Repair projects dating from 2013 flood still in progress — The Canyon Courier

Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider
Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider

From the Canyon Courier (Sandy Barnes):

Concrete barriers along the eroded creek bank in downtown Evergreen are still in place nearly two years after the 2013 flood that caused the damage.

Evergreen businessman Jeff Bradley, manager of the property, said he has obtained a permit from Jefferson County for the project, and has plans to restore the bank. Bradley said he also needs a permit from the federal government, although the project does not involve funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A few miles down Highway 74 at Lair O’ the Bear Park, a bridge restoration project dating from the 2013 flood is scheduled for this fall…

Another major bridge project is in the works at Evergreen Lake Park, which is owned by Denver Mountain Parks. The aging bridge that provides the only vehicle access to the park is scheduled for replacement next year. The Evergreen Park and Recreation District and the Evergreen Metropolitan District are each contributing $40,000 for the project, which is estimated to cost $790,000. The park district has added an additional $40,000 from Jeffco grant funding it received to assist with the bridge replacement cost.

The 2013 flood contributed to the deterioration of the bridge at the Lake Park, EPRD board member Peter Lindquist noted.

#AnimasRiver: Why Silverton still doesn’t want a Superfund site — High Country News

Silverton, Colo., lies an at elevation of 9,300 feet in San Juan County, and the Gold King Mine is more than 1,000 feet higher in the valley at the left side of the photo. Photo/Allen Best
Silverton, Colo., lies an at elevation of 9,300 feet in San Juan County, and the Gold King Mine is more than 1,000 feet higher in the valley at the left side of the photo. Photo/Allen Best

From the High Country News (Krista Langlois):

But Superfund — the federal program designed to clean up America’s most toxic sites — usually only proceeds with community support. And in Silverton, that’s lacking. Even after the Aug. 5 spill captured national attention and reinvigorated downstream communities’ insistence that the leaky mines be cleaned up, locals continue to bristle at the suggestion of Superfund. “We’re a tourist area,” Bev Rich, a lifelong Silverton resident, told the Durango Herald in 2013. “You hear the word ‘Superfund’ site and 99 percent think ‘danger.’ So why would you want to go to a Superfund site?”

Those who support Superfund, however — including many residents of the downstream city of Durango — say that there’s simply no other way for the region to move beyond its toxic past. Travis Stills, a Durango lawyer who’s worked on and studied Superfund sites, thinks the problem is too politically entrenched (and expensive) to be handled by state or local authorities alone.

Fearn disagrees. The 71-year-old engineering consultant and former mine owner is one of the strongest voices in Silverton’s anti-Superfund contingent. In 1994, he helped form the Animas River Stakeholders Group to try to prove that acidic drainage from the watershed’s mines could be cleaned up without interference from the federal government. And in recent weeks, he’s explained to the New York Times and other national media why Superfund still isn’t right for Silverton. Among the reasons: a designation would stigmatize the town and turn away tourists. Litigation and bureaucracy could delay the clean-up. Property values could decrease, new mining ventures be deterred, and local input be ignored.

All are valid fears — but not entirely rooted in fact. True, the idea of visiting a Superfund site doesn’t exactly appeal to tourists, but neither does the idea of visiting a Superfund-eligible site. And any stigma seems not to linger after the project is completed: There was a Superfund project in Aspen, Colorado, where million-dollar homes now stand. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a peer reviewed study found that residential property values within three miles of Superfund sites increased 18.6 to 24.5 percent after the sites were cleaned up and deleted from the National Priorities List…

…asking Congress for emergency funds to deal with a long-term problem is unrealistic, and the piecemeal approach the Animas River Stakeholders Group has used isn’t a long-term solution either. While the group has been been moderately successful — it’s relocated mine waste away from streams, bought water rights and diverted ditches, and completed more than a dozen mitigation projects that have helped bring fish back to a once-lifeless stretch of the Animas — it hasn’t solved the problem. After more than 20 years of work, the Gold King Mine alone continues to dribble 200 gallons of tainted water per minute. More than a dozen others have similar discharge.

Recreation in Waterton Canyon has been a real bear

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Why this wild retreat next to the city is such a great attraction — and why we’ve so often had to close its gates.

By Travis Thompson

If you search Waterton Canyon on the Web, you’ll find countless wildlife photos, ranging from bighorn sheep and rattlesnakes on the canyon trail to birds and toads along the banks of the South Platte River. It’s not uncommon to see snapshots of bears this time of year, either.

But when mama bears are foraging the canyon with their cubs, while hundreds, if not thousands of visitors a day are looking for that perfect wildlife shot, that’s asking for trouble.

“We’ve actually seen people using selfie sticks to try and get as close to the bears as possible, sometimes within 10 feet of wild bears,” said Brandon Ransom, Denver Water’s manager of recreation. “The current situation is not conducive for the safety of…

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#AnimasRiver: “There’s currently a ‘distrust’ for government that exists in our community, no matter what” — Marcie Demmy Bidwell

A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon -- photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin
A “get well soon” balloon floats in the contaminated waters of the Animas River flowing through Durango on Monday afternoon — photo The Durango Herald, Shane Benjamin

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

Mountain Studies Institute, a nonprofit scientific research organization with an office in Durango, found a spike in metals as the orange plume passed through Durango on Aug. 6. But that spike quickly returned to conditions similar to how the river looked before the incident, according to samples.

“We tried to digitalize the data so that people can … come to their own conclusions about whether they’re comfortable with those numbers or not,” said Marcie Demmy Bidwell, executive director of the institute.

“There’s currently a ‘distrust’ for government that exists in our community, no matter what,” she continued. “I can’t answer the question for people whether they should trust their government on that versus everything else.”[…]

Early tests released by federal, state and local government agencies found initial spikes in metals, including lead, arsenic, cadmium, aluminum and copper. But the river returned to either nondetectable or pre-plume levels within a week.

Tests released Saturday by Mountain Studies Institute reflect similar data distributed after government testing. The results represent sampling at Rotary Park from Aug. 6 through Aug. 11. The data results are from samples taken from the Animas before the arrival of the Gold King plume, during the event and several days after the plume passed.

MSI was the only group taking samples from Rotary Park. It has been contributing as part of a unified response effort along with government agencies.

“At these levels, you would need to drink 2 liters of Animas water four days a week, for 16 weeks, to possibly experience adverse, noncancerous effects of those metals over a long period of time, years later,” MSI’s report states.

A slight increase in metals from a sample taken at noon Aug. 9 was observed, though it did not exceed toxic water-quality levels. Researchers believe the increase was caused by more water flow after rain Aug. 7.

“This slight uptick speaks to the lingering concerns post-plume from the deposited sediments. We would expect to see slight increases in metal detections as we experience precipitation events this fall and with spring runoff next year,” the report states.

The study focused only on risks to human health, not impacts to fish and other wildlife. Colorado wildlife officials on Wednesday said trout tested from the river appear to be safe to eat.

The MSI data was compared to national recreational screening levels for long-term chronic exposure. The analysis took into account how a person would contact the river, for how long at each exposure and then how that is repeated over a length of time.

The levels shown in MSI’s data reflect EPA screening levels for surface water consumption by an adult or child who intentionally or accidentally ingests 2 liters of water per day, for four days per week, over a 16-week period. The levels are conservative, assuming a person drinks 2 liters of river water every day while swimming or boating four times a week and is exposed to the sediments by camping or living along the river bank for a continuous 64-day period…

It also explains that pH dipped as the plume passed in the first 24 hours, but then stabilized to normal levels previously seen in the Animas.

Only manganese exceeded water-quality levels, which is naturally high in the Animas. Many were especially worried about mercury, but that was barely detectable after the plume moved through, and that offers a positive sign to researchers. Still, they urge caution moving forward.

“We don’t know exactly how those sediments will respond, where they’ll be transported to … ” Bidwell said. “The way we interact with metals is complicated, unlike drinking water where there’s a clear path of how we connect with it … our exposure to the sediments is nowhere near as simple.”

Meanwhile “The Durango Bootleggers” have christened a new orange-tinted ale, “Heavy Metal EPA,” according to Jonathan Romero writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

Durango’s microbreweries have concocted a new microbrew to commemorate the Gold King Mine spill that even those lacking Gov. John Hickenlooper’s strong gastronomical constitution shouldn’t be afraid to try.

“I guarantee he’ll say it’s safe to drink,” Ska Brewing co-founder Dave Thibodeau joked. The city’s six breweries, which operate under the moniker Durango Bootleggers Society when working together for charitable causes, will debut their newest beer on Friday: the Heavy Metal Extra Pale Ale. Or … the Heavy Metal EPA.

Thibodeau, pleased with the clever wordplay, said through a burst of mischievous laughter that even the beer’s color was made to replicate that of the orange plume that rushed through town Aug. 5.

The brewers experimented at Ska to capture the yellowish-orange tinge that sent the Animas River to the top of national and international headlines, and ended up adding strains of yeast to make the beer extra cloudy and hazy. “And that’s all intentional,” Thibodeau added, still short of breath with laughter.

All joking aside, Thibodeau said the real reason for the beer is to raise money for the Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), which donates to those directly financially impacted by the spill.

New 46-foot tower makes a big splash at Marston

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

‘Giant blender’ pulls water from different depths of the reservoir, sending the highest-quality mix to the treatment plant — and your home.

By Jay Adams

The water went down and a new tower went up. And now a nearly 100-year-old reservoir has a modern way of delivering water.

Over the past 18 months, Marston Reservoir has undergone a $13 million makeover. The centerpiece of the project is a new 46-foot tall outlet tower on the northeast shore. Marston is considered one of Denver Water’s terminal reservoirs, which means it’s the last stop for mountain water before it heads to the treatment process.

The new outlet tower at Marston Reservoir is part of a $13 million renovation project. The new outlet tower at Marston Reservoir is part of a $13 million renovation project.

“This is a huge project for Denver Water,” said Eric Swanson, Denver Water construction project inspector. And he should know. Swanson watched the tower grow every step of the way. “It’s really…

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