The Animas River Stakeholders Group, et. al., offer $45,000 prize in search for solutions to pollution

April 24, 2014
Bonita Mine acid mine drainage

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage

From The Durango Herald (Chase Olivarius-Mcallister):

Last week, the regular meeting of the Animas River Stakeholders Group took on the feeling of a jolly, if intellectually fraught, Nobel Prize committee debate.

Scientists, government employees and mining officials huddled around a long table in the cold basement of the Miners Union Hospital grading innovative, sometimes preposterous proposals for addressing metal removal from mine drainage.

The ideas came from InnoCentive, a Boston firm that has hundreds of thousands of individual problem-solvers eager to take on challenges in chemistry, food production, business, engineering, information technology and the life sciences.

As part of the competition, the stakeholders described the environmental calamity in the Upper Animas Basin and offered $45,000 to the top problem-solver. (They raised the prize money from 12 organizations, including the International Network for Acid Prevention, Freeport-McMorRan Copper and Gold, Sunnyside Gold Corp., National Mining Corp., Goldcorp, New Mexico Coal and Trout Unlimited.)

As water quality in the Animas River has deteriorated over the last seven years, there has been insufficient money to build and operate a limestone water-treatment plant, which would cost $12 million to $17 million to build and $1 million to operate annually. Stakeholders are hoping that one brilliant solution could at least bring down the sticker price of river cleanup. (In the absence of an answer, the town is re-evaluating whether it should seek Superfund status.)

InnoCentive’s problem-solvers submitted online more than 50 proposals, with some more far-fetched than others, involving everything from absorption through plants, salting out metals, magnets, artificial river settling, cement, yeast, eggshell lime, plasma, brown coal, algae and Voraxial filtration…

As the stakeholders moved through the ideas, poring over a spreadsheet that had different stakeholders’ assessments of the schemes, expert opinion diverged many times.

While Kirsten Brown of the Colorado Division of Mining and Safety and Steve Fearn, mining specialist and co-coordinator of the stakeholders’ group, liked one proposal that involved removing heavy metals with magnets, Peter Butler thought “scaling and clogging would be an issue.”

Butler, co-coordinator of the stakeholders’ group, was more supportive of another proposal, artificial river settling, writing, “Could be an effective alternative to settling ponds. Separates metals somewhat.”[...]

They hope to choose the winner by May. When the winning idea might be implemented is unknown.

Confluence of Cement Creek and the Animas River via the USGS

Confluence of Cement Creek and the Animas River via the USGS

Meanwhile there was a meeting Wednesday in Silverton to discuss potential Superfund designation to bring in federal dough and expertise. Here’s a prequel from Chase Olivarius-Mcallister writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has tried to designate parts of Silverton a Superfund site. Yet for years, many locals have considered the word “Superfund” dirtier than Cement Creek…

A series of abandoned mines in the Upper Animas Basin has been spewing toxic metals into the local water system for more than 20 years. Scientists say it’s the largest untreated mine drainage in the state, and problematic concentrations of zinc, copper, cadmium, iron, lead, manganese and aluminum are choking off the Upper Animas River’s ecosystem.

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt said Silverton’s environmental calamity is “huge, affecting so many jurisdictions and communities. But it has felt like we were sort of at a stalemate.”

Lachelt said San Juan County commissioners now are leading the issue, not ignoring it.

“The La Plata County commissioners stand by the San Juan County commissioners in seeking out all of this information and seeking a rapid solution to this long-lingering problem,” she said. “I don’t think there’s one single reason it’s taken so long, and we’re certainly not there yet. But I think we’re seeing a lot of folks come together and realize we really don’t want to lose any more species of fish. We can’t afford to, and we have to act.”

‘Objections worn thin’

Since last summer, political pressure to find a solution in Silverton has escalated.

Rob Robinson, who used to represent the Bureau of Land Management within the Animas River Stakeholders Group, sent a letter and petition with 15 signatures in December to the EPA and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment urging a Superfund listing in Silverton. Robinson said for years he had kept faith that the Animas River Stakeholders Group’s collaborative process would work.

“I was a member of (the stakeholders) for many years and believed strongly in what they were doing: community-based, watershed-based cleanup. I guess it’s not gone so well,” he said. “In fact, it’s really disastrous when you compare the situation with what’s happened at other Superfund sites.”

Steve Gunderson, director of Colorado’s Water Quality Control Division, said he was “appalled” by what he saw when he toured the Red and Bonita Mine in 2012.

“This site, even though it’s complicated and remote, is in an incredibly beautiful part of the state. It may take a Superfund designation to bring the resources to bear,” he said.

But Gunderson said he doubts the EPA will “move forward with a Superfund designation unless there’s support with the local government because Superfund can be fairly controversial, and the first reaction is often angst about what the economic ramifications might be.”

Many Silverton residents interviewed by The Durango Herald last summer feared a Superfund designation would stymie tourism and soil the prospect of mining’s return.

“Superfund isn’t the answer,” said Steve Fearn, a co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group and a town resident. “I want to see Silverton become a successful, vibrant community again. Right now, it isn’t, and mining is the one thing we have.”

But Robinson said such objections had worn thin.

“God, they’re the same positions they took 25 years ago! I think ‘Gee-whiz, it’s like a broken record, going on and on,’” Robinson said. “People like Steve Fearn argue a Superfund site will discourage mining investment. But the pollution is discouraging people from mining.

“What Steve Fearn says is immaterial. What’s important is that the Clean Water Act promises to clean up the nation’s water, making it all swimmable, fishable. That’s the goal, and the people administering … Superfund aren’t doing their job,” he said. “That’s the problem.”[...]

In the absence of a Superfund designation, for years, the stakeholders group has tried to work collaboratively with the EPA and Sunnyside Gold Corp. to improve water quality in the Animas River.

However, water quality recently has gotten much worse in the river.

Between 2005 and 2010, three out of four of the fish species that lived in the Upper Animas beneath Silverton died. According to studies by the U.S. Geological Survey, the volume of insects and the number of bug species have plummeted. And since 2006, USGS scientists have found that the water flowing under Bakers Bridge – then downstream, into Durango – carries concentrations of zinc that are toxic to animal life.

The technology to clean the dirty water exists: a limestone water treatment plant. But the stakeholders group has no money to pay for it, and the EPA estimates it would cost between $12 million and $17 million to build and $1 million a year to run – in perpetuity.

Sunnyside Gold Corp., the last mining company to operate in Silverton, denies all liability for cleaning up the worsened metal pollution. It has offered $6.5 million in return for being released from all liability. Kinross Gold Corp., an international mining conglomerate, bought Sunnyside in 2003. The company generated nearly $1 billion in revenue in 2013, according to its fourth-quarter report…

On Monday, within hours of commissioners announcing that most of their Wednesday meeting would be dedicated to discussing Superfund with the EPA, Larry Perino, Sunnyside’s representative in the stakeholders group, sent co-coordinators Fearn, Bill Simon and Peter Butler a letter proposing the company’s “game plan” for cleaning up the Animas River.

The plan centers on all parties continuing to work through the stakeholders group, bulkheading the Red and Bonita Mine and using the money Sunnyside already has promised – with compound interest. The plan does not include pursuing Superfund listing…

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.


California sets limits for hexavalent chromium

April 17, 2014
Hexavalent Chromium via Wikipedia

Hexavalent Chromium via Wikipedia

From The San Bernardino County Sun (Jim Steinberg):

The Department of Public Health on Tuesday submitted its final regulation package putting a cap on chromium-6 to the state Office of Administrative Law, for review under the Administrative Procedures Act.

“The drinking-water standard for hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) of 10 parts per billion will protect public health while taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility as required by law,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer.

That legally enforceable standard replaces one that was already the strictest in the nation, but for total chromium.

The current California sets 50 parts per billion total chromium as the maximum allowable in drinking water. This amount includes both chromium-3, which is not a carcinogen and necessary, in small amounts, to human life, and chromium-6, an atomic relative that has been shown to cause several types of cancers.

The federal standard, set by the Environmental Protection Agency, is 100 parts per billion for total chromium, which is chromium-3 and chromium-6.

More water treatment coverage here.


The Lower Ark, Otero County, et.al., start the process to create a rural water authority for the county

April 17, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The groundwork for a rural water authority in Otero County was put in place Wednesday. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District agreed to partner with Otero County commissioners to sign on three water providers to participate in the authority. The authority will give the water providers, which are small private companies, the ability to apply for government grants in order to bring their water systems into compliance with public health standards. It also will allow them to share operating expenses, deal with issues relating to the upcoming Arkansas Valley Conduit and to speak with one voice. Eventually, it could allow participants to hire staff members to deal with water issues.

“We have a lot of issues with compliance, because 14 out of 28 private water providers in the valley are out of compliance,” said Bill Hancock, conservation manager for the Lower Ark district.

Right now, only three of the districts have signed on, the Fayette, Vroman and Valley districts, all in Otero County. Combined, they serve fewer than 500 people. Other water companies are expected to sign on as the authority develops.

“We have the ability to expand in Otero County, as well as other counties in the valley. This is a good place to start,” said Otero County Commissioner Keith Goodwin.

One of the first projects of the authority will be to apply for a state loan to fund adding membrane filters to the systems, Hancock said. The filters are made by Innovative Water Technologies, a Rocky Ford company.

Otero County commissioners voted Monday to approve the authority, but appointed no board members. The Lower Ark appointed Wayne Snider and Jolean Rose, both of Fowler, to the authority.

“We’re at the point now where we have the vehicle, but we still need to add the engine, steering and wheels,” Snider said.

The Lower Ark board praised the agreement.

“Anyone who has been involved with rural water knows how important this is,” said Lynden Gill, chairman of the board.

“Not only is compliance important, but some of these systems are 40-50 years old and this provides a way to maintain them.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


The Town of Breckenridge to host public forums about new water treatment plant, April 26 and 28 #ColoradoRiver

April 16, 2014
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

Breckenridge could start construction on a new water plant along the Blue River in as soon as three years. But first, the town wants your input.

The public is invited to attend four forums to learn about the construction of the town’s second water plant and give comments. The forums will be April 23 and 28, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. both days, at the Breckenridge Police Station.

“This is the master plan for the next 25 to 30 years,” said town manager Tim Gagen.

At the forums, town officials will explain the projected cost of the plant and upgrades to the water system.

The first phase of the project includes building the plant, pumps and plumbing to get the water integrated with the current system, he said, which should cost about $25 million to $30 million dollars. The plant itself should cost about $10 million, which Gagen called reasonable. The expensive part, he said, will be pumping water a couple miles into town, against gravity.

Phase two includes extending lines into areas outside the town limits not currently serviced, which Gagen said could cost more than $40 million but would only be built if and when people want that service.

Customers living outside the town limits use private wells that have a high likelihood of failure and need equipment replacements after 15 or 20 years. And before this project, he said, if those people wanted water service, the town had to annex their land.

People in those areas have called about extending service to their neighborhoods, Gagen said, not to feed their homes, but to feed water hydrants on the street. That would help with wildfire protection and lower their insurance rates.

“They would have to pay for it,” he said about the phase two extensions. “It wouldn’t be built by the current customers.”

Gagen said he expects questions at the forums about the plant’s locations and the impact on the Blue River.

As far as where the new plant will go, officials know the water will be drawn from the river just north of Swan Mountain Road.

The town hasn’t decided yet on the plant’s exact location, but it will be north of town for several reasons.

Putting it north of town, closer to Dillon Reservoir, means the plant would leave water in the Breckenridge part of the Blue River in town, which he said is better for the health of the river and doesn’t counteract the restoration work done there in the last few decades.

A site north of town also is better for water rights issues, as the Upper Blue Sanitation District has some rights in town.

And the water quantity and quality is better closer to the lake, Gagen said, with lower concentrations of heavy metals leftover from mining.

Gagen said the town looked at putting the plant closer to the original one, south of town, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of insecurity in the system in case of mechanical failure.

Unlike the water systems in Silverthorne and Dillon, which are interconnected in case one of the towns has an emergency, “We’re a standalone system,” Gagen said. “We don’t have a backup.”

“And” he added, “our biggest fear quite honestly is fire.”

Erosion from fire affects the cost to treat water. A second plant would give the utility time for repairs and cleanup.

So although the whole project will cost more because of the location farther north, he said, the town will “trade additional costs for other positives we think will be beneficial to the community in the long-run.”

The Water System Study

A task force established in 2011 to consider issues surrounding the town’s water system found that the supply to the existing Gary Roberts Water Treatment Plant would be very low in an extreme drought, leading to shortages. And though the town has made improvements in water conservation and management efficiency, the current water plant (which was constructed beginning in 1972) is nearing 80 percent capacity.

A study of the town’s water system by Sarah C. Clark, an engineer in Denver, was completed and presented to the town council in January.

The study strongly recommends the construction of a three-MGD (million gallons per day) plant to meet future population demands and provide more service to the homes and lots near the existing water system’s boundaries.

In the event of a wildfire or another environmental disaster or a mechanical malfunction of the current plant, a second water plant would provide a critical back-up system.

The study also noted that the current Breckenridge system supplies high-quality drinking water at a low cost to customers compared to other Colorado communities. The new plant will require increases in the user fees which will be shared by current and future customers.

Besides increasing water rates and fees, Gagen said the town is looking at a list of potential revenue streams, including about $8 million the utility has saved for improvements, grants and funding from partners like the county.

Debt will be the most important element of the financing, he said, helping to spread the cost over about 30 years “so no one generation of people is suffering the cost of paying for the whole thing.”

For now, the town is in the process of gathering public input and meeting with Summit County government and Upper Blue Sanitation District officials.

Then the town will start modifying water rates to fit the new plant, and after three or four years of the design and approval process, it will start construction.

The study is available online at http://www.townofbreckenridge.com, and the town council urges the public to review it before the public forums.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Rifle: Design changes help cut construction estimates for new water treatment plant

April 7, 2014

riflegap
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Mike McKibbin):

The cost of Rifle’s new water treatment plant has been cut by $3 million, after some recent design changes. The city expects to put the project — funded by a $25 million loan — out to bid in early April and award a contract in June…

The new plant will be located on city property along U.S. Highway 6. Work is expected to last up to two years…

In a follow up interview on [March 21], Miller explained that the cost savings come in part from changing the design from concrete-lined sludge drying beds and gravity thickeners to clay-lined drying beds. That will save $2 million, he noted.

“Clay is cheaper than concrete and we can have city crews do that work instead of the contractor,” Miller said.

More than $1 million will be saved by renegotiating a contract with General Electric to defer a second stage membrane filtering system, he added…

More Rifle coverage here.


Innovative Water Technologies of Rocky Ford is part of the #WorldWaterDay shindig today in Washington D.C.

March 22, 2014

worldwaterday2014logo

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A company that makes water purification equipment for use in remote locations will sponsor an exhibit in Washington, D.C., today for World Water Day. Innovative Water Technologies of Rocky Ford was invited by the U.S. Department of State to attend the event, which highlights potential solutions to world water problems.

“We’ve been getting the word out for the last five or six years at trade shows, but this is really a big step forward,” said Jack Barker, president of the company.

The company makes the Sunspring, which combines membrane technology to remove particulates from water with solar power. A recently developed hybrid version also uses a small turbine to harness wind power to charge batteries. In addition to providing clean water, the Sunspring can be used to charge electronic devices where power is not available, Barker said.

More than 200 units have been manufactured at Rocky Ford since the company opened in 2008. Sunsprings are in use in a dozen countries, including during the Haiti earthquakes and last year’s typhoons in the Philippines.

During last year’s flooding in Northern Colorado, Sunsprings were employed to provide clean water when flows overwhelmed traditional treatment plants.

More water treatment coverage here.


Alamosa: Water infrastructure funding is in short supply

March 22, 2014
The water treatment process

The water treatment process

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Treating Alamosa’s water is becoming more expensive. With more rigid arsenic standards coming into play several years ago, the City of Alamosa was forced to build a water treatment plant. Recently, Alamosa Public Works Director Don Koskelin said arsenic standards might tighten up again, which could force the city to revamp its treatment system, resulting in an expensive adjustment.

This week Koskelin informed the Alamosa city council of another more immediate problem with the city’s water treatment plant, and the council authorized funding for a pilot treatment system. Koskelin said for six years the membranes that filter out the arsenic in the municipal drinking water supply provided excellent performance. Then all of a sudden in the last year the city started having problems with the membranes. The manufacturer recommended a more stringent cleaning schedule, which meant using more chemicals, which in turn meant more expense. Koskelin said the cost increase for the chemicals alone is nearly $290,000 a year.

Another option would be to replace the membranes, but that would cost threequarters of a million dollars or so. Koskelin said the life of the membrane system was supposed to be 15 years but it has only lasted about six years.

Another solution, which hopefully will be less expensive , will involve lowering the pH of the water, which should improve the filtering process and arsenic removal.

Koskelin recommended that the city enter into a pilot project to test this theory for three months with Clearlogx. He said the city has a threemonth permit from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to test this system. If it works, the city could buy the system and 90 percent of the money the city paid during the three-month trial would count towards the purchase price. The total purchase price of the system is $175,000. The city will be leasing it for $4,500 a month.

“We need to do something,” Koskelin told the council.

He estimated the pay off on this system would be about two years, and the life of the system should be about 15 years.

Addressing the water treatment situation will result in a budget adjustment, Koskelin added, primarily from enterprise fund surpluses. Koskelin said this solution might also help the city meet stricter arsenic standards when/if they come down in the future.

“If it doesn’t drop lower than 2 parts per billion we should be able to meet those new standards,” he said. The current standard is 10 parts per billion, set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment is considering a stricter standard, which Koskelin estimated at an earlier council meeting would likely not take effect for a couple of years, if the state moves forward with it.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Project caught up in the federal Record of Decision slog

January 21, 2014
Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit continue to be in a holding pattern. Federal processes have slowed the completion of a record of decision for the conduit, a master storage contract and interconnection of outlets on Pueblo Dam.

The conduit is a plan to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities and 50,000 people from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar.

The master contract would allow conduit users and others to purchase long-term storage in Lake Pueblo, while the cross-connection would give water users redundancy of water supply sources.

An environmental impact study was finalized in August, but changes in the Bureau of Reclamation leadership and a federal shutdown have delayed the ROD for five months, said Christine Arbogast, lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the projects.

“Five months seems like a long time, but it’s looking good,” Arbogast said.

She said a decision could be made in a few weeks.

The lack of the ROD for the projects means very little work is progressing.

“Anything moving forward will be on hold until we get to the point where we have a ROD,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

This year’s federal budget includes $1 million for the conduit, but larger appropriations are needed in future years to move the project ahead.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Craig: Water and sewer rates climb in 2014

January 12, 2014
Yampa River east of Maybell March 2008

Yampa River east of Maybell March 2008

From the Craig Daily Press (Erin Fenner):

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

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

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

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

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

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

More infrastructure coverage here.


Leadville: Evans Gulch susceptible to contamination — CDPHE survey shows

December 24, 2013
Leadville

Leadville

From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Dan Ramey):

Parkville Water District’s surface water sources in Evans Gulch have a moderate susceptibility to contamination, according to a survey performed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The report looks at the susceptibility of a district’s sources of water to two types of contaminants.

Discrete contaminant sources are areas “from which the potential release of the contamination would be confined to a relatively small area,” according to the report. These sources include such things as Superfund sites and mining sites.

Dispersed contaminant sources are defined by the report as “broad based land uses and miscellaneous sources from which the potential release of contamination would be spread over a relatively large area.” These sources includes things such as animal pastures and septic systems.
According to the report, the district’s surface water sources in Evans Gulch are at risk from one Superfund site and 53 existing or abandoned mining sites. Meanwhile, the surface is only at risk from three dispersed contaminant sources.

The report also found that Evans Gulch surface water has a moderately high physical setting vulnerability rating. The physical setting vulnerability rating looks at how the area around a water source can buffer that source from possible contaminants. The higher the rating, the less of a buffer the water source has.

Another survey from the state also assessed the susceptibility of the district’s other water sources, all of which are groundwater sources. All of those five groundwater sources had a total susceptibility rating of moderately low. Those five water sources are threatened by just seven possible discrete contaminants and 18 dispersed contaminants, according to the report.
The physical setting vulnerability ratings for those water sources vary from moderately low to moderate.

The survey is part of the state health department’s Source Water Assessment and Protection program. The surveys are also an important part of the water district’s Source Water Protection Plan. The plan uses information found in the two state health department surveys to develop ways to prevent the district’s water sources from becoming contaminated.

Contamination of the district’s sources, especially those in Evans Gulch, could prove disastrous, Parkville General Manager Greg Teter said. The district has other sources besides those in Evans Gulch, but those other sources would likely only be able to supply half of the community’s demand.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of a potential situation,” Teter said.

One of the keys to the protection plan is the sharing of information between Parkville and other local entities. The district recently signed an intergovernmental agreement with Lake County.
As part of the agreement the county and the district will share both GIS data and information, Teter said.

For example, the Lake County Building and Land Use Department will share information with the district about potential mining applications near Parkville water sources. This will allow the district to be proactive about protecting its water sources, Teter said.

Another key part of the plan is education and ensuring that businesses and community members know where Parkville’s water sources are, Teter said. The intergovernmental agreement and protection plan do not create any new restrictions on land uses around water sources, Teter said. They merely facilitate the sharing of information and create an awareness of potential threats to the community’s water sources.

In addition to protecting the community’s water sources, the Lake County watershed is also important because of its location along the Arkansas River.

“Ours isn’t the biggest, but it’s important because it’s the first on the Arkansas,” Teter said.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Antonito water system in non-compliance

December 19, 2013
The water treatment process

The water treatment process

From the Valley Courier (Jesse Medina):

Town residents are concerned over a number of water violations that the town of Antonito has incurred within the past few months. The topic was put forth to the Antonito town board at their monthly meeting on Thursday, Dec. 12. The state is imposing penalties on the town for using Town Administrator Rossi Duran to operate their water systems without a license. Duran has been operating without a license since August , and the town’s waste and distribution licenses expired in 2012. The town has failed to comply with having a certified operator responsible in charge requirement to operate the Antonito water distribution facility. According to state law, every facility, domestic or industrial, that manages wastewater, water collection systems and distribution systems must be supervised by a certified operator. The town was required to submit proof of having a licensed operator by October 30.

Duran had received a letter from the State Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Control Division stating the town is in violation of Colorado Primary Drinking Water regulations and could receive a $1,000 if the town fails to complete compliance requirements. The town has been notified that it is in violation of several other policies and has been for several years, going back to 2008.

The town received several notices from the state ordering them to halt their water testing practices, which are not in accordance with state regulations. Antonito Mayor Michael Trujillo was sent a letter calling for a cease and desist on water regulatory practices in the town. The letter requires the town to submit an answer to the water quality division that either admits or denies the findings on the violations. Trujillo said that a response was sent and that the town is doing the best it can to comply with the state. Several residents voiced their opinions regarding the violations and how the town is planning to address these charges. Resident Ronald Hope asked Trujillo if he was aware of the violations and if the board had received letters from the state informing the town of the nature of the violations and the potential repercussions of continuing to operate out of policy.

“I just want to know if the board is aware of the violations in question. We have an unlicensed water tester working for the city and we need a new one that is qualified. The board needs to do something about this,” said Hope. Trujillo said that the town was aware of the violations and of the length of time that these violations have been occurring.

“We are working on trying to solve this problem. We have to look at this and work on it as a community because this affects all of us,” said Trujillo.

The board did not make any decision regarding the violations, and suggested that a workshop be conducted to discuss, and come to a solution , for complying with state water regulations.

Antonito water has been scrutinized since the Guadalupe water test came back positive for E. coli in November . Only one test came back positive, but it raised some concern amongst residents and brought the town’s past violations into question.

From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Residents of Antonito are worried about their water quality after the town was notified it failed to comply with state water regulations for months. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent a letter threatening to penalize the town for allowing town administrator Rossi Duran to operate the town’s water systems without a license.

At a meeting last week, resident Ronald Hope asked Antonito Mayor Michael Trujillo if he was aware of the violations. City officials acknowledged that Duran has been operating without a license since August, and the town’s waste and distribution licenses expired in 2012.

More infrastructure coverage here.


#ColoradoRiver District: 2014 Water Resources Grant Program

December 4, 2013
Roaring Fork River

Roaring Fork River

From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

Effective immediately, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. (district map)

Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

• develop a new water supply
• improve an existing system
• improve instream water quality
• increase water use efficiency
• reduce sediment loading
• implement a watershed management action
• control invasive riparian vegetation
• protect pre-Colorado River Compact water rights (those in use before 1929)

Previous successfully grant-funded projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of nonfunctioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements.

Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2014 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014.

To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, instructions, guidelines, policies, and other details please visit http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org/page_193.

More information can be obtained by contacting Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522 or by e-mail to grantinfo@crwcd.org.

More Colorado River District coverage here.


A look at oil and gas water recycling and deep disposal

November 15, 2013
Deep injection well

Deep injection well

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

High Sierra, which has its roots in Greeley, has developed industry-leading treatment processes, allowing oil companies to turn over their used water to a High Sierra facility, where it is treated and transported back to the oilfields.

This year the company expects to recycle about 2,000 barrels of water daily at its Weld County facilities, up from some 1,500 barrels last year…

High Sierra has operations in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, which includes Northern Colorado, and also works in Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas. In Weld County, High Sierra owns two water-recycling facilities, one in Briggsdale and another in Platteville, which company representatives believe are the largest such facilities in Northern Colorado.

“The field seems to be moving toward recycling slowly but surely,” said Doug White, vice president of High Sierra Water.

Companies can use more than 3 million gallons of water per well during hydraulic fracturing, a well-completion technique that involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressures to crack tight shale formations and release oil and natural gas. After the well is complete, water flows back to the surface where it is captured and transported offsite. Most of this contaminated water still is disposed of via deep-injection wells, but growing amounts are treated and reused.

High Sierra Water owns nearly half of the 25 deep-injection wells operating in the greater Wattenberg area. These are designated specifically for wastewater and regulated by state authorities. The greater Wattenberg area spans nearly 3,000 square miles north of Denver and through a substantial portion of Weld County.

High Sierra has developed water-treatment systems that remove elements such as barium, calcium, magnesium, silica, strontium and iron so companies can reuse the water for hydraulic fracturing.

The company has the ability to treat water to match the quality of fresh water, company representatives said. In Wyoming, for example, the company operates a water-treatment facility that has recycled more than 32 million barrels of water and discharged more than 5 million barrels of highly treated water into the New Fork River, a tributary of the Green and Colorado rivers…

Noble Energy said in October that it had recycled about 2 percent of its water so far this year, or 600,000 barrels.

But Noble is in the midst of a major expansion of its water-recycling program. Today, about 80 percent of Noble Energy’s water comes from ponds and wells and 18 percent from cities, while 2 percent is recycled. Noble Energy plans to raise the capacity of its program to recycle 5.8 million barrels of water next year, nearly 10 times more than its current level.

Despite the efforts of companies such as High Sierra Water and Noble Energy, water recycling remains uncommon in Northern Colorado despite heavy drilling activity.

It is more common in Western Colorado, where about half of water used in oil and gas production is recycled, said Ken Carlson, a civil engineering professor at Colorado State University.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


Wiggins: Raw water system improvements overcome nitrate problems

October 14, 2013
Drilling a water well

Drilling a water well

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Interim Town Administrator Jon Richardson said he had taken samples of water from all over the town, and the water has much lower levels of nitrates. That means residues of nitrates from years of contaminated well water have washed away in the new water the town brought on line in mid-September, he said.

Also the hardness of the water is down, Richardson said during the Wiggins Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday. The town plans to send out a notice to residents, said Town Clerk Jessica Warden-Leon. Richardson said he wanted to encourage people to stop using water softeners, since they are not needed and the water treatment plant has to deal with them…

He noted that the sprinkler system built for the town park is hooked into the old wells, and so it does not take any of the new water. The same holds for the Wiggins School District’s football field.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.


Pueblo places second to Erie at the taste test at the RMSAWWA/RMWEA shindig in Keystone

September 11, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The news might not rank up there with the ThunderWolves’ victory over the Bears, but Pueblo came out on top in a head-to-head matchup against Denver on Tuesday.

However, the city is just No. 2 in the state when it comes to water quality. Pueblo’s water placed second in an annual taste test conducted by the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association. The group met this week in Keystone. The contest, judged by a panel of journalists, engineers and public health officials, was staged among 11 municipalities from throughout the state.

Erie, a city of 21,000 in Boulder County, won the competition. Denver Water placed third.

When you ask Don Colalancia, Pueblo’s water quality and treatment manager, about it, he’ll start rattling off chemicals such as powder-activated carbon, potassium permanganate and chloramine as the secret ingredients to Pueblo’s water.

But there’s a simpler explanation: “The big thing is that we have some really good operators at the plant,” Colalancia said. “Any water plant can have taste and odor issues 24 hours a day. We’re constantly testing to catch things on the fly and adjust the chemicals if needed.”

Pueblo’s annual water quality testing shows that the water meets all federal water quality guidelines as well.

There was some grumbling among other contestants after the results were announced. “Fort Collins says they will bring a growler of Fat Tire next year, as it is an example of their ‘finished water,’ ” one observer joked.

More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal:

I had the honor to be a taste-testing judge at the association’s annual conference in Denver in June, and learned a lot about water taste tests — namely that while it’s fun to sample water, and that water officials are pretty competitive, it’s also a pretty serious aspect of the water-supply business. “It’s the way that people judge the safety of their water,” Pinar Omur-Ozbek told me in June.

She’s an assistant professor at Colorado State University’s department of civil and environmental engineering in Fort Collins — and one of three professional taste testers on the national judging panel. (And she’s far more of an expert than me.) “If it doesn’t smell or taste the way people expect, then they think there’s something wrong,” she said.

More water treatment coverage here.


Salida: Water treatment plant will require $2-3 million in improvements to meet CDPHE standards

September 11, 2013

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From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelley):

Because the water treatment plant cannot meet current water-quality regulations, the city of Salida will need to spend $2-3 million on a project to improve the plant. City staff presented details about proposed improvements during a recent city council work session.

The city has three supplies for water: the water treatment plant on CR 120, the galleries system off the South Arkansas River and the seasonal Pasquale Springs, across the Arkansas River from Marvin Park.
Water filtration only occurs at the treatment plant, City Administrator Dara MacDonald told council members. Water from the galleries and Pasquale Springs is chlorinated and sent into the system, she said.
The city constructed the current water treatment plant in 1959. MacDonald said the plant cannot meet water-quality regulations and also produce the 4 million gallons per day (MGD) of water it is designed to produce. She said the filter media and underdrains, which collect the water intake into the plant, are both at the end of their useful lives.

Currently, the plant is permitted to produce 4 MGD but is only utilized for up to 1 MGD, according to MacDonald. She said peak summer demand on the water system is about 2.7 to 2.8 MGD and is generally balanced among the city’s three water sources. “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has required either significant upgrades or a new backwash system to eliminate what they see as potential cross-contamination of the potable water entering the system,” MacDonald said. “We live with the potable water and wastewater treatment plants in an increasing world of regulations. Even though the system has worked well for the last 60 years, new inspections breed new suspicion (and) things that need to be changed,” she said.

The project would replace the more than 20-year-old filter media and media troughs in the plant and the more than 50-year-old underdrain system, according to MacDonald. Other upgrades include replacing the flocculation and sedimentation equipment, enclosing the flocculation basin and clarifier, providing an “air scour” backwash system and upgrading the existing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) computer. “The basic system of how we treat and filter the water that we use today would largely remain in place, and we would reuse a lot of the existing plant,” MacDonald said. “We have been working on the design and engineering for the project, and as we’ve gotten further into this, we’ve determined that the only way to accomplish it is to break it into two phases.”

Phase 1 would include work on the filter media, underdrains and air scour to be completed by May. Phase 2 would include work on flocculation and the SCADA system to be constructed by March 2015.
MacDonald said the city plans to begin prepurchasing equipment in October, because the Phase 1 equipment will take between 16 and 18 weeks to arrive.

The total projected cost of the Phase 1 improvements is $1,099,000. Phase 2 estimates range from $1,113,000 to $2,087,000, depending on the capacity and building type that council chooses for the project.
City staff presented three options for Phase 2, depending on how much money council chooses to spend and how much production capacity it wants to secure for the plant.

The first option calls for using the existing flocculation basin to house the new equipment, which MacDonald said would save significant expense. The project would include enclosing the flocculation basin and, if needed, the clarifier to eliminate the freezing, algae and wear the areas currently experience, MacDonald said.

The second option calls for using the clarifier to house the new equipment and planning for a 2 MGD production rate, but with the option of expanding to 4 MGD in the future, if needed.
The third option calls for using the clarifier to house the new equipment and planning for a 4 MGD production rate.

MacDonald said if Phase 2 costs are kept in the range of $1.2 million, the city can complete the project without incurring any debt or increasing rates. With a $4.7 million debt in the water fund and 25 percent of the fund’s revenue obligated to annual debt service, MacDonald said the city is unable to take on additional debt at this time to finance any of the improvements.

The city was awarded a Department of Local Affairs grant for the project, totaling $969,900. “Without the DOLA grant, we probably wouldn’t even be thinking about doing Phase 2 for several years,” MacDonald said. She said with the addition of the $1 million DOLA grant, staff thinks it’s possible to pursue the full project at this time.

MacDonald said the planned project would fully address the needs of the water treatment plant, and improvements wouldn’t be needed for many years to come.

Council gave direction to staff that they liked the second option, which would allow them to expand production at a later date if they felt it is needed. MacDonald said she would bring back revised estimates on the options after talking with the engineers.

More…

Financial breakout

• Phase 1 total cost = $1,099,000 (project cost estimate = $950,000, design costs = $74,000 and bidding/management = $75,000)
• Phase 2 estimates range from $1,113,000 to $2,087,000, depending on the capacity and building type that council chooses for the project.

Three options for Phase 2:
1) 2 MGD production – use existing flocculation basin.
2) 2 MGD production, expandable to 4 MGD – use clarifier.
3) 4 MGD production – use clarifyer.

Financing:

The city received a grant of $969,900 from DOLA, which would cover the majority of Phase 1 of the project, which has a projected cost of $1,099,000. Phase 2, depending on which option council decides upon, could cost an additional $1 million to $2 million.

City Administrator Dara MacDonald told council members they still have substantial reserves built up in the sewer fund, due to delays in the timing of the sewer plant, which would cover the cost of the proposed improvements.

MacDonald told council members at their Sept. 3 work session that financing the project would “pretty much eliminate the reserves that we’ve been building up over the last few years in the water fund to accomplish this project.”

More water treatment coverage here.


Erie wins the taste test at the RMSAWWA/RMWEA shindig in Keystone

September 10, 2013

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From The Denver Post:

So who has the best tasting water in the Rocky Mountain region?

Why the town of Erie, of course.

The Boulder County community placed in the top spot at the annual water-tasting competition in Keystone on Tuesday, according to Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker.

Coming home with the second-place ribbon was the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Denver Water finished third.

Some 11 municipalities competed for the title of best water in the region. The water is rating for taste, odor and appearance. Erie will now go onto the national “Best of the Best” taste test at the annual American Water Works Association conference in Boston in June.

From the City of Aurora via email:

Keystone, Colorado (September 10, 2013) – Who has the tastiest water in the Rocky Mountain states? According to the judges at a taste test at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works (RMSAWWA) annual conference in Keystone, Erie, Colorado has the best water in the region. 11 municipalities competed for the title of water in the region, taste, odor and appearance. The winner of this competition will represent the RMSAWWA at the national “Best of the Best” taste test at the AWWA Conference in Boston next June.

The winners of today’s competition were Town of Erie taking first place, the Pueblo Board of Water Works in second and Denver Water coming in third place. Accepting the award for the Erie Water Department was Jon Mays, Water & Wastewater Supervisor for the town of Erie.

Judging this event were Matt Renoux, with 9News in Denver, Lauren Glendenning, reporter with the Colorado Mountain News Media, Tyson Ingels, Lead Drinking Water Engineer with the Water Quality Control Division from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, John Alston, Vice-President for the American Water Works Association, and Jamie Eichenberger with the engineering firm of Brown and Caldwell.

The RMSAWWA is the regional section for the AWWA, which is the largest non-profit, science-based organization for drinking water professionals in the world. The RMSAWWA covers Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico and has over 2,200 members, representing water utilities, engineering consultants and water treatment specialty firms.

More water treatment coverage here.


Keystone: 2013 RMSAWWA/RMWEA Joint Annual Conference September 8 to 11

September 9, 2013

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Click here to go to the website. Here’s the pitch:

The 2013 Joint Annual Conference of the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association (RMSAWWA) and the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association (RMWEA) will be held in Keystone, Colorado, from September 8 to 11.

Join over 800 of your peers and colleagues in the water industry for 4 days of exhibits, technical presentations and networking opportunities. Dedicated volunteers from the RMSAWWA and RMWEA have worked countless hours to make this years conference a tremendous success. From the Exhibit Hall featuring more than 100 booths to the technical sessions jam-packed with the most up-to-date information, you’ll join over 800 representatives of the Rocky Mountain water industry who have concluded…if you’re only going to attend one conference this year, the 2013 RMSAWWA/RMWEA Joint Annual Conference is the place to be.

From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

Water utility workers and engineers from Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming are gathering in Keystone this weekend to brush up on their skills and compete in a water taste test. Members of the Rocky Mountain American Water Works Association and the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association are holding the competition at a joint regional conference Sept. 8-11. Large and small municipal water utilities will put their tap water to the test on Tuesday. Each sample will be judged on its appearance, smell, taste and overall impression…

The taste test is only one component of the annual event for water- and waste-treatment workers. The conference is held to broaden the pool of knowledge, give utility workers access to resources and gain certifications to become compliant with rules and regulations.

More water treatment coverage here.


Reclamation: Nine Projects Selected to Share $1.1 Million for Desalination and Water Purification Research

August 30, 2013

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Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor announced that nine entities will share more than $1.1 million in awards in support of laboratory and pilot scale research studies in the field of water desalination and purification. Through required cost shares of up to 75%, Reclamation’s funding will be leveraged to support a total of $3 million in research.

“Desalination and other advanced water treatment technologies have the potential to provide new water sources for communities,” Commissioner Connor said. “This research effort will examine innovative technologies that have the potential to reduce the cost of treating brackish water – helping to create new tools for addressing future water challenges.”

The funding was provided through Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program. Through this program, Reclamation works in partnership with entities to develop more cost-effective and efficient ways to desalinate water.

The laboratory scale projects selected for funding this year are:

  • Membrane Structural and Transport Fundamentals for Augmenting Traditional Water Supplies; Pennsylvania State University, $95,467 – This project will look at developing detailed metrics to learn how current membranes could be improved for inland water treatment challenges. The purpose is to demonstrate the feasibility of low-energy membranes for inland water treatment applications and augmenting usable water supplies for inland states.
  • Evaluation of a Small Rural Community Zero Liquid Discharge Desalination System; Trussell Technologies Inc; $149,446 – Trussell Technologies of Pasadena, Calif., will perform a process evaluation study on a unique, zero liquid discharge desalination system specifically being used for a small, rural community. This research will aid in development of zero liquid discharge water treatment system for small rural communities at a reasonable cost and with a realistic operation strategy.
  • Energy-efficient and Sustainable, Microbial Electrolysis-Deionization System for Salt and Organics Removal; University of Tennessee, $150,000 – The University of Tennessee will investigate the capability of combining microbes and electrolysis to treat wastewater and produced water to augment water resources and water reuse for various uses. This combination of treatments can provide a sustainable treatment option while recovering energy and nutrients.
  • Barometric Evaporator Desalination Project; Sephton Water Technology, $29,836 – Sephton Water Technology, Inc. of Kensington, Calif., will test a prototype barometric evaporator at the existing pilot facility in Imperial County, Calif., which is currently testing the vertical tube evaporator technology. The goal of this project is to test the barometric evaporator prototype and apply the technology to provide steam generation for a vertical tube evaporator to treat water at the Salton Sea.
  • Autonomous Low Energy Consumption Cyclic Desalination Systems; University of California Los Angeles, $150,000 – University of California, Los Angeles has proposed a new technology concept of cyclic reverse osmosis in order to obtain a smaller and mobile unit to treat impaired and underutilized water sources. It is expected that the operational and configuration flexibilities of this technology will enable a wide variety of water sources over a wider range of salinities while using optimal energy.
  • Operation of Commercial Sized Solar Desalination Still; Suns River, $45,022 – Suns River, located in Many, La., will continue its research and work on a solar desalination still that has been tested at a small scale at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Facility last year. A larger scale solar still will be constructed to help further research already conducted and identify feasibility of the solar still to treat brackish groundwater in small rural areas.
  • Evaluation and Development of a New Type of Polymer-based Water Desalination Membrane; University of Colorado, $134,544 – The University of Colorado will investigate two aspects of a new thin film composite lyotropic liquid crystal polymer membrane system; scaling up the preparation of the new membrane material and design more economical and easily synthesized monomers. This new membrane is focused to work as a nanofiltration and reverse osmosis type polyamide membrane.
  • The pilot scale projects selected for funding are:

  • City of Corpus Christi Desalination Pilot Study; City of Corpus Christi, Texas, $200,000 – Corpus Christi has been dealing with drastic drought conditions over the last decade and this pilot project will aid in exploring a variety of options to optimize the pre-treatment process. The results will form the basis of design for a full-scale facility including operating parameters, cost information and product water quality to assess feasibility of a seawater and/or brackish groundwater supply.
  • Reverse Osmosis Concentrate Management through Halophyte Farming; University of Arizona, $148,053 – This project will continue building on some previous research done in the area of concentrate management via halophyte farming and using this salt resistant crop to manage concentrate produced from water desalination. The pilot project would be conducted at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Facility in Alamogordo, N.M., and will enable the construction of the agricultural research testing area at the facility.
  • Successful applicants were chosen through a competitive, merit-reviewed process. Entities that were eligible include individuals, institutions of higher education, commercial or industrial organizations, private entities, public entities or Indian Tribal governments. Entities, except institutions of higher learning, must cost-share at least 75% of the project cost.

    You can learn more about Advanced Water Treatment at: http://www.usbr.gov/awt.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    An introduction to Castle Rock’s new treatment plant

    August 27, 2013

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    From 9News.com (Will Ripley):

    The town’s renewable water plant, which went online earlier this year, currently supplies 35 percent of the town’s water. It will eventually expand to meet 75 percent of the town’s demands. “We hope eventually to be able to treat 12 million gallons a day through this plant,” [Mark Marlowe] said.

    While the thought of transforming treated toilet water to tap water may leave some with a bad taste in their mouth, Marlowe says high tech filters guarantee the water is clean and safe. In fact, he says most of today’s tap water is reused. Wastewater goes through a purification process before it is released downstream. “Everybody lives downstream of somebody,” Marlowe said.

    The town expects its $22 million investment in the new plant, combined with a commitment to water conservation, will help the town save to up to $100 million over the next 20 years.

    And perhaps more importantly, it’ll help conserve billions of gallons of our most precious resource.

    More water treatment coverage here.


    Upper Animas River: ‘It’s always been a heavily mineralized area’ — Bev Rich

    August 7, 2013

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    Here’s Part III of The Durango Herald’s (Chase Olivarius-Mcallister) series on the mining legacy in Silverton. Here’s an excerpt:

    After Sunnyside Gold Corp. shut down operations at American Tunnel in 1991, Silverton executed a bittersweet pirouette: With mining, its main industry, seemingly done for, the town focused on selling its mining history to tourists. Today, thousands of visitors pour into Silverton every summer, disembarking from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to tour mines, shop or playfully pan for gold.

    Meanwhile, Silverton’s abandoned mines gush toxic metals into Cement Creek, among the largest untreated mine drainages in Colorado. In turn, the metal pollution in Cement Creek is choking off the Upper Animas River’s ecosystem.

    Steve Fearn, a Silverton resident and a co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, said the people of Silverton want mining to return. This desire, he said, partly accounts for why many residents oppose federal involvement in the cleanup of Cement Creek. In the view of mining companies, a Superfund site designation would make Silverton’s metal mines infinitely less attractive, he said.

    Bev Rich, chairwoman of the San Juan County Historical Society and San Juan County treasurer, is the daughter of a miner, and she married one. She said it isn’t surprising that many people in Silverton look on Sunnyside Gold, the last mine to close there, with nostalgia for the good days, not anger about the mine drainage. And she said while Silverton’s eagerness to see a resumption of mining might confound outsiders, they don’t have first-hand knowledge of Silverton’s past. On the pay scale, tourism jobs can’t compete with mining work. “It was $60 or $70 an hour towards the end,” she said about the wages Sunnyside once paid.

    She also said she doesn’t believe metal concentrations in Cement Creek are a problem chiefly created by mining pollution. “I look at it as mineralization. It’s always been a heavily mineralized area,” she said, an observation repeated by Rich’s fellow Silvertonians Fearn and San Juan County Commissioner Peter McKay…

    Stakeholders co-coordinator Bill Simon said mining could certainly return to Silverton “if the price was right.” But he noted that while demand for metal has grown with the globalization of manufacturing, mining officials in the 21st century have, on the global scale, tended to continue to seek out the conditions that made mining so profitable in Silverton in the 19th and early 20th centuries: places with little regulation, where metals, like human life, are cheap and abundant.

    More Animas River Watershed coverage here and here.


    ‘…the mountain opens like a wound, oozing a sticky, white, webbed lattice over red ground’ — The Durango Herald

    August 5, 2013

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    Here’s Part I of The Durango Herald’s series on cleaning up Cement Creek written by (Chase Olivarius-Mcallister). Click here for the photo gallery. Here’s an excerpt:

    At Red and Bonita Mine, the mountain opens like a wound, oozing a sticky, white, webbed lattice over red ground. There, especially after heavy rains, toxic amounts of metal gush out from within the mountain and bleed into Cement Creek. Peter Butler, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group and chairman of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, said Cement Creek is one of the largest untreated mine drainages in the state of Colorado…

    Like all great earthly calamities, the environmental problem posed by Cement Creek – daunting, scientific and indifferent to protest – becomes human – legal, social, financial and technological – as soon as the focus moves to solutions. In this three-day series, The Durango Herald explores what has been done about this environmental hazard, possible ways forward, and what cleaning up Cement Creek might mean to Silverton, town motto: “The mining town that never quit.”[...]

    For much of the 1990s, scientists took heart that the metals flowing into the Animas from Cement Creek were diluted by the time the water reached Bakers Bridge, a swimming hole for daredevils about 15 miles upriver of Durango. But between 2005 and 2010, 3 out of 4 of the fish species that lived in the Upper Animas River beneath Silverton died. According to studies by the USGS, both the volume of insects and the number of bug species have plummeted. And starting in 2006, the level of pollution has overwhelmed even the old bellwether at Bakers Bridge: USGS scientists now find the water that flows under Bakers Bridge carries concentrations of zinc that are toxic to animal life.

    Bill Simon, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, said cleaning up the environmental damage wrought by mining remains the unfinished business of previous centuries. “Getting anyone to pay is notoriously difficult,” he said. He noted that without robust regulation, it was common practice from the 1870s on for mining companies to take what they could and then go broke, abscond or incestuously merge with other mining entities, leaving the future to foot the bill…

    What keeps them working together? Simon, a longtime coordinator of the stakeholders group, said, “There is this overwhelming feeling: Let’s spend the money on the ground rather than in litigation.”[...]

    For a while, it appeared that the stakeholders’ collaborative effort to clean up Cement Creek was working: After Sunnyside Gold Corp. stoppered American Tunnel with the first of three massive concrete bulkheads in 1996, declining water flow from the site meant less metal pollution in Cement Creek. But Butler said that in 2004, the bulkheads stopped functioning like a cork in a wine bottle. Instead, they started working like a plug in a bathtub: Water, prevented from exiting the mountain through American Tunnel, rose up within the mountain until it reached other drainage points, namely, the Red and Bonita, Gold King and Mogul mines. Since then, Butler said, data shows that most metal concentrations in Cement Creek have “easily doubled” their pre-bulkhead amounts. He said as a result, the recent environmental damage done to the Animas has far outpaced gains made in other stakeholders group cleanup efforts, like the remediation of Mineral Creek, another Animas River tributary…

    Though federal budget cuts have seriously diminished the EPA and gutted its Superfund monies, the EPA says the mine drainage in Silverton has gotten so bad it may yet pursue a Superfund listing. And without federal intervention, even stalwarts of the Animas River Stakeholders Group say it’s not clear there will ever be enough money to clean up Cement Creek.

    Here’s Part II. Here’s an excerpt:

    According to Bill Simon, a co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, an organization that has tried since 1994 to ensure the Animas River’s water quality, the science behind the cleanup is comparatively simple: A limestone water-treatment plant would do the trick. The catch with this technology, he said, is that it’s expensive. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates it would cost between $12 million to $17 million to build and $1 million a year to run – in perpetuity.

    Sunnyside Gold Corp. was the last mining company to operate in Silverton. Bought in 2003 by Kinross Gold Corp., an international mining conglomerate that generated billions in revenue last year, Sunnyside denies all liability for cleaning up Cement Creek. Sunnyside officials argue the state released it from liability in an agreement that partly depended on its building the American Tunnel bulkheads. These are the same bulkheads that, according to government scientists, are causing unprecedented amounts of metal to leak from mines higher up the mountain and flow into Cement Creek. The toxic cargo in turn flows into the Animas River.

    Larry Perino, Sunnyside’s representative in Silverton, said the company has offered the EPA a $6.5 million settlement – an offer the EPA is mulling. In return for the money, Perino said Sunnyside is merely asking the EPA to reiterate that it is not liable for all damage going forward…

    If Sunnyside wants the EPA to release it from liability, at $6.5 million the EPA probably isn’t biting.

    “$6.5 million is a starting point,” said Mike Holmes, the EPA’s Denver-based remedial project manager for Region 8, which includes Silverton. The EPA could turn to the Superfund, a designation that gives the agency broad powers to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances and force responsible parties to pay for the cleanup.

    Perino said Sunnyside vehemently opposes Cement Creek becoming a Superfund site, noting the people of Silverton oppose it, and that the designation likely would undermine Silverton’s economy and Sunnyside’s collaborative work with the Animas River Stakeholders.

    Peggy Linn, the EPA’s Region 8 community involvement coordinator, said if Silverton would support the EPA designating upper Cement Creek a Superfund site, making it easier for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign off on the designation, the agency might have a limestone water-treatment plant up and running within five years…

    And using about $8 million from government grants and in-kind donations, the group has managed significant environmental progress, including the cleanup of Mineral Creek. It has also lobbied U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton to push Congress for good Samaritan legislation. This would protect “vigilante” environmentalists from taking on liability for the sites they try to reclaim.

    During Animas River Stakeholders meetings, there is a lot more talk about exciting emerging technologies that might address the mine drainage into Cement Creek cheaply than there is hot talk about holding Sunnyside’s feet to the fire.

    An exception is Todd Hennis, owner of the Gold King Mine, who places the blame on Sunnyside and who is frustrated by others’ complacency on the subject. Metals draining out of Gold King Mine have increased tremendously since Sunnyside placed bulkheads into the American Tunnel. During a recent stakeholders meeting in Silverton Town Hall, Hennis lambasted the environmental record of Kinross Gold Corp., the mining conglomerate that owns Sunnyside. He said the only solution was for Sunnyside to remove the bulkheads from American Tunnel and pay for Cement Creek’s cleanup…

    Asked how personal tensions with Hennis were affecting the Animas River Stakeholders, co-coordinator Simon acknowledged, “we’ve all had our problems with Todd.” He said he did not like discussing it. “I think when Todd enters it, the conversation becomes kind of cheap and trite. We’ve all committed our lives to this thing.”

    More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.


    Parachute Creek Spill: Williams estimates total groundwater treatment at 26 million gallons #ColoradoRiver

    July 27, 2013

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    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Williams expects to remove and treat as many as 26 million gallons of groundwater over a half-year to a year at the site of its natural gas liquids leak alongside Parachute Creek. That’s according to a water management plan recently approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division.

    The approval comes as Williams has been dealing with a recent spike in benzene levels at a monitoring site in the creek, including a reading of 9.2 parts per billion on Monday. That’s the highest reading in the creek since testing began following discovery of the leak, and follows a reading of 5.5 ppb July 11.

    That had been the first reading in the creek above the state drinking water standard of 5 ppb since May 1. However, the state doesn’t consider the creek to be a drinking water source, and instead a maximum standard of 5,300 ppb applies to protect aquatic life there.

    Health Department spokesman Mark Salley noted in a recent media update that the contamination is isolated to one creek test location and does not appear to be traveling. “All other sample points remain non-detect for contamination, including the town of Parachute’s diversion point for irrigation water,” he said.

    On July 13, Williams began operating new air sparge wells to upgrade a sparge/vapor extraction system. The new wells were placed to stop the flow of benzene-contaminated groundwater around the east end of the system. That flow may be causing the increased benzene readings. A new air sparge/vapor extraction system farther upstream also is scheduled to be activated next week. “The intent of this system will be to treat contaminated groundwater closer to the original source area and speed up the overall cleanup process,” Salley said.

    Williams estimates about 10,000 gallons of hydrocarbons in a natural gas liquids pipeline leaving its adjacent gas processing plant leaked from a faulty gauge into soil and groundwater this winter, and that it has recovered about 7,600 gallons.

    It plans to remove millions of gallons of groundwater at a rate of 50 gallons per minute, clean it and return it to the aquifer under a system that it has installed and been testing. About 155,000 gallons of tainted groundwater removed in March has been disposed of in an injection well in Grand County, Utah. Williams also has been shipping about 1,500 cubic yards of excavated soil to a landfill in East Carbon, Utah.

    From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krinoven):

    Donna Gray with the energy company Williams says the system erected [last] Sunday is one of seven aeration and vapor extraction systems. The process is also called air sparging. “That involves introducing air or oxygen to both the surface area and groundwater in the soil, in the spill area,” Gray says.

    The technology goes after contaminants like benzene that have been absorbed in soil and dissolved in groundwater. The process is similar to blowing bubbles with a straw into a bowl of water. Once the contaminants make contact with air, they disappear from the water.

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Contamination of Parachute Creek worsened this week, more than six months after an oil and gas industry spill, with levels of cancer-causing benzene exceeding the federal safe drinking water limit. Water samples drawn near the spill at a Williams Co. gas-processing plant near Parachute showed benzene levels at 5.5 parts per billion on July 11 and 9.2 ppb on July 15, according to data provided Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    These are the first test results since May showing benzene levels in surface water exceeding the federal standard of 5 ppb. Benzene levels in groundwater remain much higher than the limit. CDPHE water quality overseers have set a state limit for benzene in Parachute Creek at 5,300 ppb, based on aquatic life, because the creek isn’t designated as a water source for people.

    Benzene dissipates at sampling locations downstream toward a gate where the town of Parachute can divert creek water for irrigation. CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley said the increasing benzene levels “do not represent a risk to public health.”

    Williams last weekend began running new aeration systems to extract benzene vapors – part of a cleanup. Salley said an additional aeration and vapor extraction system will be activated next week in an effort to treat contaminated groundwater closer to the source of the spill and speed the overall cleanup.

    Tons of contaminated soil are being hauled to a facility in Utah.

    The benzene sampled near the spill “is isolated and does not appear to be traveling,” Salley said. CDPHE officials expect the new system will bring levels down.

    Williams has blamed the spill on a mechanical failure. It released more than 10,000 gallons of hydrocarbon liquids from a valve on a pipeline, contaminating soil and groundwater. When the spill was revealed, companies and state and federal agencies scrambled to protect Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.


    Construction of Rifle’s new water treatment plant and system upgrades to kick off next spring

    July 25, 2013

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    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Mike McKibbin):

    The 16- to 24-month project will include improvements to the city’s raw water pump station, a new 24-inch raw water pipeline to the new 40,000-square-foot plant, a radio tower at the Graham Mesa plant for remote data transmission of the city’s water system to the pump station and then by cable to the new plant, and connections to water transmission and main lines.

    The original plan was to start work this summer, but Utilities Director Dick Deussen said it took much longer than anticipated for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to sign off on the final permits. That led the city’s consultant, Malcolm Pirnie ARCADIS, to reassign staff engineers to other projects, since they could not proceed without the permits, Deussen said.

    The city also changed the location of the plant within the site east of Rifle, off U.S. Highway 6, so additional groundwater and other tests were required by the health department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, added Resident Engineer Jim Miller.

    “It’s closer to the wetlands, so we need to know how to manage that,” he said. “We also need to know about the bedrock elevation.”[...]

    In their regular meeting after the workshop, City Council approved a resolution supporting an application for a Colorado Department of Local Affairs Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund grant to help acquire and install a natural gas-fueled backup generator at the plant. The 1,600- to 1,750-kilowatt generator, with emissions control equipment, would serve as a secondary power source to keep the facility operating during power outages, city Government Affairs Coordinator Kimberly Bullen told council. It would also allow the city to take advantage of Xcel Energy’s interruptible service option credit, Miller noted. That credit allows Xcel to call the city and ask them to reduce electrical usage at the plant due to heavy summer demands on their distribution system, Miller explained…

    The estimated cost of the generator is more than $1.4 million, with the city seeking half that amount, or $735,000, in the grant application. The city’s 50 percent share would come from the Colorado Water and Power Resources Authority loan that’s funding the project, Bullen said.

    More water treatment coverage here and here.


    Western Water Workshop — Planning for the new normal — recap

    July 25, 2013

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    From The Gunnison Times (Will Shoemaker):

    Colorado’s Instream Flow Program — the first of its kind in the West — was established by a law passed by the Colorado legislature in 1973, though it took six years to subsequently survive legal challenges. A pair of water leaders in Colorado described the program’s history and evolution during a talk last Thursday as part of the 38th annual Colorado Water Workshop at Western State Colorado University.

    It was an appropriate topic at this year’s workshop — the theme of which was “Planning for the New Normal” — given that 40 years ago, the implementation of the Instream Flow Program introduced a “new normal” by challenging the assumption that water must be diverted for a right to be granted. “The program provides the legal foundations for a new understanding of the value of water that goes beyond direct human uses,” said Jeff Sellen, director of the Water Workshop. The law set up a regulatory framework for establishing water rights that depict minimum flows in a stream or levels in natural lakes. Under the program, only the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) can hold those rights.

    But one local woman traces the program’s roots back to a meeting among three visionaries at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic in the mid-1960s. “Instream flow has it’s origin with the question ‘Why?’ over a glass of wine,” said Gunnison’s Scottie Willey, a longtime RMBL researcher…

    While the intent of the 1973 law specifically aims to protect the environment to a reasonable degree, secondary benefits have resulted “for fisheries and for recreation,” said Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) General Manager Frank Kugel. “There’s extensive flow protection in our basin,” he added.

    Linda Bassi, chief of CWCB’s Stream and Lake Protection Section, said during last week’s Water Workshop talk that to date more than 9,000 miles of streams have been protected by instream flow rights across the state — in addition to levels in 480 natural lakes…

    Following the passage of the instream flow law, prominent Colorado water attorney David Robbins worked to ensure that the program remained. He was part of a team that filed for instream flow rights on three waterways in the Crystal River Basin — “test cases” for the new law. Each were “headwaters” streams of the type that even today comprise the bulk of protected segments under the program. Robbins explained during last week’s Water Workshop that most of the water community in 1973 still believed the new law to be unconstitutional. “It didn’t produce a recognized beneficial use under past case law and statutes,” he explained. “And it would preclude a portion of water from streams from citizens being able to remove that water in the future and apply it to another beneficial use.”

    That is, Colorado’s “first in time, first in right” appropriation system did not prior to then provide a widely recognized means of protecting the natural environment by establishing water rights. Not until 1979 was the Instream Flow Program upheld in state Supreme Court.

    Robbins said that the 1973 law was largely in response to efforts already underway at the time to recognize non-consumptive water rights — including in Gothic. “It’s purpose was in part to blunt the fledgling effort to amend the constitution to recognize instream flows as a recognized use within Colorado,” said Robbins. “We need to be very clear that prior to 1973, it was the generally held view in Colorado that in order to obtain a decreed water right, you had to divert the water from a river.”

    More education coverage here.


    Fort Collins begins using new water quality presedimentation basin

    June 23, 2013

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    Here’s the release from Fort Collins Utilities via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

    Fort Collins Utilities officials on Tuesday began using a new basin that will help remove sediment from Poudre River water before it hits the city’s water treatment facility.

    The Pleasant Valley Presedimentation Basin was fast-tracked to address wildfire-related water quality issues that began last summer, according to a city release. While the Poudre River is experiencing normal runoff water quality, it’s expected that summer rainstorms in the High Park Fire burn area will cause increased sediment levels in the river water.

    The basin was built adjacent to the Munroe Canal, north of the mouth of the Poudre Canyon.

    Information: www.fcgov.com/water-quality.


    AWWA Annual Conference: Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust wins the ‘Best of the Best Tap Water Taste Test’

    June 13, 2013

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    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    Tuesday I was a guest judge at the American Water Works Association’s 13th annual conference and exhibition’s “Best of the Best” Tap Water Taste Test. The convention, which runs through Thursday, drew about 10,000 people from all over the country to the Colorado Convention Center.
    I discovered that:

    • You can taste the difference between water providers across the country.
    • Water utility executives can be pretty competitive about their water.
    • And while Tuesday’s final judging rounds were a friendly competition, the taste of water has a very serious side.

    “It’s the way that people judge the safety of their water,” said Pinar Omur-Ozbek, an assistant professor at Colorado State University’s department of civil and environmental engineering in Fort Collins — and one of three professional taste testers on the panel. “If it doesn’t smell or taste the way people expect then they think there’s something wrong,” she said.

    From The Denver Post:

    Despite home-field advantage and three local judges among the five, three Colorado water providers failed to crack the winner’s circle in the Best of the Best Tap Water Taste Test this week. The contest, won by the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust, was part of the American Water Works Association’s annual conference that wraps up Thursday in Denver.

    Denver Water, Aurora Water and the town of Silverthorne were among the competitors in the contest made up of regional winners from water-tasting competitions across North America, according to the association.

    Tying for second place were the city of International Falls, Minn., and Northeast Sammamish Sewer and Water District in Sammamish, Wash. The People’s Choice winner, chosen by conference attendees, was Louisville Water Co. in Louisville, Ky.

    The three local judges were Dr. Pinar Omur-Ozbek of Colorado State University; Kimberly Lord Stewart, director of content for Modern Healthcare Professional and contributing food editor for Denver Life magazine and CBS Denver; and Cathy Proctor, a reporter for the Denver Business Journal.

    Here’ a guest commentary written by Denver Water’s David LaFrance that is running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    Every drop of water that reaches our homes and businesses first passes through an army of well-trained hydrologists, water quality engineers, scientists, treatment plant operators, distribution system workers and other professionals who are committed to keeping water safe and sustainable. Together, they are the first stewards of not only our water supplies, but also a magnificent system of treatment plants and storage tanks, pipes and valves, pumps and hydrants that keep our water safe and reliable every hour of every day.

    These people behind the water are usually invisible to us, just like the tens of thousands of miles of pipes beneath our streets. But this week, Denver is hosting more than 11,000 water experts from across the globe for the American Water Works Association’s 132nd Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE13) at the Colorado Convention Center. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will be among the nearly 900 expert presenters, and the exposition hall will showcase water technology from more than 500 companies – many based right here in Colorado.

    There’s no better place for the world’s premier water conference than Denver, because the Mile High City is something of a nerve center for the North American water community. AWWA, the largest and oldest water association in the world with more than 50,000 members, is headquartered in southwest Denver, sharing space with the Water Research Foundation, a global leader in drinking water research. The AWWA building sits on a parcel of land adjacent to Denver Water’s Marston Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to much of the metropolitan area. Water for People, which solves water, sanitation, and hygiene problems in the developing world, is just south of Interstate 25 near downtown Denver.

    More infrastructure coverage here and here.


    2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-1316 (Oil Gas Commn Uniform Groundwater Sample Rule) passes state House #COleg

    May 5, 2013

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    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    HB 1316, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Dickie Lee Hullinghorst of Gunbarrel and Joe Salazar of Thornton, would require the state to undertake the same stringency of groundwater testing in the oil-rich Wattenberg basin as it does across most of the state…

    HB 1316 passed the House on its third and final reading in that chamber Wednesday morning and now goes to the Senate for consideration…

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in January changed its rules to require companies to conduct one groundwater test per quarter-section, the equivalent to four tests per square mile, in the Wattenberg area. Due to the number of wells drilled and planned in that area, the new standard will result in a database of 11,000 samples, according to the state. HB 1316 proposes to change the new rule and require companies working the Wattenberg to sample up to four groundwater sources within a half mile of the new well…

    The Colorado Oil & Gas Association, an industry trade group, opposes the bill because it undermines the influence of the state regulatory agency charged with overseeing the oil and gas industry, spokesman Doug Flanders said. “A statewide ‘one size fits all’ water sampling rule does not fit Colorado, is unnecessary and fails to account for unique characteristics of specific areas of the state,” he said.

    More coverage from Steve Lynn writing for the Northern Colorado Business Report. Here’s an excerpt:

    House Bill 1316, sponsored by House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, and Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, would require the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to adopt uniform groundwater sampling rules. It passed by a narrow 34-29 vote. Northern Colorado was partially exempted from the new rules in January, when they were adopted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    Coincindentally, the new rules also took effect Wednesday. The new rules require companies to sample as many as four water wells within one-half mile of a new oil and gas well before drilling. Two more samples of each well must be taken between six and 12 months and again between five and six years…

    Neither oil industry representatives or environmental groups embraced the new monitoring rules. Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, criticized HB-1316, saying that it disregards scientific data presented during the creation of groundwater testing rules and derails efforts to address the needs of local communities.

    “There were parts of the COGCC’s water sampling rule we would have preferred to see enacted differently,” Dempsey said in a statement. “But we believe that the role of the executive branch should be respected and that the outcomes of extensive rule making ought to be much more carefully evaluated before being overturned.”

    Environmentalists have criticized the exemption in the Northern Colorado oil field, calling it the “Anadarko-Noble loophole” after two major producers in the region, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy Inc.

    More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


    Governor Hickenlooper proclaims Drinking Water Week May 5-11

    May 5, 2013

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

    The days of an American pioneer jumping from a horse to drink deeply from a stream remain as an image from Hollywood westerns. Today, thanks to many largely invisible experts Americans generally can turn on the tap and trust they are refreshing themselves with water that is safe to drink.

    Many people are no more inclined to think about safe drinking water than they are to question where their electricity comes from. In Colorado there are approximately 2,030 public drinking water systems operated and maintained by local authorities, and overseen by the state’s Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    From the source waters of the state (rivers, reservoirs and deep water wells) to the facilities that treat and disinfect the waters, to the pipes that deliver water to homes, it requires cooperation and the coordinated work of local utilities and state workers to ensure safe water.

    Water is an essential but limited resource that can and does, on occasion, become contaminated by natural elements and by human activity. And on such occasions, it is the work of water system operators, laboratories and others to identify any contamination and restore drinking water to safe drinking water standards. These efforts go largely unnoticed.

    In recognition of how fragile and precious water resources are, Gov. John Hickenlooper proclaimed Colorado’s recognition of National Drinking Water Week May 5-11. The Governor’s proclamation at http://www.colorado.gov/cdphe calls on all Coloradans to:

  • recognize the professionals who treat our drinking water to make it safe
  • be aware of our role as stewards of nature’s water and the water infrastructure upon which future generations depend
  • be diligent about protecting water from pollution and conserving water
  • Safe drinking water is vital to public health and the economy. Some may recall the incident five years ago in Alamosa when disease control experts at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified an outbreak of salmonella in the community. Effective laboratory work matched the salmonella bacteria in the community’s drinking water system to the bacteria in infected patients. To protect more community members from becoming ill, the state issued a bottled water order. Ultimately, about 1,300 people served by the community’s drinking water system were sickened during this waterborne disease outbreak, including 20 hospitalizations and one death. According to a recent report published by researchers from CDC, 29 percent of all ill people reported experiencing one or more potential long-term health consequence with 2 percent reporting serious complications. About half of the businesses responding to the CDC survey reported losing money due to the outbreak. The total cost of the outbreak was estimated at $2.6 million.

    At the time of the outbreak, Alamosa was operating under a waiver from disinfection requirements issued by the department in the late 1960s. Since the outbreak, the department has revised regulations and eliminated almost all disinfection waivers. The fewer than 15 water systems with disinfection waivers are subject to more stringent requirements and regular oversight to protect their water from contamination. There has not been another confirmed waterborne disease outbreak in Colorado associated with a public drinking water supply since March 2008.

    Throughout the state, the 2,030 public drinking water systems regulated by the department perform regular water sampling and testing to ensure the water meets safe drinking water standards. When sampling shows a system’s water is not meeting the standards, department experts and local water utility operators work together to repair any issues so that systems once again are providing safe drinking water to their customers.

    More water treatment coverage here and here.


    Water reuse in oil and gas operations is an expensive undertaking

    April 15, 2013

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.


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

    March 29, 2013

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    From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (David Martinez):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Sterling: New reverse osmosis treatment plant to be online by late summer

    February 7, 2013

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    From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (David Martinez):

    Some unexpected hang-ups have pushed back the time before residents receive the full benefits of the new water treatment plant until late summer. The plant has been filtering the city’s water since November, but the full 80/20 reverse osmosis (RO)-filtered water to regular filtered water mix will eke its way into Sterling’s system over the next several months…

    The water treatment plant will significantly lower uranium and pollutant levels, and significantly drop the hardness of the water.

    Most of the issues crews ran into concerned well and distribution issues, but one stood out: A thick, black, non-cohesive material in the well water was clogging up filters faster than expected. “We don’t know entirely what it is,” said Rob Demis, of Hatch Mott MacDonald, the company overseeing construction of the plant. He brought a bottle of it to show the council, showing it as fine black sediment layered at the bottom of clear ground water. After a couple of shakes, the water turned black and opaque. The material – 20 percent organic material and 30 percent manganese, with traces of other elements, such as iron and silicon – is also odorless, though Demis guessed it would have tasted “metallic” and “bitter.” The manganese gives the material its color.

    The raw water filter running now, which catches sediment down to the one-micron level, has caught the material at the five-micron level. Crews would change the filters every couple of days in November, but it’s since become less prevalent, which Demis credited to the city’s aggressive pipe flushing program. “We don’t know the origin. It may be coming out of the pipes. It may be coming out of the formations,” he said. “The good news now is we’re filtering it.”

    The plant also encountered issues with its distribution system, which wasn’t getting water out of the plant quick enough to the city’s distribution tanks to fill them. Demis said the plant quickly fills Sterling’s north and south tanks but doesn’t reach its west tank. Part of the problem might be buildup in the pipes over the years slowing water flow (like plaque clogging an artery, Demis said), but many of the pipes are also 100 years old…

    The plant had planned on having the ability to pump more than 7,900 gallons of water per minute, but right now it can only pump about 5,500. That means that of the treatment plant’s three pump levels – the third allowing the maximum amount of water to pump during peak use – they can only pump enough water to fulfill the first two…

    Water treatment crews have also been finishing construction on two deep water injection wells, which will deposit treated waste water more than a mile underground. One of the wells was dug at about 7,200 feet underground, as recommended by EPA estimates, while the second was dug to about 6,100 feet.

    Demis said the area’s geology hasn’t been fully explored, so the crew will need to test the area over time.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Sterling: New reverse osmosis water treatment plant online and ramping up to full production

    January 6, 2013

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    From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (David Martinez):

    …by the end of February, [city engineers] say, 80 percent of the city’s water will run through dozens of stacked reverse osmosis (RO) filters, squeezing out pollutants to meet state standards.

    “It’s not something you call in and say, ‘Hey, deliver this to us,’” said Mark Youker, construction manager for Hatch Mott McDonald, which has overseen the architecture and engineering of the project. “It’s a lot more complicated than that.”

    Plans to build the plant started around September 2008, when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an enforcement order to get the city’s water standards up to compliance within a given time frame. The main contaminant, among others, was the water’s naturally-occurring uranium levels, which could increase an individual’s cancer risks over longer exposures.

    Youker said before the plant was constructed, Sterling’s water was pumped directly from wells across the county, treated with chlorine at four separate stations and delivered directly to city homes, farms and businesses.

    When the plant becomes fully operational, the city’s raw well water will all instead flow straight to the one spot for treatment. It’s capable of providing 9.5 million gallons of water to the city per day, though the average demand is only about 4 million gallons.

    The water will run through a filtration system before it’s chlorinated, and be pumped out as a 80/20 mix of RO-treated to untreated water; Youker said the city has been receiving the “20 percent,” filtered water for about two months already.

    Workers at the new Sterling Water Treatment Plant monitor every aspect of the treatment process through a monitor in their control room. (David Martinez/Journal-Advocate)
    Ryan Walsh, the project engineer, said the mix holds several structural and taste benefits.

    “The first goal (of treatment) is to bring the city’s water to compliance with the new state standards,” Walsh said. “The second is to bring water that more aesthetically pleasing and requires less maintenance.”

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    EPA Updates Rule for Pathogens in Drinking Water, Sets Limit for E. Coli

    January 1, 2013

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    Here’s he release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated the rule for pathogens in drinking water, including setting a limit for the bacteria E. coli to better protect public health.

    The Revised Total Coliform Rule ensures that all of the approximately 155,000 public water systems in the United States, which provide drinking water to more than 310 million people, take steps to prevent exposure to pathogens like E. coli. Pathogens like E. coli can cause a variety of illnesses with symptoms such as acute abdominal discomfort or, in more extreme cases, kidney failure or hepatitis.

    Under the revised rule, public drinking water systems are required to notify the public if a test exceeds the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for E. coli in drinking water. If E. coli or other indications of drinking water contamination are detected above a certain level, drinking water facilities must assess the system and fix potential sources and pathways of contamination. High-risk drinking water systems with a history of non-compliance must perform more frequent monitoring. The revised rule provides incentives for small drinking water systems that consistently meet certain measures of water quality and system performance.

    Public water systems and the state and local agencies that oversee them must comply with the requirements of the Revised Total Coliform Rule beginning April 1, 2016. Until then, public water systems and primacy agencies must continue to comply with the 1989 version of the rule.

    The Safe Drinking Water Act requires that EPA review each National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, such as the Total Coliform Rule, at least once every six years. The outcome of the review of the 1989 Total Coliform Rule determined that there was an opportunity to reduce implementation burden and improve rule effectiveness while at the same time increasing public health protection against pathogens in the drinking water distribution systems. EPA’s revised rule incorporates recommendations from a federal advisory committee comprised of a broad range of stakeholders and considers public comments received during a public comment period held in fall 2010.

    For more information: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/tcr/regulation.cfm

    More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


    ‘Holding back water would happen regardless of the amount of snowpack’ — Donnie Dustin #CODrought

    December 9, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    The problem: soot, sediment and debris washing from burned forests have made the Cache la Poudre River less reliable as Fort Collins’ main water supply for urban households. Particles clog treatment facilities. So, city officials say, they must heavily tap their secondary supply — water piped under mountains from the Western Slope. That water typically has been leased to farmers…

    In the big picture, this intensifying water crunch reflects a shifting balance of power between cities and the agriculture that traditionally has anchored life along Colorado’s northern Front Range. Drought and the oil-and-gas industry’s appetite for drilling water already have weakened farmers’ position. Cities in recent years have purchased interests in irrigation-ditch companies. Farmers have sold their water rights, taking advantage of high prices. Financial stress and low commodity prices forced some to sell. Others simply sought profit. The result is that city interests increasingly dominate decision-making…

    “We’ve got this twofold issue of drought complicated by fire, and the issue of more fires. What that will do to our water yields is very unknown,” said John Stulp, a Colorado agriculture leader serving as a special water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper…

    For farmers, the trouble is hitting five months after the High Park fire, just as they prepare to make business decisions for the coming year. Given the uncertainties of sediment polluting the Poudre, Fort Collins “is extremely unlikely to make any water rentals” next year, city water-resources manager Donnie Dustin told farmers in a Nov. 14 e-mail. Holding back water would happen “regardless of the amount of snowpack,” Dustin wrote. “The ability to consistently treat Poudre River water is likely to be an ongoing concern for the next few years.”

    Cities cannot be blamed for holding back water they now control, said Rocky Mountain Farmers Union president Kent Peppler. “Their first priority has to be domestic use, and if they think runoff from the fire is going to pollute their supplies, they have to do this,” he said. But agriculture “isn’t going to get any easier if these fires continue…

    “We’ve been under stress this whole decade,” said Grant Family Farms owner Lewis Grant, 89, who serves on advisory boards for Larimer County and Fort Collins and is involved in efforts to preserve farms amid spreading subdivisions. “It’s almost hopeless for younger farmers. Land is so expensive. Water is so expensive.”

    On the sprawling farm northwest of Wellington, Grant produces eggs that end up in Whole Foods Markets. The farm’s produce — including squash, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower, kale and cabbage — is sold by King Soopers and other markets. Water rented from Fort Collins irrigates about 25 percent of his crops, he said. One solution may be for Fort Collins to install extra sediment-control tanks to enable consistent use of the Poudre. “That would seem reasonable to me,” Grant said.

    City officials say they’re considering costs. Such facilities likely would force higher water bills for city dwellers and higher prices for farmers and energy companies that vie for city water.

    More Cache La Poudre watershed coverage here.


    Denver Water/USFS ‘From Forests to Faucets’ partnership update

    November 29, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column, written by Jim Lochhead and Dan Jirón, that’s running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    We can’t prevent fire from occurring, but healthy forests can reduce the threat of catastrophic fire, like we experienced this year. Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service have for decades worked side-by-side to care for the watersheds that provide water to Colorado citizens and Denver Water’s customers. Two years ago we forged a partnership — called “From Forests to Faucets” — to work in high-priority watersheds to accelerate forest health treatments that promote healthier, more resilient forests, reduce wildfire risks, restore burned areas and lessen erosion into reservoirs.

    Last week, Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service signed the third annual commitment of funds in support of this partnership. Together, we are focused on treating and restoring 38,000 acres of National Forest System lands in five priority watersheds including the Upper South Platte, South Platte headwaters, Colorado River headwaters, St. Vrain and Blue River. Since the From Forests to Faucets partnership began in 2010, we are currently treating nearly 17,000 acres.

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


    Poudre River: The High Park Fire has caused Fort Collins’ treatment costs to escalate by $1 million

    November 24, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    After the summer’s fires incinerated large swathes of the Poudre River watershed, tons of ash and debris washed into the river during rainstorms, wreaking havoc with one of Fort Collins’ main sources of drinking water.

    Standing on a layer of ash caked on the pebbly shore of the Poudre River, Lisa Voytko, city water production manager, said the High Park Fire could cost Fort Collins Utilities $1 million a year for the next two years just to keep the additional sediment out of the city’s tap water.

    The city has a major water diversion operation in Poudre Canyon, the source of about half of the city’s water in most years.

    At the Fort Collins-Loveland, North Weld County and East Larimer County water districts’ water intake and diversion dam a few miles upstream of Gateway Natural Area, it’s not hard to understand why the fire might cost the city so much.

    A massive layer of ash and debris several feet thick has accumulated behind the dam since the fire. Once it reaches the river, the sediment becomes suspended in the water and ends up in the city’s water intake at Gateway Natural Area…

    It’s unknown both how much water will be flowing down the Poudre next spring and, as the drought continues, how much water the city will be allowed to take from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, or C-BT, and Horsetooth Reservoir, Fort Collins water resources engineer Donnie Dustin told City Council on Tuesday.

    The city, he said, is looking for ways to increase the amount of C-BT water it has access to, and that means the city may decide not to rent water to farmers, reducing Fort Collins Utilities’ revenue by $700,000 in 2013.

    “Restrictions are likely to be implemented early in the spring as a precaution,” he said, adding that farmers that rely on Fort Collins for water are going to hurt next year.

    “These conditions could persist for a few years,” he said.

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Steven Meyers):

    Like a farmer devoted to his crops, Robert Breckenridge is hoping and praying for precipitation. The owner of A1 Wildwater in Fort Collins for the past 31 years, Breckenridge prays for heavy snow to fall in the high country through April. Because, like the ski industry, rafting is a fickle business…

    Combine a low snowpack year, a severe drought, and the worst fire Northern Colorado has ever seen, and you wind up with a disaster recipe for the Fort Collins rafting business.

    More Poudre River Watershed coverage here.


    Eagle: The town board is moving on adding more water treatment capacity

    November 19, 2012

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    From the Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

    As Eagle stands poised to grow with the new Eagle River Station and Haymeadow developments, the community now needs additional water-treatment capacity to meet potential demand. Tuesday night, the Eagle Town Board began to answer that demand by approving a special-use permit for a new lower basin water-treatment plant. The new plant will be built immediately east — or upstream — from the town’s wastewater-treatment plant located near the confluence of Brush Creek and the Eagle River. Preliminary estimates indicate it will cost around $16 million. The new plant will have an initial capacity of 2.5 million gallons per day and is designed for expansion of up to 5 million gallons per day. It will include two buildings — one covering 32,300 square feet and one covering 1,452 square feet…

    During discussion of the plant proposal, Town Board member Joe Knabel asked about scheduling — specifically, the length of the planning period to get the facility up and operational. Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosoirowski said in all likelihood, the plant is on at least a 30-month schedule to address permitting, financing and 20 months of construction.

    Eagle Public Works Director Dusty Walls said that at present, during the summer, Eagle hits the 80 percent capacity mark for its water system, and that’s the point when the state wants towns to begin work on new treatment facilities. Mayor Yuri Kostick said that during the summer, town residents can use as much as 2.3 million gallons of water per day, but during the winter, the number is closer to 500,000.

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Wiggins new water system still not online

    November 13, 2012

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    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    During a special meeting of the Wiggins Board of Trustees Wednesday, Public Works Director Jon Richardson said he talked with a representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about whether or not a proposal for putting the town’s pipeline through its flood levee was acceptable. He was told he would hear one way or another this week, but he had not heard yet, he told the board. He planned to call again at the end of the week.

    Industrial Facilities Engineering — which is overseeing the water project — said it was still waiting on a company to figure out what it would cost Wiggins to adapt its new water treatment plant to blend water with its existing wells and its new water source, Richardson said. Blending is necessary, because the town does not have enough new water to fill its needs. Richardson said he expects to know how much it would cost next week.

    More Wiggins coverage here and here.


    Rifle: Voters approve additional sales tax to help finance new water treatment plant

    November 9, 2012

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    From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

    By an overwhelming margin, Rifle voters said they wanted to share the cost of a new water treatment plant with shoppers and approved a 3/4 of a cent sales and use tax rate hike in Tuesday’s general election. Question 2A asked voters to approve the increase in exchange for lower future water rate hikes needed to build and operate a new $25 million water treatment plant…

    The tax hike will take effect in January, raise an estimated $1.65 million a year, and increase the city’s sales and use tax rate from 3.5 cents to 4.25 cents…

    The city borrowed $25.5 million from the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority to build the new plant. The loan comes from a special fund dedicated to water projects. The effective interest rate will be 1.86 percent, with $2 million loaned interest-free, resulting in what city officials called “an overall historic low loan rate.”

    Repayment requirements of the loan led to sharply higher water rates in September, and more than doubled some customers’ water bills, payable in October. Money from the higher water rates will help pay for operations and associated costs of the new plant.

    Miller said a few months into the new year, the city will look at how revenues are coming in from the tax hike, then very likely sharply reduce the September rate hikes, both base and tiered rates.

    More Rifle coverage here.


    Cement Creek restoration update: Treatment plant = $6.5 million, Annual expenses = $910,000

    October 15, 2012

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    From The Durango Herald (Mark Esper):

    Sunnyside Gold Corp. last October offered to contribute up to $6.5 million to address water-quality issues in Cement Creek and the Animas River, including up to $5 million to operate “a cost-effective” treatment plant to process tainted water spewing from the mine portals above Silverton. But that $5 million for operations would keep the plant running only for about five years, according to the report by MWH Global, of Boise, Idaho.

    However, Larry Perino, reclamation manager for Sunnyside Gold Corp., said the report “does not suggest that other less-expensive methodologies may not be feasible.” Perino said the purpose of the MWH Global report was not to suggest the ultimate determination of what may be the best alternative. “Rather, it is the goal of the report to set forth feasible alternatives against which other methodologies or alternatives may be measured.”[...]

    The MWH Global report looked at five alternatives, with construction costs estimated at between $4.5 million and $6.5 million, and operating costs pegged at between $876,000 and $1.4 million.

    MWH Global said that two of the alternatives stood out as “superior to the others” on a “nonfinancial screening criteria.” But it said one of those two alternatives has lower operating costs and thus “is financially superior.” The project is seen as a possible solution to heavy metals loading in Cement Creek from acidic mine drainage.

    The problem is considered so serious that the Environmental Protection Agency found the site eligible for Superfund listing last year. But lacking community support, the EPA backed off its proposed listing in April and agreed to proceed with a collaborative process with the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

    The four mine portals that are the focus of attention are the Mogul, Red & Bonita, Gold King No. 7 and the American Tunnel.

    More water pollution coverage here.


    CDPHE tells Castle Rock to develop plan for disposal of radioactive brine that will result from treating water at their new plant

    October 3, 2012

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    From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

    The Colorado Department of Health and Environment notified the town’s utilities department that it must come up with a plan to manage the treatment residuals that will likely contain radioactive materials concentrated by treatment at the plant before March 2013, when the plant is fully operational, said Mark Salley, communications director for the state department. The plant is not creating any residuals at this time because it is still under construction and not operational, Salley said.

    The department’s radioactive materials unit provides guidance to facilities where there is a potential for an elevated radioactive material concentration, said Jennifer Opila, radioactive materials unit leader. Opila’s group has provided guidance at 12 facilities in the last two years across Colorado. The department points out that uranium and radium are natural components of Colorado’s geology and will dissolve out of soils and into the state’s water, resulting in elevated levels of radionuclides in groundwater. The treatment process in a water treatment plant removes those contaminants and, when the radium residual levels exceed the state standard, the department’s goal is to ensure the safe removal of the resulting waste, or sludge, without bringing harm to anyone who comes in contact with the residuals, Opila said.

    While the levels the state expects to see at the Plum Creek facility do not pose an acute hazard, safety measures at comparable levels would include protective gear such as safety gloves, shoe covering and full clothing covering, she said.

    More water treatment coverage here and here.


    2012 Colorado November election: Rifle city officials pitch sales tax hike as relief for water rate payers

    October 2, 2012

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    From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    Question 2A on the Nov. 6 general election ballot asks Rifle city voters if a 0.75 percent sales and use tax hike should be approved. It would take effect in January and increase the city’s sales and use tax rate from 3.5 percent to 4.25 percent. The added tax would raise an estimated $1.65 million a year. The issue has not led to any organized opposition…

    In a memo to City Council, City Manager John Hier recommended that if the sales tax is approved, the city should eliminate a second water rate increase planned for April 2013, and lower the recent increase, “so the combined revenue from the sales tax and new rates will generate only that revenue needed to pay the debt service and increased operation and maintenance cost on the new plant.”

    Due to the rock-bottom loan rate received from the state agency, Hier wrote in the memo, “it may be possible to lower … monthly base rates to $23 per month and significantly reduce the … tier rates.”

    When the debt on the water plant is paid off, the 0.75 percent sales and use tax will end.

    More Rifle coverage here and here.


    Wiggins: New water treatment plant to undergo testing this week

    September 17, 2012

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    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    The reverse osmosis filters will be installed Tuesday, and plant testing starts Wednesday, [Public Works Director Jon Richardson] said.

    Unfortunately, town officials still do not know how they are supposed to complete a final section of water pipeline that would take the pipe through the town flood levee and allow water to start flowing.

    Town Clerk Craig Trautwein said he spoke to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative Tuesday, and he was expecting an e mail about which plan the corps would accept — if it accepts any of the proposed plans. The representative would not disclose the results until then, he said.

    One piece of good news is that Industrial Facilities Engineering has agreed to eliminate some of the exclusions it had on a plan to blend the town’s existing well water with its new water until Wiggins has enough new water for all its needs.

    More Wiggins coverage here and here.


    Silverthorne and Basalt finish first and second in taste test

    September 14, 2012

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    From the Aspen Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

    “Like a party in my mouth,” one of the judges wrote next to sample identified only as “G.”

    The testing went through three rounds, with the top two samples from each round making it to the finals. In the end, Silverthorne prevailed, while Basalt took second place and Aurora Water came in third after winning the competition last year.

    “We have the benefit of using the water before anyone else does,” said Silverthorne public works director Bill Linfield, giving Mother Nature most of the credit for the victory.

    From the Summit Daily News (Paige Blankenbuehler):

    Silverthorne’s water comes from six different wells called the Blue River Alluvium, which sits at a lower elevated valley near Silverthorne, according to Kevin Batchelder, Silverthorne town manager. “We’re at the top of the food chain for clean, safe water,” Batchelder said. “We’re very lucky to have natural filtration and pristine, snow melt water.”[...]

    Ranking behind Silverthorne, in its first-ever entry into the competition, Basalt took second place with Aurora Water coming in third…

    As the winner, Silverthorne will represent Colorado in a national water-tasting contest later this year.

    More water treatment coverage here and here.


    Silverthorne takes top honors in tap water taste test — next up national competition

    September 12, 2012

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    From 9News.com (Matt Renoux):

    Five judges in all took part in the 2013 American Water Works Association Water Tasting Competition in Copper Mountain. The judges sniffed, checked the clarity and tasted water samples from 16 cities in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. After more than an hour of drinking the water, judges turned in their results. This year Colorado swept the top three with Aurora taking third, Basalt second, and Silverthorne won out with the best-tasting water. Mellissa Elliott with Denver Water says that means Silverthorne will move on to represent Colorado in a National contest…

    …National competition will be held in Denver next June. Denver Water took second in the nation last year. It will get to compete again because it gets an automatic entry in the national competition for being the host city.

    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

    Basalt came in second out of 16 cities and towns in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico that entered water for a taste testing at an American Water Works Association conference at Copper Mountain. Silverthorne won the competition and will represent Colorado in a national water-tasting contest later this year.

    More water treatment coverage here and here.


    Fort Morgan Water Treatment Plant is trying to get a handle on odor causing bacteria — actinomycetes

    August 29, 2012

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    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    City workers at the Fort Morgan Water Treatment Plant have identified the source of an earthy odor and sometimes taste in city water that had been reported by residents over the last year.
    Now, the workers are seeking to eliminate the cause of the odor, which was due to a treatment process to kill and remove naturally occurring, nontoxic bacteria called actinomycetes, according to City Clerk/Public Information Officer John Brennan.

    “It is actually the destruction of these bacteria during the water treatment process, not the bacteria themselves, that can cause a musty odor that is noticeable to some people in the finished water that comes out of their faucets,” Brennan stated.

    Actinomycetes are a large group of bacteria that are responsible for the characteristically “earthy” smell of freshly turned, healthy soil, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

    Modifications are being made to the treatment process to help get rid of this odor. “Some of the chemicals used in treatment can intensify the odors that result from destruction of the bacteria,” Brennan stated. “Other treatment options are being investigated that are not currently used in the process.”

    City residents reported earthy odors and organic smells and tastes in city water as far back as late summer 2011.

    More water treatment coverage here and here.


    Rifle City Council approves ballot question to raise sales tax for new water treatment plant

    August 23, 2012

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    From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

    If approved by city voters, the increase will help the city repay a $25.5 million loan from the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority. The loan, on which the city closed on Aug. 14, will fund the construction of a new water treatment plant to replace the current Graham Mesa plant, which is old and in danger of failure, according to city officials.

    The sales and use tax hike, if approved in November, would take effect in January and would end once the loan is repaid. It would increase the city’s sales tax rate from 3.5 cents to 4.25 cents and would raise an estimated $1.65 million a year.

    More Rifle coverage here and here.


    Ceratium and gomphosphaeria are blooming in Arvada Reservoir

    August 19, 2012

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    From the Arvada Press (Sara Van Cleve):

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

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

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

    More water treatment coverage here.


    Michigan State University professor helps devise method of removing phosphorous from wastewater

    August 15, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Michigan State University:

    A professor at Michigan State University is part of a team developing a new method of removing phosphorous from our wastewater – a problem seriously affecting lakes and streams across the country.

    In addition, Steven Safferman, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, and colleagues at Columbus, Ohio, based-MetaMateria Technologies, are devising a cost-effective way of recovering the phosphorous, which then can be reused for fertilizer products.

    Although its use is regulated in many states, including Michigan, in items such as detergents and fertilizer, phosphorous is part of all food and remains a critical problem as it is always present in human and animal wastes.

    Discharge from human and industrial wastewater and runoff into lakes and streams can cause what is known as eutrophication – making the water unsuitable for recreational purposes and reducing fish populations – as well as causing the growth of toxic algae.

    What MetaMateria Technologies and Safferman have figured out and tested over the past 10 years is how to produce a media, enhanced with nanoparticles composed of iron, that can more efficiently remove larger amounts of phosphorous from water.

    “Phosphorous that is dissolved in wastewater, like sugar in water, is hard to remove,” Safferman said. “We found that a nano-media made with waste iron can efficiently absorb it, making it a solid that can be easily and efficiently removed and recovered for beneficial reuse.”

    Safferman added there are indications that their method of phosphorous retrieval is much more cost effective than processing phosphate rock.

    “Research suggests that it is significantly cheaper to recover phosphorous this way. So why would you mine phosphorous?” he asked. “And, at the same time, you’re helping to solve a serious environmental problem.”

    The material should be commercially available for use within two years, said J. Richard Schorr, MetaMateria CEO.

    “Phosphorous is a finite material,” Schorr said “Analyses show that the supply of phosphorous may become limited within the next 25 to 50 years. This is an economical way to harvest and recycle phosphorous.”

    More water treatment coverage here.


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