011. The awards will be presented [today] at a ceremony at the Metro District’s headquarters at 6450 York Street north of Denver. Chairman of the Board Curt Aldstadt will also commend the organizations the Metro District oversees for a full year in which all of them demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence. A Gold Award represents one year of perfect compliance. All 16 organizations discharge wastewater under industrial discharge permits issued by the Metro District. Metro issues the permits under authority granted by the Clean Water Act.

The 16 organizations being honored not only had perfect industrial wastewater discharge compliance records for 2011 but were also good all-around environmental citizens, said Lori Maag, industrial waste pretreatment supervisor for Metro. She noted that, in 1990, 37 companies were in what’s called significant non-compliance, which means they seriously violated pretreatment standards.

“The number of companies in significant non-compliance has shrunk substantially. Five companies were in significant non-compliance for 2009, none in 2010, and two in 2011,” she said.

The non-compliant companies were Advanced Circuits and 7-Eleven, Inc., both located in Aurora. Advanced Circuits implemented corrective measures and has returned to compliance. The other firm, 7-Eleven, failed to maintain their system, perform the required monitoring, have an authorized representative sign all reports, and didn’t provide all information/data on time. They were required to cease discharge and were penalized $35,900.

Ball Metal Beverage Container Group will receive its 15th Gold Award tomorrow, and both RJR Circuits Inc. and Goldberg Brothers Inc. will receive their 12th.

“We are extremely happy with the performance of our 16 award-winning companies and hope everyone congratulates them on a job well done,” Maag said. “Performance like theirs deserves to be recognized.”

Here (in alphabetical order) are the Gold Award winners and where they’re located:

· Advanced Surface Technologies, Inc. (Arvada )
· Ball Metal Beverage Container Corporation (North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District)
· C W Elaborations, Inc. (Crestview Water and Sanitation District)
· Denver Metal Finishing (Denver)
· Industrialex Manufacturing Corporation (Arvada)
· International Paper – Golden Container Plant (North Table Mountain)
· KBP Coil Coaters, Inc. (Denver)
· Majestic Metals, Inc. (North Washington Street Water and Sanitation District)
· Pepsi Beverages Company (Denver)
· Quality Corporation (Denver)
· RJR Circuits, Inc. (Denver)
· Safeway, Inc., Denver Beverage Plant (Denver)
· Structural Coatings (Denver)
· United States Mint (Denver)
· U.S. Geological Survey – National Water Quality Lab (City of Lakewood)
· Wanco, Inc. (Arvada)

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District serves most of the metro Denver region and is the largest wastewater treatment agency in the Rocky Mountain West. It treats about 140 million gallons of wastewater a day for 1.7 million metro Denver residents in its 715-square-mile service area.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

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

April 24, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Did Colorado Springs violate their federal permit when they abolished their stormwater enterprise?

April 19, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to protect water in the Lower Arkansas Valley instructed its water attorney to investigate whether Colorado Springs violated a federal permit when it abolished its stormwater enterprise. “This is irresponsible behavior by Colorado Springs. They owe the rest of the area a service,” said Melissa Esquibel, who represents Pueblo County on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board. “It’s unconscionable.”[...]

The board approved Esquibel’s motion to have Peter Nichols investigate whether Colorado Springs is in violation of a record of decision by the federal Bureau of Reclamation for SDS. The federal permit makes the assumption that Colorado Springs would have a certain level of funding annually under the former enterprise. Instead, Colorado Springs has spent about $1.2 million annually since voters instructed City Council to disband it in 2009. Stormwater funding is listed at $1.9 million this year, according to a budget comparison of Front Range cities distributed at the meeting. Colorado Springs spends $4.63 per capita on stormwater funding, less than 10 percent of the Front Range average. Pueblo is at half the average, at $25.81 per capita…

Last month, Colorado Springs Attorney Chris Melcher said Colorado Springs is obligated to spend $13 million-$15 million annually for stormwater improvements. At a Fountain Creek meeting last month, Councilwoman Brandy Williams said the council is working on a plan of how to come up with the money.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Brush: New wastewater treatment plant online

April 18, 2012


From the Brush News Tribune (Katie Collins):

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Metro Wastewater Reclamation District inks monotoring contract with US Geological Survey for METROGRO farm’s groundwater quality

April 15, 2012


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

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District has signed a contract with the US Geological Survey for a continuation of the independent monitoring program at the 52,000-acre METROGRO Farm in eastern Arapahoe and Elbert Counties.

This monitoring program was developed based on the current USGS monitoring program, which has just ended. The new monitoring program runs April 1, 2012, through December 31, 2014.

The new program covers monitoring water quality conditions in eight wells on or near the METROGRO Farm. Five wells will be sampled quarterly and three will be sampled annually. With each sample, depth to water, water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen concentration, and acid-neutralizing capacity will also be measured.

Stakeholders involved with the Metro District’s biosolids management program also provided input to this plan’s development.
“Based on data collected at our farm for almost 20 years, we have seen no negative effects from using biosolids as a fertilizer and soil amendment,” said Alicia Gilley, director of the Metro District’s Resource Recovery and Reuse Department.

“As in the past, the data we collect will continue to be made available to the public via the USGS NWISWeb database.”

The Metro District is the largest wastewater treatment agency in the Rocky Mountain West. The Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility at 64th and York treats about 140 million gallons of wastewater a day. The service area includes nearly 1.7 million people and encompasses approximately 715 square miles, including Denver, Arvada, Aurora, Brighton, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Thornton, and part of Westminster, together with about 40 sanitation and water and sanitation districts in the metropolitan Denver area.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Fruita: The town formally opens the new $30 million wastewater treatment facility

April 14, 2012


From The Fruita Times (Ellen Miller):

The plant has been operational since January and can process, clean and recycle Fruita sewage well into the future. Designed with a capacity of 2.3 million gallons per day, the estimated annual load of about 800,000 gallons leaves plenty of room for Fruita to grow. The $30 million cost of the project covers land acquisition at the end of 15 Road at the Colorado River south of U.S. 6 & 50, engineering, sewer main interceptor lines, an operations building, headworks building and solids handling building…

Formally called the Fruita Wastewater Reclamation Facility, household sewage enters the plant at the headworks building, which removes all “deleterious” material and runs water through grit removal. It does next to an anaerobic/anoxic selector and then circulates in two giant oxidation ditches, each 18 feet deep. Other scientific processes clean the water to the point where it is sent on to the Colorado River.

The solids building, through a variety of steps and equipment, produces byproducts to be dried and eventually used as potting soil and other garden and agricultural uses.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

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

April 13, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

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

April 12, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Wastewater Worker Recognition Week April 22-28

April 2, 2012


Here’s the announcement from Greeley Water:

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has proclaimed the week of April 22-28 “Wastewater Worker Recognition Week” statewide. The proclamation honors the work of about 4,000 certified wastewater treatment plant operators and thousands of engineers, maintenance personnel, laboratory workers, scientists, biosolids workers, sewer maintenance workers, industrial waste pretreatment workers, administrative staff, and suppliers to the industry. Mayor Tom Norton will sign a proclamation similar to the one signed by Governor Hickenlooper on April 17.

Greeley’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) has won awards for its outstanding efforts as an outstanding wastewater treatment plant and environmental steward. WPCF won the Plant Performance Merit Award presented by the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association (RMWEA) four times in 1992, 1999, 2005, and 2011. In February, WPCF was recognized by Xcel Energy for energy efficiency, as it won the 2011 Custom Efficiency Achievement Award. WPCF was chosen by Xcel because of the installation of high-speed turbo blowers to improve aeration at the plant. It is estimated that these new blowers will save the plant approximately $100,000 – $120,000 annually in projected electrical energy costs.

Greeley Wastewater employees are innovative as well. In 2009, the Wastewater Operations staff built a customized and low cost solution to treat high strength ammonia, resulting in a daily 307-pound reduction in ammonia waste that requires treatment. In 2011, filter boxes were designed and installed at the blower building that houses the six new high-efficiency blowers; this project helps keep the building clean and dust free. This year, plant staff will be participating in a Northern Colorado “Get Into Water” program which is designed to recruit and train individuals for the water/wastewater industry. Specifically, water and wastewater utilities are very concerned about workforce/succession planning and continuity issues as many utility workers begin to retire. This program will increase the public’s awareness of water industry career opportunities. The treatment plant is also evaluating a possible 500 KW solar energy project for the treatment plant and other energy reduction technologies.

Group or individual tours of Greeley’s Water Pollution Control Facility are available for citizens to learn more about wastewater treatment. Please call (970) 350-9360 for more information. Visit the Water and Sewer Department’s website for more on Greeley’s wastewater system:

More wastewater coverage here and here.

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

March 23, 2012


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

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

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.

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

March 17, 2012


From (Andie Adams):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Proposed new nutrient standards hearings recap: Opposition claims that the costs outweigh benefits

March 14, 2012


From (Shannon Ballard):

The State Water Quality Division says nutrients impact water nationally, but it’s a problem that can be fixed in Colorado. Still, adding new regulations can be costly for treatment plants and their customers. The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission is considering two new rules, both aimed at requiring treatment plants to lower nitrate and phosphorus levels…

Ute Water says these types of proposals are nothing new. The plant is already regulated under The Safe Drinking Act and says there are pros and cons to adding stricter regulations. “A pro to this is that where there are impacts from nutrients they’ll hopefully mitigate those impacts,” Dave Payne with Ute Water Conservancy District said. “However, the opposition to this regulation is that the standards, the numeric standards, they’re looking to implement don’t necessarily have a direct cause and effect to any given water body.”

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: Former oil patch water handler calls for the EPA to classify produced water from oil and gas wells as a ‘toxic substance’

March 10, 2012


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Aaron Milton, 36, has started an online petition to pressure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reclassify produced water from gas wells as toxic waste. The petition, titled “Classify production and reclaimed frack water toxic,” can be found at

Milton also is involved in making a documentary film about the industry with filmmakers Hamilton Pevec of Carbondale and Austin Lottimer, formerly of Carbondale but now living in Denver. The film, Milton said, will be titled, “The Water Handler.” “It will be my story, and there’s a lot of other whistleblowers that are going to be in there, too,” Milton said.

Milton, who said he’d rather be called a concerned citizen than a whistleblower, told the Post Independent he recently worked for a Garfield County gas exploration company. He declined to name the companies he worked for and with, and said he worked there for less than a year…

Milton questions the safety of a regular industry practice of using injection wells to dispose of produced water that cannot be used again for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. “The problem is, that is not classified as anything but water by the EPA,” Milton noted. “But that is not just water.”

David Ludlam, director of the Western Colorado Oil and Gas Association trade group, responded that the disposal of produced water is done in more than one way, depending on a variety of factors. “If Mr. Milton has concerns about the protocol for handling produced water, our industry is anxious to hear more.” Ludlam wrote in an email to the Post Independent. “I’ll be giving Mr. Milton a call next week to see if he is interested in meeting with our member companies so we can learn from his experiences and collaborate on how to address his grievances.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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

February 28, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.

The USDA yank’s the dough for Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District’s new wastewater facility

February 26, 2012


From the Pagosa Daily Post (Jim McQuiggin):

Last Wednesday, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District (PSSGID) received word from the USDA that an application for those funds had been considered, “voluntarily withdrawn” and that the money would be, “de-obligated.” Over a year ago, the Town of Pagosa Springs received notice from the USDA that it would receive funds for the construction of a wastewater treatment facility. The money included $3,145,000 in loans (at 2-percent interest) and $787,000 in grants. Along with other funds secured three years ago (a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs), the Town of Pagosa Springs had just over $7 million to construct the plant…

Bids for construction of the wastewater treatment plant, submitted in mid-April 2009, ranged from $5.9 million to $8.8 million. Unfortunately for PSSGID, even low bids for the project came in around $1.15 million over budget.

USDA funds, although obligating the town to nearly four decades of debt and town sewer customers to fees almost 130 percent above Colorado average rates, would have allowed the PSSGID to construct a plant meeting CDPHE standards for wastewater treatment.

With that funding pulled, it is unclear how the town will treat its sewage, despite a plan proposed late last year by Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District representatives to pump the town’s sewage to a newly-constructed $9.3 million facility operated by PAWSD.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

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

February 26, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado Legislation: SB12-017 (prevent the new CWQCC nutrient standards) gets the boot from the Senate Agriculture Committee

February 11, 2012


From Colorado News Agency (Debi Brazzale) via the La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, would have prohibited the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission from establishing numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus levels that would then drive costly mitigation measures for wastewater treatment plants…

King told the panel that establishing numeric standards is paramount to “wasteful and arbitrary” regulation resulting from “speculative” decision making in anticipation of possible EPA mandates.
“The cost of implementation of such regulation on small and medium-sized communities will be staggering,” said King. “This is the ultimate in unfunded mandates.”

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said thwarting the state’s rule-making process on nutrient standards would stall efforts to address a growing concern. “This is such an important conversation—a timely conversation,” said Schwartz. “It would be a mistake if we didn’t move forward with a Colorado plan.”

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

EPA: Water and sewer infrastructure needs tally at $300 billion

February 10, 2012


From the Associated Press via The Washington Post:

“EPA found that the nation’s 53,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit, non-community water systems will need to invest an estimated $334.8 billion between 2007 and 2027,” stated the federal Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, which is updated every four years…

“This is a very serious concern,” said Carolyn Berndt of the National League of Cities. “Many communities have a long-term plan to replace all their underground water infrastructure, but even if they do a couple percentages of pipes a year, it’s still going to take over 100 years for some of them to replace it all.”

CWQCC: Proposed nutrient standards have southwestern municipalities worried about costs for implementation

February 6, 2012


From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

A Durango attorney involved in the process says region-specific nutrients standard makes more sense than the blanket regulations for nitrogen and phosphorus that are being proposed for Colorado. If a one-size-fits-all standard is adopted it won’t improve water quality in the Animas River but will cost Durango $19.7 million in capital costs alone, Jeff Kane, of Maynes, Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel said.

Cortez would face a $3.1 million bill, Kane told the Southwestern Water Conservation District board on Wednesday. Bayfield would be looking at $2.4 million in upgrades while it would cost the Pagosa Springs Water and Sanitation District $14.6 million and the town of Telluride, $7.4 million…

Communities that treat wastewater in lagoons don’t fall under the new regulations. Among them are Silverton, Mancos, Hermosa, Durango West and Edgemont Ranch Metropolitan District…

At the March meeting, commissioners will address two issues – Regulation 31 that sets limits of 0.11 parts per million for phosphorus and 1.25 ppm for nitrogen – in cold-water streams and Regulation 85 that mandates new nutrient removal technology…

The heaviest nutrient loads are found in the Platte, Arkansas and Poudre rivers downstream from large Front Range urban areas, Kane said. Agricultural operations produce very little contamination, he said…

Gunderson said 135 of the 391 waste dischargers in the state account for 95 percent of effluent. One discharger, Metro Wastewater Reclamation District in Denver, alone accounts for one-third of the 95 percent, he said.

More wastewater coverage here.

Cortez: Wastewater plant process primer

January 24, 2012


Here’s a look at the wastewater treatment plant that came online in 2006 from Reid Wright writing for the Cortez Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

At the head works of the Cortez Sanitation District’s sewer treatment plant, Jay Conner pulls back a metal hatch, revealing a trench through which the raw sewage sloshes — fresh from the district’s more than 60 miles of pipes serving many of the Cortez area’s more than 8,400 people. “We’re on the front line,” Conner said of the plant and its workers. “It’s probably one of the best environmental protections you can have.”

The trench was covered by panels after neighbors complained of the smell. A rake and auger system picks out larger debris and garbage, all of which is taken to its rightful home in the county landfill. Too much garbage, such as plastic wrappers and feminine hygiene products can gum up the plant’s pumps, Conner said. These items should be thrown in the garbage.

A second process removes smaller items, such as rocks, sand and eggshells. The gritty mixture also contains a fair amount of corn.

Petroleum products, paint, paint thinners, herbicides and kitchen grease are also harmful to the system, Conner said, and should not be dumped down the drain.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments comes out strongly against proposed state nutrient standards for wastewater discharged to surface streams

January 14, 2012


From The Teller County News (Pat Hill):

At issue is the commission’s proposal to mandate regulations that would decrease the amount of nutrients that flow into Colorado’s stream beds. The regulations govern the operation of wastewater treatment facilities and would require significant reduction in the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen discharged from the facilities. “We took a position against it; this could cost up to $2 billion just to the small water providers but could go as high as $20 billion annually,” said Jim Ignatius, PPACG treasurer and Teller County commission chair. “They are basing their policy decision on speculative numbers. It was very discouraging to learn that the state might want to do this.”

The proposed regulations are at odds with Hickenlooper’s executive order which directs state agencies not to adopt requirements more restrictive than federal law, or, if so, ensure that state funding is available to cover the costs, states the letter in part.

Calling into question the evidence, the letter states that the PPACG does not object to improved treatment when there is rational scientific basis to conclude that nitrogen discharge is, in fact, causing an impairment to a water body.

More wastewater coverage here.

Bayfield: The town hopes to score a $500,000 loan from the CWRPDA to fix sanitary sewer line infiltration

January 8, 2012


From the Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

The town inherited various issues, including infiltration and penalties for previous permit violations, when it took over the sewer system in 2008 from the Bayfield Sanitation District, a separate, government entity that is now defunct. The town’s $7 million sewage treatment plant started operation in Sept. 2009. Its permit capacity is 600,000 gallons of sewage per day. Because of infiltration, the plant is approaching 80 percent of permit capacity, especially in summer. That’s the point when the town has to start planning to expand the plant.
The town’s 2012 budget has $50,000 designated in the sewer fund for infiltration repairs…

“Hopefully after this is done, we won’t be needing $50,000 a year to fix infiltration. We are thinking it could be cost-effective to get it fixed all at once instead of some every year.”

More wastewater coverage here.

Brighton: City council raises utility rates, adds storm drainage fee

January 3, 2012


From the Brighton Standard Blade (Kevin Denke):

Resident’s utility rates will rise for the second time in less than a year as the city continues to try to keep pace with the cost of aging infrastructure. Brighton City Council members approved staff recommended rate increases for water and sewer services Dec. 20. The new rates, which go into effect with utility bills issued after Jan. 1, include an increase to both fixed rates and user rates for water and sewer as well as the addition of a storm drainage fee.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Salida wastewater treatment plant update: Project is on schedule for completion in 2013

December 31, 2011


From The Mountain Mail (Callie McDermott):

Switching the old plant to the new one will be done in stages and handled “with kid gloves,” [Randy Sack plant manager] said, because “we’re changing the way we treat wastewater.”
Sack said the new system, activated sludge process, will replace the existing method of secondary treatment. Pre-treatment and digestive process will remain, but rotating biochemical contactors will be removed, he said. Activated sludge process, also known as Ifast, will speed the purifying process and ammonia won’t be used anymore, he said. A phosphorous filter isn’t yet required for wastewater treatment. However, Sack said it will be required in about four or five years, so it is being added. He said officials are “thinking ahead of the game” with the new treatment plant. Ultraviolet light will be the new disinfection method, replacing the use of chlorine gas and sulfa dioxide…

Included in plans are an office complex, workshop, conference room, showers and a reception area…The laboratory where water samples are tested for the plant, and for more than five other small plants in the area, will be expanded. A sprinkler system and about 150 new trees and shrubs will be added to enhance the landscape around the plant, he said.

More wastewater coverage here.

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

December 27, 2011


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More wastewater coverage here.

The Fairplay Water and Sanitation board bumps rates

December 19, 2011


From The Fairplay Flume (V. Christian Kingsford):

The sanitation district’s attorney, Robert Tibbals, explained the legal and financial requirements and obligations of setting a rate hike for the district to $76.67 a month per EQR (equivalent residential unit) from the old rate of $62.48 per month…

[Dale Fitting, board secretary and treasurer] added: “A lot of our expenditures are the bond and the loan [for the new wastewater treatment plant]; we can’t get out from under that. As with many loans, we were paying interest only on the loan at first; now we’re paying interest and principle. The growth spurt that was anticipated when the system was installed didn’t happen, so now the established residences are carrying the load.”[...]

“Budgets are hard to figure, and we’ve reduced some expenditures and would like to reduce others such as the attorney’s fees, but we can’t. The preventive maintenance of cleaning and jetting the lines along with sludge removal is a big expense, but it’s needed,” he added. “Then there’s payroll taxes, social security and medicare for our employee.”

More wastewater coverage here.

Mark Pifher (Aurora water): ‘We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future’

December 8, 2011


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora’s water rights include nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, about one-third of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and water from 1,750 acres of ranches in Lake County. Those rights provide an average yield of 22,800 acre-feet per year — the equivalent of 80 percent of the potable water used by Pueblo each year.

- Aurora also uses the Homestake Project, Twin Lakes, Busk-Ivanhoe diversion and the Columbine Ditch to bring water from the Western Slope through the Arkansas River basin and into the South Platte basin. The average yield of those water rights is about 21,500 acre-feet annually.

- The city can reuse its Arkansas and Colorado basin water imports, and has built the $650 million Prairie Waters Project to directly recapture flows, rather than exchange them.

- Aurora’s South Platte water rights include wells, ranches, ditches and direct flow from the South Platte. They total about 46,000 acre-feet annually.

- Aurora has an agreement to trade 5,000 acre-feet of water a year with Pueblo West from Lake Pueblo to Twin Lakes beginning next year. It will replace a similar agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works that expires this year.

- The Pueblo water board sells Aurora 5,000 acre-feet of water each year.

- Aurora has a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to store 10,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo and to move the same amount to Twin Lakes by paper trade.

- The water is moved from Twin Lakes to Spinney Mountain Reservoir through the Homestake pipeline system…

“We don’t have any current plans beyond what we’re already doing,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water. “We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future.”

Instead, the city will continue developing Prairie Waters, a reuse project that pumps sewer return flows through a filtration and purification system, only at about 20 percent capacity so far. Aurora calculates that its average yield from its Arkansas River basin water rights is about 22,800 acre-feet annually. That’s roughly one-fourth of its total yield from its entire system, which includes South Platte and Colorado River basin rights. From a practical standpoint, Aurora does not move all of its water out of the Arkansas River basin each year.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Bayfield: Town trustees are considering a 5% sewer rate hike

November 25, 2011


From The Durango Herald:

In a statement, Town Manager Chris La May said he understands the impact of the increase on business and residential customers, but the revenue is needed to comply with Clean Water Act requirements. The town built a new wastewater treatment plant but faces more challenges to comply with health regulations. Groundwater infiltration from irrigation ditches and rising groundwater plagues the sewage collection system, La May said. The infiltration pushes the capacity of the treatment plant toward its limit and flushes bacteria used to break down fecal matter through the plant more rapidly.

More wastewater coverage here.

Brighton sanitary sewer rehabilitation project in the works, it should finish by year end

October 30, 2011


From The Brighton Blade:

The project is expected to start on the south side of Bridge Street, near Main Street, and work east. This portion should take about two weeks. The project then moves to the north side of that intersection and moves east. The work should be done by the end of the year. When it’s finished, the city says customers will have a new, rehabbed sewer system. Affected customers will get 24 hours notification of pending work from the contractor, Western Slope Utilities.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Leadville: New wastewater treatment plant for Mountain View Villages is up and running

October 27, 2011


From The Leadville Herald (Ann E. Wibbenmeyer):

After setting up a special sanitation district that encompasses the east and west villages, [Gordon Heaton] was able to fund a new sanitation system that treats sewage from both sides of the highway. When the Colorado Department of Transportation repaved the highway, he was able to put conduits under the road in preparation for the new system. This was in 2007 or 2008. The new system was complete and began operation in April 2010.

The system, a sequencing batch reactor, uses bacteria to eat ammonia and then to eat raw organics, according to Steve Hansen, engineer with Ambiente H2O Inc., which installed the system…

The system now installed in the mobile-home park has two stages covered with concrete, said Hansen. This helps with both the smell and climate control. The bugs will stay warm and happy to keep eating, he said. The third compartment allows for settling. When all is working as it should, clear water settles to the top.

What is then released to Tennessee Creek is cleaner than what is already flowing in the creek, said Hansen.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Prairie Waters Project Receives Project Management Institute’s Prestigious 2011 PMI Project of the Year Award

October 25, 2011


Here’s the release from the Project Management Institute via Market Watch:

Aurora, Colorado, USA has been challenged by decades of rapid population growth combined with limited opportunities to expand its water supply in an arid environment. This already significant challenge was exacerbated in 2002 by severe, multi-year drought, requiring the city and its water managers to quickly design and implement a long-term solution in response to future water shortage conditions. The Prairie Waters Project, led by CH2M HILL, marked one of the largest water-related public works projects in Colorado in more than 35 years. Its exemplary innovation and completion, two months ahead of schedule and US$100 million under budget, has made it the 2011 recipient of the Project Management Institute’s prestigious PMI(R) Project of the Year Award.

“An urgent water need pushed the city to take an innovative look at ways to achieve not only meeting the community’s water needs quickly, but to preserve the city’s high standards for water quality,” said Larry Catalano, manager of capital projects for the City of Aurora. “The significant complexities of the project included stringent cost constraints, stakeholder involvement, environmental restrictions, and the pressure to execute a project on an exceptionally fast schedule. The project team consistently went above and beyond the call of duty and delivered ahead of schedule and under budget. We are honored that PMI recognized the hard work, collaboration and dedication of the entire team that worked to create the Prairie Waters Project.”

The Prairie Waters Project succeeded in spite of extreme environmental challenges. With only a nine-month supply of water available for a population of approximately 300,000 at that time, city leaders and CH2M HILL were tasked with identifying a sustainable, long-term water supply to protect against future droughts. After reviewing over 50 possible scenarios, the city identified the Prairie Waters Project as the fastest, most cost-efficient and most sustainable way to deliver more than 10,000 acre feet of new water to the city by the end of 2010.

The success of the project, originally projected to cost $854 million, resulted in a newly constructed pipeline, pump stations and a treatment plant that will ultimately deliver up to 50,000 acre feet, meeting Aurora’s needs through 2030. Eight significant stakeholder agreements, 145 land parcels and 44 permits were acquired for approval and completion of the project, which took six years to complete and spanned nearly 40 miles in length. Through the use of skilled project personnel, the rigorous application of project management standards, processes and techniques, and the use of earned value management (EVM) techniques, the PWP was able to cut $100 million from the budget in the design phase without compromising quality and safety, bringing the construction budget to $754 million. Value engineering techniques enabled the team to fast-track the project two months ahead of schedule and an additional $100 million below this amended budget. The project was delivered in October 2010 at just under $653 million.

“The City of Aurora’s Prairie Waters Project clearly illustrates how project management standards and practices, properly applied, can help deliver a solution that is transformative to a community,” said Mark A. Langley, President and CEO of PMI. “This project demonstrates best practice solutions that show agility and effective stakeholder engagement. PMI commends Aurora Water and the entire project team for these outstanding results.”

Aurora Water was presented with the 2011 PMI Project of the Year Award on Saturday, 22 October 2011 during the PMI Awards Ceremony at the PMI(R) Global Congress 2011–North America in Dallas, Texas.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Saturday October 29 is a National Take Back Initiative day — an attempt by the DEA to keep prescription drugs out of the wastewater stream

October 24, 2011


Here’s the webpage. Here’s the link to their National Take Back Initiative Collection Site Search page. They ask you for your zip code and then present you with a list of locations.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

The Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe is taking over water quality monitoring on their reservation

October 23, 2011


Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (George Parrish/Richard Mylott/Colin Larrick/Scott Clow):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the Water Quality Standards for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe with Reservation lands in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The Tribe submitted its Water Quality Standards to EPA earlier this year for review and an approval determination under the Clean Water Act. The Tribe’s standards will be implemented for all Clean Water Act purposes, including issuing and enforcing discharge permits for Reservation surface waters.

Water Quality Standards are the cornerstone of State and Tribal water quality management programs established under the Clean Water Act. These standards define the goals for specific waterbodies by designating their uses, setting criteria to protect those uses, and establishing provisions such as anti-degradation policies to protect waterbodies from pollutants.

The Ute Mountain Ute received program authority from EPA for Water Quality Standards in 2005, and submitted their standards in 2011. EPA has determined that the Tribe’s standards are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act. The approved standards will be used by the Tribe to assess the health of aquatic ecosystems, identify water quality problems, and target and prioritize remediation and restoration projects.

EPA’s approval of the Tribe’s Water Quality Standards is the latest step forward for a tribal water quality program that has been working to protect Reservation waters for over 20 years. The Tribe is currently working collaboratively with surrounding states and federal agencies on a broad range of water quality issues. These include recovery efforts for endangered aquatic species, reducing pollution from mining, irrigated agriculture and livestock, and protecting culturally significant resources.

Out of 46 tribes nationally that have received the authority to establish Water Quality Standards, the Ute Mountain Ute becomes the 37th tribe with EPA-approved standards.

The Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation includes lands in southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah, straddling much of the arid four corners area. Major Reservation waterbodies include the San Juan and Mancos Rivers, and McElmo Creek. The Reservation’s population includes approximately 2,100 enrolled members and its largest community, Towaoc, Colo., serves as the Tribal Government seat. The local economy consists mainly of ranching and farming, oil and gas production, and a tourism trade showcasing western landscapes, natural history and cultural sites.

The Tribe maintains a copy of its Water Quality Standards on its website:

The Tribal Environmental Program website:

For more information on Water Quality Standards and the Clean Water Act visit:

More coverage from The Durango Herald:

The newly approved rules will be used for issuing and enforcing discharge permits for surface waters on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, which straddles three states and much of the Four Corners. They also will protect specific water bodies, including McElmo Creek and the San Juan and Mancos rivers, on the reservation.

The move is the latest in the tribe’s 20-year effort to protect its reservation waters, and officials said it is among other crucial collaborations to protect endangered species, reduce mining pollution, provide irrigation and protect water resources.

More San Juan River basin coverage here and here.

Brush: The city council sets priorities, completion of the wastewater treatment plant, purchasing water rights, conservation and stormwater improvements are on the list

October 16, 2011


From the Brush News Tribune (Iva Kay Horner):

At Monday night’s meeting of the council, City Administrator Monty Torres presented the list, with the top priority for council targeted at completing the wastewater treatment facility. “We’re well underway with that project and expect it to be completed in the next 12 months,” Torres commented.

Also on the list is to continue improving water resources and upgrading of the water distribution system, with Torres further explaining that council consider, when given the opportunity, of purchasing water rights or shares if it will benefit the city. Along the same lines, the administrator noted that officials also continue with water conservation…

Listed at number five on the list is storm water improvements with the downtown area at the top of the list. “There are five areas in the city that have pretty significant flooding but the top priority is downtown where we are enlarging the water lines. We also are looking at the storm water pond,” the city administrator stated.

Here’s a post from last February that has been getting a lot of traffic on Coyote Gulch, Brush wastewater treatment plant construction update.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.


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