From the Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):
Many locals were among the 500 guests who toured the new $200 million Climax Molybdenum Water Treatment Plant during its grand opening on Thursday, Aug. 7. The new plant is located in Summit County and is visible from Colorado 91 on the left heading toward Copper Mountain from Leadville.
Prior to the tours, a number of local and state officials made comments, beginning with Fred Menzer, vice president of Colorado Operations for Climax Molybdenum, who called the water treatment plant another milestone for the company. He outlined how the Climax Mine had gone from 30 people up to the 360 employed today with a target number of 4000.
Since January 2012, Freeport-McMoRan has spent $550 million on the mine, and $300 million of this was spent in Colorado, he said. He also noted Climax has paid $145.5 million in taxes in both Lake and Summit counties.
Dave Thornton, president of Climax, added that since 2008, $1 billion has been spent at the Climax Mine site and more than $75 million has been spent in reclamation at both the Henderson and Climax sites.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton noted that the mine was both providing jobs and taking care of the environment.
“We all are environmentalists in Colorado,” Tipton said.
State Rep. Millie Hamner echoed those thoughts saying Climax is a model on how to do things right. She read a tribute to the mining company from the Colorado General Assembly.
Other speakers included Lake County Commissioner Bruce Hix who read a letter from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. His also expressed regret that the water treatment plant was not built in Lake County.
The Climax Mine started producing molybdenum in 2012, but the feasibility design for the water treatment plant began in March 2011. Climax has treated water since 1983, initially using the Tenmile and Mayflower ponds with lime addition, according to information distributed at the grand opening. The system received an upgrade in 1998; at that time the pH was increased in the Tenmile Pond, which began Stage 1 metals removal (removing iron, aluminum and copper). Stage 2 metals removal took place at the Mayflower Pond (removing manganese with traces of zinc and lead). An additional treatment plant was added in 2007.
Now the new treatment plant replaces the Mayflower pond as Stage 2 metals removal. Treated water is discharged into Tenmile Creek. The treatment plant has an Events Pond on-site to capture overflows and prevent unwanted discharges into Tenmile Creek.
More water treatment coverage here.
From The Watch (William Woody):
Last week, the Project 7 Water Authority, which provides drinking water to the Montrose, Olathe and Delta communities (and the Menoken, Chipeta and Tri-State water districts, as well) stopped using sodium silicofluoride in its water treatment to boost fluoride levels.
At Monday’s work session of the Montrose City Council, Public Works Director John Harris explained he has already received some positive comments about the change. Harris, who also sits on the Project 7 board, said the supply of sodium silicofluoride, produced by a manufacture in Louisiana, was interrupted due to hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said that supply never recovered, leaving municipalities in the United States looking elsewhere, including China.
In July — just as supplies were running out — Harris said the Project 7 board voted in favor to end the practice.
“I’m not willing to take a risk on a Chinese-based project,” Harris told The Watch Monday. “Something would have to change to make us rethink that.”
Harris said residents can use supplemental fluoride found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, but because of the shortage, fluoride “just wouldn’t be added to the drinking water.”
Although fluoride can occur naturally, sodium silicofluoride has been used in America’s public drinking water for more than half a century, for prevention of tooth decay.Studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest there has been an 18-to-40 percent reduction in cavities, in children and adults, as a direct result of water fluoridation.
In a press release, Project 7 said “sodium silicofluoride will no longer be added to boost the naturally occurring fluoride in the water to the “optimum level” as defined by the EPA…
“We can no longer obtain sodium silicoflouride that is manufactured in the USA, with the only supplier being China,” ” said Adam Turner, manager of Project 7. “We are not comfortable with the long-term quality control of the product we would be adding.”
According to the Project 7 website, water supplied to Project 7 from the Blue Mesa Reservoir contains a concentration range of naturally occurring fluoride (from 0.15 to 0.25 mg/l); the EPA limit of fluoride in water is 4 mg/l. Consuming levels higher than 4 mg/l, the EPA states, can cause bone disease and, for children, pits in their teeth…
For more information visit: http://www.project7water.org. or call 970/249-5935.
More water treatment coverage here.
From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):
The Pandora water treatment project at the east end of the valley is on schedule and should be complete by this fall, ending more than three years of construction.
The project, which fired up in 2011, has been in the works for more than 20 years, and it will pipe water from Upper Bridal Veil Basin to a new treatment facility at the east end of the box canyon. And while there have been many hurdles, including engineering challenges and budgetary issues, the project should be complete by October and stay within the town’s 2014 budget, according to Telluride Public Works Director Paul Ruud.
“We keep making progress on the building and the water plant itself,” Rudd said. “The building is almost completed. We’re just outfitting the internals. There are aspects of the project that are done. We’ve tied in both the raw waterline coming in from Bridal Veil [Falls] and the treated line that’s going towards town, into the plant.”
Ruud said crews are also working on a physical water diversion out of Bridal Veil Creek as well as a number of other components involved with the diversion. If things go as planned, the plant will go online in early October.
“We haven’t really had any issues,” Ruud said. “We did have fairly substantial soil stabilization right at the treatment plant. That ended up being quite a substantial undertaking. But as of right now we are within the approved budget for this year and we expect the project will be completed with our existing budget.”
The facility will also contain a micro-hydro component that is expected to be operational when the plant goes live, which will boost the town’s generation of renewable energy. But the main purpose of the plant is to boost the town’s water capacity. Telluride’s current system, which relies primarily on the Mill Creek Water Plant, has been strained by high demand and other issues in recent years.
Rudd said construction has been making good progress this summer. With the good weather there have been a lot of people in the area going up to Bridal Veil Falls. But disturbances from construction are nearing an end.
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Lamar has completed a new water line that will allow it to deliver cleaner water to customers.
“We’re meeting our water quality goals by using our southern wells,” Josh Cichocki, Lamar water superintendent, told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable on Wednesday. “Not only did the project help us with water quality, but it helped with efficiency as well.”
The roundtable approved a $200,000 state grant last year that went toward the $2 million project. Other sources of funding were a $785,000 loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and a $985,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs.
The project installed 6.5 miles of pipeline in a portion of the well field where pipes had become badly corroded. Completed during a drought, there were no major construction issues, Cichocki said.
“Our biggest obstacles were wind and tumbleweeds,” he laughed.
He explained that the southern wells used in the Lamar water system have the lowest measurement of total dissolved solids. That means the water does not require as much treatment to bring up to drinking water quality standards.
Lamar has gained between 180-250 acre-feet (58.6 million-81.4 million gallons) per year because of the improvements.
More infrastructure coverage here.
From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):
Rather than wait up to another year and risk even higher costs, Rifle City Council unanimously rejected two bids on a new $25 million water treatment plant and decided to proceed under a “sole source” approach.
At a special June 25 meeting, the council also approved nearly $150,000 in project expenses, an application for a $2 million state grant to help purchase filters and equipment for the plant and the return of a $600,000 grant that was to help build a new main waterline connection to South Rifle.
The action came after two bids for the project came in $8 million to $11 million higher than the city engineer’s estimate and the funds available to build the plant. Alder Construction, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, submitted a base bid of $33.1 million and PCL Construction, located in Phoenix, Ariz., with an office in Glenwood Springs, submitted a base bid of approximately $36.5 million.
The city received a $25 million low-interest loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, to help pay for the plant. Two years ago, Rifle voters approved a 3/4 cent sales tax increase to help repay the loan.
Mayor Randy Winkler said the city had underestimated the cost of the new plant.
“All building costs seem to have gone up greatly just in the last year,” he said. “So we were forced to really take a hard look at this project.”
The project was originally designed to 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 existing Graham Mesa water plant for remote data transmission of information about 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.
City officials have said the Graham Mesa plant is aging, undersized to serve projected population growth and unable to meet possible tougher federal water quality standards in the future. Construction work was expected to last up to two years.
More Rifle coverage here.
Union Pacific plans treatment plant for discharge mitigation at the West Portal of the Moffat Tunnel #ColoradoRiverJuly 2, 2014
From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):
The Union Pacific Railroad announced on June 19 that it plans to construct a water treatment facility that will remove fine particulates and metals discharged in flows from the west portal.
As part of its discharge permit, Union Pacific must meet preset effluent limitations by April 30, 2017. The new treatment plant will help Union Pacific reach compliance with those limitations.
“It’s a victory,” said Mike Wageck, president of the East Grand Water Quality Board. “It’s definitely a victory for the river, if they’re going to be removing that coal dust that’s getting in there and removing those metals.”
The way the tunnel is bored, ground water flows from seepages inside the tunnel, picking up coal dust left by passing trains and heavy metals leached from the railroad ballast and exposed rock.
“This isn’t much different than a mineral mine,” said Kirk Klancke, East Grand Water Quality Board member. “If you just put a hole in the ground and have water leeching out, it’s going to carry the heavy metals you’ve exposed that have been buried for millennia.”
The way the Moffat Tunnel is pitched, water flows from both portals of the tunnel. To the east, water flows through a sedimentation pond before it’s discharged into South Boulder Creek. But to the west, water flows untreated into the Fraser. In 2013, average daily flows from the west portal were 171 gallons per minute, according to an implementation schedule sent from Union Pacific to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The sediment in this discharge increases turbidity, or cloudiness, in the Fraser River…
Slag, a by-product of metal processing found in railroad ballast, leeches copper, lead, mercury and arsenic, among other elements, into the discharge and ultimately the river, according to the implementation schedule.
“Basically, from 2007 to today, we’ve been reviewing various ways we could treat the water coming out, primarily the water when it comes out of the tunnel,” said Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific.
Union Pacific examined a number of options for reaching compliance with effluent levels in the discharge, including diverting the water to publicly-owned treatment works in Winter Park, though the town ultimately decided that it would not benefit from receiving the water, pretreated or not…
Davis said he wasn’t sure when construction on the facility would begin or how much it would cost, though the state requires that Union Pacific have something in place by its compliance date of April 30, 2017.
More Fraser River watershed coverage here.
Check out Ian Neligh’s retrospective about Clear Creek and the heydays of mining and logging (The Clear Creek Courant). Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
Editor’s note:This is the first installment of a three-part series examining the past, present and future of Clear Creek…
There’s a monument in Idaho Springs hidden away in the parking lot of the former middle school. The giant boulder pays tribute to George Jackson, an adventurer and fortune hunter, who discovered gold in Clear Creek 155 years ago.
According to Don Allan, vice president of the Idaho Springs Historical Society, Jackson’s curiosity to follow the creek west into the mountains with only a couple of dogs by his side led to the country’s second largest gold rush.
Like a row of dominoes, Jackson’s discovery led to an onslaught of pioneers and ultimately in 1876 to the formation of a state.
“(Jackson) decided to go over and take a look down at the crick, and his curiosity brought him here to the confluence of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek,” Allan said. “When I talk with people about our community and how we got here, it was because of one man’s very good curiosity and a piece of gold.”
Jackson discovered gold in January, and by June, more than 400 people had settled in the area.
Natural hot springs drew more people into the area. Allan said in the Idaho Springs museum’s photography collection, there’s a photo of more than 50 employees standing in front of the hot springs.
“Once the stream was panned out, they panned all the gold out of the crick. Then they had to dig and make mining mills,” Allan said. “And this crick was integral to the milling of all the gold and silver in this area.”
The creek was used to support the mining industry such as the Mixel Dam in Idaho Springs, which was formed to help power mining mills and to create electricity. In 1864, silver was discovered to be the main mining mineral in Georgetown, and by 1877, the railroad reached Idaho Springs.
According to “A History of Clear Creek County,” the area at one point had 48 different towns with names such as Red Elephant, Freeland and Hill City. It is estimated that several thousand mines crisscrossed the mountains around Clear Creek as people sought their fortunes first along its banks and then in its mountains.
Those unlucky in gold sometimes found their way into the county’s second largest industry: logging. Early photos of the surrounding hillsides show them stripped of trees. But in time, the mining and logging industry waned, the frenzy slowed and the towns disappeared until there were only four municipalities left: Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Empire and Silver Plume. By World War II, the county’s mining industry has come almost to a complete halt.
But the stream once called Cannonball Creek, Vasquez Fork and lastly Clear Creek remained.
More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.
The Resurrection Mining Co. files change of use on Twin Lakes shares to augment depletions at the Yak Tunnel treatment plantJune 18, 2014
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The Resurrection Mining Co. has filed its plan in water court to permanently replace flows to the Arkansas River water from its Yak Tunnel reclamation plant.
According to a court filing in May, the company plans to dedicate 10 shares of Twin Lakes water to flow down Lake Creek to replace the water it is capturing and cleaning at the Yak Tunnel plant and surge pond about 1 mile southeast of Leadville.
The water court application formalizes an arrangement that has been in place since Resurrection took over operation of the Yak Tunnel from ASARCO after a bankruptcy filing in 2005.
ASARCO began operating the Yak Tunnel plant in 1989 following federal court decisions that required mining companies to intercept and treat drainage from mine tunnels. Twin Lakes shares were leased until the company bought its own shares in 1994.
Depletions amounted to 3-7.7 acre-feet (1 million- 2.5 million gallons) annually from 2006-13. Replacement for those flows were replaced under a substitute water supply plan, an agreement administered by the state Division of Water Resources.
The tunnel, like others in the area, originally was drilled to dewater mines and increase productivity. However, the drainage includes heavy metals that diminish water quality and endanger wildlife. The surge pond captures water that escapes from tunnels and allows the water treatment plan The court filing assures that an operating plan is in place, regardless of how much water is needed in any given year to replace depletion.
More water pollution coverage here.
“What dilutes it [selenium concentrations] is high flows, and we just haven’t had them for a while” — Randy HayzlettJune 1, 2014
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The state is looking at research in fields near Rocky Ford to determine if irrigation practices could improve Arkansas River water quality.
On Thursday, officials from Colorado and Kansas health agencies and researchers looked at how intercepting water from fields through irrigation drains could prevent deeper leaching of water and nitrates into the soil. That leaching action, when it reaches bedrock layers of shale, triggers suspended selenium releases that are harmful to wildlife, explained Tim Gates, a Colorado State University- Fort Collins researcher who has spent 15 years investigating Arkansas Valley irrigation systems.
“Excess irrigation percolates through to the shales and soils around them and the nitrates in the soil from excessive fertilization causes the selenium to dissolve out,” Gates said.
To a large degree, the increase of sprinkler systems and drip irrigation has reduced the amount of water applied to fields, meaning less water to percolate deeply in the soil.
But in fields still flood irrigated, drains could provide a means to reduce selenium buildup.
Many of the farms in the Lower Arkansas Valley have tile drains installed in the first part of the 1900s under federal programs as a way to reduce waterlogging.
A two-year study funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is looking at how effectively those drains can prevent selenium concentration.
“What it’s looking at is whether there’s a better way to intercept and control it,” said Jim Valliant, a retired CSU Extension researcher who is working on the project. Valliant also represents Crowley County on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board.
Part of the problem rests with state water law, he added.
“Farmers are told to use it or lose it, so it encourages over-irrigation,” Valliant said. “But I think younger farmers are more willing to adapt. I think we can work together to improve the quality of the water returning to the Arkansas River.”
Cutting down on fertilizer application, which releases nitrates, could also save farmers money, Valliant said.
The levels of selenium in the Arkansas River are exacerbated by higher base flows on Fountain Creek, along with storms on Fountain Creek and Wild Horse Creek in the Pueblo area. But return flows from irrigation also react with shale that lies on the surface and up to 40 feet below throughout the valley.
It also creates a problem for downstream users, because the selenium accumulates as water moves along the river.
“Lakin, Kan., is a small community of about 1,800, and we had to build a $6 million water treatment plant,” said Randy Hayzlett, who represents Kansas on the Arkansas River Compact Administration. “I think the problem is getting worse. What dilutes it is high flows, and we just haven’t had them for a while.”
More water pollution coverage coverage here.
Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:
Water is a precious resource here in the West, much too precious to use just once. That’s why Denver Water started a program to treat and recycle wastewater. There are more than a dozen wastewater recycling programs in Colorado, and Denver Water operates the largest recycled water system in the state.
And, the system is celebrating a milestone birthday …
Recycled water system celebrates 10 years
By Ann Baker, Denver Water Communications and Marketing
When Denver Water’s recycled water system opened a decade ago, it distributed water through nine miles of pipe to 12 large water users.
Since then, the system has grown seven times that size, sending water through 65 miles of pipe to more than 80 customers, including parks and golf courses, the Denver Zoo, schools, homeowners associations and industrial complexes, and has plans to…
View original 254 more words
From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
Even with Colorado’s push to rely more on recycled water, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge will spend another summer using millions of gallons of Denver’s drinking water to fill lakes and irrigate fields after a recent decision by state health officials.
Federal wildlife biologists calculate they’re drawing more than 82 million gallons of Denver drinking water a year to fill three once-toxic lakes at the refuge, formerly a nerve gas and pesticides plant that became an environmental disaster.
“This refuge needs water, and using recycled water to fulfill a portion of our needs is a wise choice for the future,” refuge manager Dave Lucas said. Denver recycled water “meets our needs and allows millions and millions of gallons of drinking water to be put to better use by Denver residents.”
But the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last week reaffirmed its position that the refuge must go through a process of proving why it should be allowed to use water that is not as clean and submit to an Environmental Protection Agency review.
A $2.1 billion cleanup of toxic pollution included restoration of the lakes for catch-and-release fishing and to store water, which wildlife managers use to irrigate the 27-square-mile refuge — habitat for bison and other species.
Until the drought of 2002, High Line Canal agricultural water trickled into the lakes. Groundwater pumping added more water. CDPHE at some point — it was not clear when — reclassified the lakes as water supplies, and refuge managers made a deal with Denver to use drinking water, which started in 2008.
Then, in 2009, CDPHE reclassified the lakes as water bodies, meaning “an important social or economic development” reason for allowing lesser-quality water must be demonstrated. State officials, on an emergency basis in May 2013, agreed to remove the water supply classification on the refuge lakes but still require the proof of a public purpose before water quality can be reduced.
Frustrated refuge managers, backed by Denver Water and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, have been pressing to use recycled water and putting in the plumbing to do so.
Denver Water has spent more than $197 million installing a citywide 80-mile network of pipelines that distribute partially treated recycled water to parks, golf courses and the Denver Zoo. The museum uses recycled water in its new heating and cooling system.
All sides agree that using more recycled water is a priority.
But CDPHE Water Quality Control commissioners on May 13 voted 5-4 to reject a request to reconsider — so the refuge must go through a “necessity of degradation demonstration” review to be able to use recycled water.
“We want to support use of recycled water. But we cannot do it by bending the rules,” CDPHE water quality standards chief Sarah Johnson said. “The best solution is for them to complete the necessity of degradation determination. It isn’t a heavy lift. We have promised to help.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers of the refuge say the analysis for the review would not cost much but would require spending $10,000 to $15,000 a year more for water monitoring. They said new analysis would have to be done every three to five years, tied to permitting, creating uncertainty because state officials could ask for operational and infrastructure changes during reviews.
Lucas said even if they were to have something to present by the June commissioners’ meeting, it would be October at the earliest for the water switch if everything was approved.
Denver Water officials have been working aggressively since 2004 to increase use of recycled water, saving 7,000 acre-feet of drinking water a year, utility recycled water director Jenny Murray said.
Switching to recycled water at the refuge is the correct solution, Murray said. “It’s the right use because we are trying to preserve drinking water supplies for a growing population in a water-scarce region. Using drinking water for uses that do not require drinking water is wasteful.”
Denver Water attorneys in a May 6 letter to CDPHE argue that state lawmakers have ordered efforts to “encourage the reuse of reclaimed domestic wastewater.” Denver Water contends CDPHE decisions undermine state policy, waste public resources and defy common sense by imposing a needless bureaucratic burden.
One of Denver’s new recycled water pipelines runs by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to the refuge. A steady, year-round flow of recycled water in that pipeline is required to ensure sufficient flow to run the museum’s innovative new geothermal heating and cooling system, which was funded by a federal grant to boost energy efficiency.
“When we designed our system three to four years ago, both Denver Water and the refuge folks felt that obtaining a permit to discharge recycled water into the lakes at the refuge would not be a problem,” said Dave Noel, museum vice president for facilities, capital projects and sustainability.
CDPHE’s stance “has got all of us scratching our heads,” Noel said.
Museum officials sent a May 8 letter to CDPHE arguing that “the loss of 17,000 acres of thriving wildlife and fish habitat due to lack of water would be a severe blow to the state and the Front Range, and simply does not make sense when a logical solution seems readily available.”
At the refuge, future water needs are projected as high as 456 million gallons a year. Beyond Denver Water, wildlife managers rely heavily on pumping water from underground aquifers into the Mary, Ladora and Lower Derby lakes — pumping they are trying to reduce by using more recycled water, which is cheaper than drinking water. They calculate the federal water bill could be cut by $30,000 a year.
A thriving bison herd is growing, with 11 calves born this spring, pushing the population to 81. An adult bison can eat around 50 pounds of grass a day. A team of biologists recently had to reduce the herd to prevent exhaustion of the short-grass prairie. Plans call for expanding bison habitat to allow a herd of 209 bison, which would roam up to the road to Denver International Airport, where a visitor viewing station is envisioned. Not having reliable recycled water will limit the bison herd and lead to decreased numbers of waterfowl, fish and grassland birds, Lucas said.
“We’re probably not going to irrigate this summer, which is bad for habitat restoration,” he said, “or we will have to drain down the lakes to irrigate.”
Lucas remains puzzled by the entire process.
“We’re talking about the same recycled water used everywhere. But somehow the refuge is different? Lots of smart people are looking at this, and no one can figure it out,” he said. “We engaged in this year-long process with hopes of fixing their error — the water supply change. Why would we want to engage in another unknown and uncertain process that will last months, if not years?”
More South Platte River Basin coverage here.
It was a grand time the other day cycling along the South Platte and hearing about current projects, operations, hopes and plans.
The tour was from the Confluence of Clear Creek and the South Platte River to Confluence Park where Cherry Creek joins the river.
Along the way we heard about Clear Creek, water quality in the South Platte Basin, infrastructure investments, and education programs.
A recurring theme was the effort to reach out to a younger generation through the school system.
Darren Mollendor explained that the program he honchos attempts to get the students to connect to their neighborhood parks. This includes an understanding of pollution, pollution abatement, and habitat improvement. He invited us all to go camping at Cherry Creek Reservoir when students from the upper and lower Cherry Creek watershed get together later this summer.
Michael Bouchard (Denver Parks and Recreation) detailed planned improvements along the river through Denver. Most of the new facilities will also have an education focus, including native flora at some locations.
Metro Wastewater is one of the largest clean water utilities in the nation, according to Steve Rogowski. The Metro District is directing a huge investment to comply with tougher treatment standards.
At the Burlington Ditch diversion Gray Samenfink explained operations under the ditch. The ditch is a supply for Barr Lake, other reservoirs, and direct irrigators. Several municipalities also take water off the ditch. The new diversion and flood control structure replaced the old dam at the location.
Caitlin Coleman (Colorado Foundation for Water Education) was tasked with keeping the tour on track. That was no easy task. When you get young and older, students, water resources folks, educators, conservationists, scientists, attorneys, engineers, and ditch riders together there’s going to be a lot of stuff to talk about.
Click here to go to the CFWE website. Become a member while you are there. That way you’ll know about these cool events in advance so you won’t miss the fun.
More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.
From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Erin Udell):
The town has always purchased its water from suppliers. Currently, it has three providers: Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, North Weld County Water District and the city of Greeley.
But by purchasing its treated water and not having access to a water treatment facility of its own, Windsor loses something: control.
“As long as people are going to build houses, we’re going to need water,” Windsor’s Director of Finance Dean Moyer said, referring to Windsor’s continued growth in recent years. “And, being that we don’t have our own plant, we’re always controlled by someone else.”
Moyer said the town has always kicked around the idea of having its own water treatment facility.
“It comes up every year and we talk about it, but up until now it seems to be getting more serious, you know?” Moyer said. “We really need to do something here.”
Twenty-five years ago, when the town’s population was roughly 5,062, Windsor residents used a total of 335 million gallons annually, according to Windsor Director of Engineering Dennis Wagner.
Now, with that population more than quadrupled, residents use about 650 million gallons of water per year…
Windsor is currently one of 15 participants in Northern Water’s Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). The regional water supply project aims to provide its participants with 40,000 acre-feet of new water supply each year through the Glade Reservoir and Poudre Valley Canal.
The town also has been involved in conversations with a handful of other Northern Colorado communities about the possibility of sharing a regional water treatment facility.
Arnold said eight municipalities, including Windsor, Severance, Loveland, Eaton and Milliken, and water districts like Fort Collins-Loveland, Central Weld and Little Thompson are involved.
A feasibility study for the possible treatment facility has been conducted, Arnold added, and it would cost Windsor anywhere from $11 million to $17 million to buy in at a certain capacity level.
The next step for the possible project is the formation of an authority that would be responsible for building the regional plant, Arnold said, adding that the communities involved just initiated that discussion about a month ago.
More water treatment coverage here.
From The Denver Post (Megan Mitchell):
Aurora Water has begun construction to expand the city’s Prairie Waters Project for the first time since the natural water filtration and collection system opened in 2010. Projects nixed from the original construction plan kept the $659 million project about $100 million below its initial budget. Now, those projects are being called back up to make sure Prairie Waters stays on track for exponential growth over the next 40 years.
“The expansion part of the project has been planned from the very beginning,” said Marshall Brown, executive director for Aurora Water. “This year, we’re at a place where we can prioritize the growth and look toward the future of system capacity.”
Crews have begun digging six new collection wells in between the existing 17 wells that collect water from a basin near the South Platte River in Weld County, downstream from the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District’s plant. From there, the water is piped through wells 44 miles south to treatment and storage facilities in Aurora for residential use.
Along the way, the water is pulled through 100 feet of gravel and sand. This 30-day, natural process helps pull large contaminants out of the water.
Two new filter beds will also be installed at the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir this year. At the Binney facility, water is treated with chemicals and ultraviolet lights to make it potable.
The cost of the expansion projects is $2.9 million, said Greg Baker, spokesperson for Aurora Water. He said water tap fees will not be affected by the new wells and filters this year.
“We plan our capital projects (which are predominantly paid for by development or tap fees) well in advance,” Baker said. “We plan for these expenses so that our rates don’t roller coaster based on immediate projects.”
Right now, Prairie Waters is spread over 250 acres in Weld County and is only built out to about 20 percent of its total potential capacity. Baker said the system currently provides 10 million gallons of water per day. At full build-out, Prairie Waters will able to provide 50 million gallons of water per day.
The project itself was conceived in response to extreme drought conditions in 2003.
“Ideally, we would like to have two years’ worth of supply stored in the system at all times,” Brown said. “Aurora’s system varies between one and two years’ worth of storage now.”
The long-term vision for the project involves well development all the way down the South Platte River to Fort Lupton, as well as adding more physical storage components. Aurora Water has already started to acquire additional property for capacity expansion in the future.
Baker added: “As Aurora’s population grows, we will expand into the system to support that growth.”
Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office via the Chaffee County Times:
The historic flooding last September and the lingering drought affecting many Colorado communities demonstrate the need for safe drinking water. In the absence of disasters that threaten water supplies, few people think about safe drinking water and what it takes to make it available at the turn of the faucet.
Water is an essential but limited resource that can become contaminated by natural forces and human activity. Water system managers and operators, laboratory workers, and state and local agencies make water safe to drink.
From the state’s varied source waters including rivers, reservoirs, wells and springs to the facilities that filter and disinfect the water, to the tanks that store it and the pipes that deliver it to our homes, cooperation and coordination by local utilities and state workers is required to ensure safe drinking water flows from the tap on demand.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proclamation of Colorado Drinking Water Week, May 5-10, calls on Coloradans to be aware of our role as stewards of nature’s water and the infrastructure upon which future generations depend. The proclamation serves as a reminder to be diligent about protecting our water from pollution and conserving water, and to recognize the professionals who keep our drinking water safe.
Many communities – even those unaffected by the flooding – need to upgrade their aging systems to continue providing safe drinking water. The Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment oversees approximately 2,000 public drinking water systems in Colorado. The systems are operated and maintained by local authorities. During the past year, nearly half the incidents involving poor water quality investigated by the Water Quality Control Division were associated with infrastructure deficiencies, such as broken or excessively leaking pipes or problems with storage tanks.
Rebuilding aging drinking water infrastructure is almost always a financial challenge, even with the grants and loans available though federal and state agencies. It requires citizen support and careful planning by water system managers. Since 1997, the department, in cooperation with the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Department of Local Affairs, has approved about 180 loans, worth $449 million, to water systems through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The fund provides below-market financing to help water systems treat and deliver safe drinking water.
The responsibility to ensure safe drinking water does not reside solely with water systems and government agencies. Individuals play a significant role as well. In addition to conserving water, individuals must protect water quality in rivers, lakes, streams and wells by being careful with herbicides and pesticides; disposing of oil, antifreeze, unused prescriptions and personal care products properly; and becoming involved in water quantity and quality issues within the watersheds and water systems that supply their drinking water.
Consumers served by a community public water system can get an in-depth understanding of their water system by reading its annual Consumer Confidence Report. This year’s reports will be distributed to consumers this summer. Past copies generally are posted on each water system’s website. Citizens who have difficulty obtaining their system’s Consumer Confidence Report may contact the Water Quality Control Division at 303-692-3556.
More water treatment coverage here.
Hope for Howard Fork water quality? CDRMS is looking at acid mine drainage mitigation again. #ColoradoRiverMay 4, 2014
From The Telluride Daily Planet (Heather Sackett):
… the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety is beginning the process of trying to stabilize the mine near Ophir and improve the water quality of streams in the area. The DRMS project aims to see if there is a way to stop water from flowing through the mine, which will also help improve the water quality of Howard Fork, which flows into the San Miguel River. The project is being overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been investigating the water quality and taking samples from the Iron Springs Mining District for a couple of years, according to EPA Site Assessment Manager Jean Wyatt.
“It’s in part to understand the baseline conditions for water quality and understand if something can be done to stop the mine water from passing through the workings of the mine,” Wyatt said. “There are elevated levels of zinc and iron coming out of that mine … We want to understand what the conditions are and who could contribute resources or expertise to increase the quality of the watershed in general.”
DRMS is seeking bids from contractors to reopen the portal and stabilize and rehabilitate portions of the underground workings of the Carbonero Mine. The project will also include the construction of a platform at the portal, construction of water management structures near Ophir Pass Road below the site and re-grading and reclamation of certain areas.
“That’s the goal: to stabilize the mine and enter and see what, if anything, can be done,” said Bruce Stover, director of the DRMS Inactive Mine Reclamation Progam. “This isn’t a final remediation by any means. This is just part of an ongoing investigation.”
Glenn Pauls is the landowner of the site. In the 1980s, Pauls acquired many of the mining claims in the area — he estimates about 1,100 acres in roughly 100 claims at one point — with the intention of making a trade with the Forest Service at some point. His goal, he said is to preserve the Ophir Pass Road and keep it open for Jeep traffic. Pauls said he would like to create a hydroelectricity project at the Carbonero Mine site, once the water quality studies are complete.
“The idea is that we open it up and find out if the water coming in the back end is clean,” he said. “I can’t touch the water until someone gives me the OK.”
A mandatory pre-bid meeting for interested contractors is planned for the site on Ophir Pass Road about a half-mile east of Ophir at 10:30 a.m. June 11. The submission deadline for bids is June 24. For more information about the project, contact Kristin Miranda at the Department of Natural Resources/Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety at 303-866-3567 ext. 8133 or email@example.com.
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.
From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):
Colorado Springs Utilities, along with Denver Water and the city of Aurora, all reuse a significant amount of water after it has gone through a treatment plant. It’s called non-potable water and as such is not acceptable for public consumption, cooking or bathing.
The wastewater system collects all the water from homes and businesses, then treats it to conditions set by the state health department. In most treatment centers throughout the state, the treated, non-potable water is then released back to the river or source whence it came. In Colorado Springs, Denver and Aurora, that water is recaptured and reused to water golf courses, public parks, cemeteries and the like. The systems do not extend to residential uses.
“The cost is extremely prohibitive to build such a system,” said Steve Berry of CSU. “Most customers would not tolerate the rate impact.” A system would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he added…
The non-potable system in Colorado Springs provides a capacity of 13 million gallons a day during the summer. The Colorado Springs system has 26 miles of distribution pipelines that stretch to Bear Creek Regional Park, Kissing Camels Golf Course, Patty Jewett Golf Course, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, El Paso County, Memorial Park, Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado College, Valley Hi Golf Course and others. This program was put together beginning in 1961. Utilities’ charge for non-potable water is significantly less than for treated water.
Aurora’s non-potable system is used to irrigate parks, said Greg Baker, manager of public relations for the Aurora Water Department.
“It’s 5 million gallons a day we can save from potable use,” Baker said. The city’s irrigation season stretches from May 1 through Oct. 30.
“It makes perfect sense,” Baker said. “We don’t always want to apply potable water for irrigation.”
Denver’s non-potable system has a current capacity of 30 million gallons a day, expandable to 45 million gallons a day. The distribution system includes more than 50 miles of pipe with two major pump stations and storage tanks, according to Denver Water’s website. The system began operating in 2004, and when the recycled water system build-out is complete, Denver Water’s recycled supply will account for about 5 percent of the city’s total water volume annually, according to Travis Thompson, media coordinator for Denver Water.
The Animas River Stakeholders Group, et. al., offer $45,000 prize in search for solutions to pollutionApril 24, 2014
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.
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…
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 countyApril 17, 2014
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 #ColoradoRiverApril 16, 2014
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Colorado River District coverage here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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 ResearchAugust 30, 2013
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.
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.
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.
‘…the mountain opens like a wound, oozing a sticky, white, webbed lattice over red ground’ — The Durango HeraldAugust 5, 2013
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.”
Parachute Creek Spill: Williams estimates total groundwater treatment at 26 million gallons #ColoradoRiverJuly 27, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
AWWA Annual Conference: Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust wins the ‘Best of the Best Tap Water Taste Test’June 13, 2013
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.
2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-1316 (Oil Gas Commn Uniform Groundwater Sample Rule) passes state House #COlegMay 5, 2013
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.
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.
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.”
The price tag for Sterling’s deep injection wells for RO brine escalates from $80,000 to $2.3 millionMarch 29, 2013
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.