#Colorado’s battle over regulating fracking shifts to ballot — the Fort Collins Coloradoan

Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation
Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Colorado’s battle over who should regulate fracking — and how much — now shifts to the November election after the state Supreme Court overturned attempts by local governments to impose their own rules.

The court ruled Monday that a ban on fracking in Longmont and a five-year moratorium in Fort Collins are invalid because they conflict with state law. State officials and the industry argued the state has the primary authority to regulate energy, not local governments.

It wasn’t the end of the debate, however. Coloradans face a loud and fierce campaign over fracking this fall if activists succeed in getting any constitutional amendments on the ballot to restrict oil and gas drilling or give local governments the authority to do so.

“We’re taking them as a serious threat to responsible oil and gas development in the state of Colorado,” said Karen Crummy, a spokeswoman for an industry-backed group called Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence.

“We consider all of these measures to be a ban on fracking,” Crummy said. “We’re going to fight.”

Backers of the proposed constitutional amendments also vow a fight, saying Monday’s ruling injects a sense of urgency into their cause.

“It can only help us because it shows that communities don’t have many rights right now when industry wants to drill,” said Tricia Olson of Yes for Health and Safety over Fracking, which hopes to get two measures on the ballot.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has long been a contentious issue in Colorado, the nation’s No. 7 energy-producing state. Fracking injects a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to crack open formations and make it easier to recover oil and gas.

Combined with other drilling techniques, it opened up previously inaccessible oil and gas reserves and boosted the economy, although low oil prices have led to widespread layoffs and a steep decline in drilling.

Critics worry about danger to the environment and public health from fracking spills and leaks. Others say around-the-clock noise, lights and fumes from drilling rigs make their homes unlivable as oilfields overlap with growing communities.

The industry says fracking is safe and that drilling companies take steps to minimize the disturbances.

Restrictions on fracking were proposed for Colorado’s 2014 ballot, but they were withdrawn because of fears they would lead to a huge Republican turnout and hand several close statewide races to the GOP.

Gov. John Hickenlooper promised to convene a task force to address the conflicts caused by drilling, but fracking critics were disappointed by its recommendations, and the industry said regulators went too far in implementing them.

This year, the presidential election will have a bigger impact on turnout than the fracking proposals, said Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Denver pollster. But fracking could influence races in the Legislature, where Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and Republicans have a narrow edge in the Senate, he said.

“I do think that at the legislative level where relatively small shifts in turnout could be a big thing, it could be very important,” Ciruli said.

Some of the proposed constitutional amendments would clamp specific restrictions on the oil and gas industry, such as minimum distances between wells and homes. Others would grant local governments more regulatory power. Because they’re constitutional amendments, they would supersede Monday’s Supreme Court ruling.

Olson’s group and others are still gathering petitions to get their amendments on the ballot. If they succeed, they will face a well-financed campaign to defeat them.

By the end of last year, the pro-industry group, Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, had $746,000 on hand, according to state records.

Two groups supporting the constitutional amendments to restrict fracking reported they had less than $15,000 combined on hand this spring. Their reports covered a different period than the industry group’s.

“What we know is that industry has already been advertising nonstop,” Olson said. “What we know is they will put everything against it. But what we also know is that we have very few options left to protect Colorado’s health, safety and welfare.”

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The issue does not directly impact La Plata County, where there is no ban or moratorium on oil and gas drilling activities. But it stands to guide future actions.

“The Supreme Court’s decision does not mean that the local control issue is going away,” said La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, a Democrat. “Local governments need the ability to plan and ensure that oil and gas development occurs away from schools and neighborhoods.”

Some observers say the ruling reaffirmed local governments’ land-use authority, since it stated only that bans and moratoriums interfere with the state’s rule-making.

La Plata County in 1992 had a stake in determining that authority, when the Supreme Court upheld the county’s authority to regulate land-use impacts of oil and gas development.

In separate unanimous written rulings Monday, the Supreme Court declared a fracking ban in Longmont and a moratorium in Fort Collins illegal, stating that the voter-approved actions conflict with state law.

“This ruling sends a strong message that bans are not the way we do business in Colorado,” said Christi Zeller, executive director of the La Plata County Energy Council.

She underscored that La Plata and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have “robust” rules that have been re-written dozens of times over several decades.

“The reality is political decisions take away private property rights, they restrict and hinder business, and they disrupt the economy, here in La Plata County, and in other counties and cities in the state,” Zeller said.

Bruce Baizel, a Durango-based energy program director for Earthworks, called the Supreme Court’s ruling disappointing, but not surprising.

“It kind of pushes things back into the political realm in terms of initiatives,” Baizel said. “They (the Supreme Court) explicitly said it doesn’t matter if drilling or fracking negatively impacts residents, and the state has decided it’s not going to address that.”

Justice Richard L. Gabriel, who wrote the court’s opinion, said justices were not charged with weighing the economic advantages or health risks associated with fracking.

“This case … does not require us to weigh in on these differences of opinion, much less to try to resolve them,” Gabriel wrote.

Groups are readying ballot initiatives for November that run the gamut, including allowing local governments to ban fracking and increasing the distance of well setbacks.

“It makes absolute sense that it would strengthen those folks’ resolve to get a measure on the ballot,” Lachelt said of the ruling.

She co-chaired a task force that convened in 2014 to address the local control issue.

“I’ve expressed my disappointment that the task force didn’t adequately deal with the issues,” Lachelt said. “But just because we have a Supreme Court ruling doesn’t make this issue go away.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who convened the task force as part of a compromise to avoid ballot initiatives at the time, defended the work of the panel.

“The work of the task force amplified the role of local governments in siting large oil and gas facilities and built a stronger connection between state and local regulators,” the governor said in a statement.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, doubts the high court’s ruling will quell controversy.

“I fear today’s ruling will not end this divisive debate and instead some activists will continue to push anti-development initiatives undermining the state’s record of local cooperation on these policy issues,” Coffman said.

Lauren Petrie, regional director of Food and Water Watch – which helped with several initiatives across the state – said much of the opposition is just beginning.

“Today’s decision deals a devastating blow not just to Longmont residents, but to all Coloradans who have been stripped of a democratic process that should allow us the right to protect our health, safety and property from the impacts of this dangerous industrial activity.”

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacey Maramaduke):

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday struck down Fort Collins’ five-year fracking moratorium, a long-awaited decision that could have statewide implications for the controversial oil and gas recovery method.

The court also ruled against Longmont’s voter-supported ban on hydraulic fracturing, the widespread practice of injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to break open formations and recover oil and gas.

In its first judgment on local fracking bans and moratoriums, the court called both laws “invalid and unenforceable” because they’re preempted by state law.

Fort Collins voters supported the moratorium in 2013, and Longmont’s ban was voted into place in 2012. But the Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued both cities in separate cases and won in the lower courts, resulting in the bans being thrown out.

Both cities appealed the lower court’s decisions, and the state appeals court in August asked the Supreme Court to take the cases. The high court heard oral arguments for the cases in December.

ANALYSIS: What’s in Larimer County’s fracking fluid?

The Fort Collins and Longmont cases represent an ongoing debate in Colorado and beyond about whether the ultimate right to regulate the oil and gas industry should belong to states or municipalities. The city of Fort Collins spent about $191,000 on outside counsel defending the citizen-initiated moratorium in court. COGA spent about $1 million fighting the Fort Collins and Longmont laws, along with a fracking ban in Lafayette and moratorium in Broomfield.

There are currently no active wells or permit-pending wells in Fort Collins. One oilfield extends into the northern edge of Fort Collins, but it’s been at least three and a half years since a well was fracked there.

What’s next?

Fort Collins and Longmont can’t appeal the decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court because they aren’t a matter of federal law. The city of Fort Collins hasn’t yet announced its next steps, if any.

In a statement, Fort Collins city attorney Carrie Daggett said it’s “premature” to comment until the city has carefully reviewed the high court’s decision.

“These issues are complex, and we’ll thoroughly examine the decisions relative to Fort Collins and Longmont,” she said.

Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, which campaigned for the ballot measure that installed the moratorium, wrote in a Facebook post that the group will meet in two weeks to discuss next steps. The group had not replied to the Coloradoan’s request for more information by mid-afternoon Monday.

COGA leaders said they were pleased that the court sided with them in their view that local fracking bans and moratoriums are illegal in Colorado.

“This is not just a win for the energy industry, but for the people of Colorado who rely on affordable and dependable energy and a strong economy,” COGA President and CEO Dan Haley said in a press release. “It sends a strong message to anyone trying to drive this vital industry out of the state that those efforts will not be tolerated.”

Longmont’s City Attorney’s Office will meet in executive session with the Longmont City Council on Tuesday night to review the court ruling, according to a city press release.

Broomfield, which faced a COGA lawsuit similar to Fort Collins’ for its voter-initiated, five-year fracking moratorium, stalled the lawsuit in anticipation of the Colorado Supreme Court decision. Monday’s rulings will likely lead to the invalidation of that moratorium, along with a five-year moratorium in place in Boulder and unincorporated Boulder County.

The city of Lafayette didn’t appeal after a district court judge struck down its fracking ban in 2014.

Mixed reactions

City of Longmont

“The case did not end as the city hoped, but we respect the Supreme Court’s decision,” Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs said in a press release. Coombs noted that Longmont’s other oil and gas regulations, including no drilling in neighborhoods, mandatory groundwater monitoring and setbacks from riparian areas remain in place.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat whose district includes Fort Collins

Polis called the decision “a blow to democracy and local control” in a statement.

“Now that the law has been interpreted, it’s up to the state legislature or the people of Colorado to act to protect our neighborhoods and homes,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to help advocates in these efforts to protect our communities.”

The representative also submitted an amicus curiae brief to the court siding with Fort Collins. Through his attorney, Courtney Krause, Polis argued that Fort Collins’ moratorium was a valid land use regulation.

Colorado Rep. Mike Foote, a Democrat whose district includes Longmont

In a press release, Foote said he was disappointed about the decisions but noted that they reaffirmed local governments’ land use authority.

“Cities and counties may need to modify their approach somewhat,” Foote said, “but it’s clear that the Court has reaffirmed that local governments do have a seat at the table when it comes to oil and gas development.”

“And “in cases where local control isn’t recognized, we as legislators have the ability to step in,” he added.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

In a press release, Coffman said that local fracking bans “undermine the interests of the state as a whole.” But despite the court decisions, the fight might not be over yet, she said.

“Sadly, I fear today’s ruling will not end this divisive debate and instead some activists will continue to push anti-development initiatives undermining the state’s record of local cooperation on these policy issues,” she said.

Boulder County Board of Commissioners, which passed a moratorium on fracking in unincorporated areas of the county until July 2018

The high court decisions are specific to the communities named in the lawsuits, an unidentified board representative wrote in a press release, so the impact of the decisions on Boulder County will need further analysis.

“Like all other Colorado communities that regulate oil and gas development, we need to take a close look at our existing regulations before we take any action to change our stance on fracking in unincorporated Boulder County,” the release said.

Conservation Colorado

In a press release, Conservation Colorado executive director Pete Maysmith called the decisions “disappointing” and said that local governments should be able to call a timeout on drilling while they examine its impacts.

“These decisions … show that the oil and gas industry’s threats of litigation are a hammer that the industry has no qualms about wielding against local governments if they decide to engage in land use planning,” he said in the release. “In order to combat this hammer, local governments must be empowered with better tools to protect their citizens from heavy industrial drilling.”

Colorado Petroleum Council

The Colorado Petroleum Council welcomed the decisions for upholding the state’s primacy in overseeing oil and natural gas permitting and curtailing “arbitrary bans” on fracking that could cost local jobs, deprive state and local governments of tax revenue and limit access to energy resources, according to a CPC press release.

“Today’s decision protects private property rights, which are a main driver for the energy renaissance in this country,” executive director Tracee Bentley said in the release. “The U.S. was counted out as an oil and natural gas superpower, but with states like Colorado leading the way, the U.S. defied the odds to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas and a world leader in crude production.”

Advancing Colorado, a political advocacy group that supports fracking and the production of coal and natural gas, among other things

“Today’s ruling protects Colorado’s robust energy portfolio and energy independence, and sends a strong message to the deceptive anti-energy extremists,” executive director Jonathan Lockwood said in a statement. “The Colorado Supreme Court is protecting our democratic process and their ruling will help protect our health, safety and property from the attacks of dangerous special interest groups.”

The May 2016 “WaterNews” is hot off the presses from @DenverWater

This view of Moffat Treatment Plant's corridor was taken in 1939. Photo via <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%40denverwater&src=typd">@DenverWater</a>.
This view of Moffat Treatment Plant’s corridor was taken in 1939. Photo via @DenverWater.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Tour a water treatment plant

Learn how water is treated by taking a FREE tour at one of Denver Water’s treatment plants:

  • Denver Water’s Recycling Plant treats effluent from Metro Wastewater to a nonpotable standard for industrial and irrigation uses. The facility, which opened in 2004, is the largest of its kind in Colorado. Tours are available from 1 to 3 p.m. on May 6 and Oct. 7.
  • Moffat Treatment Plant treats West Slope water brought through the Moffat Tunnel and Gross Reservoir for delivery into Denver Water’s distribution system. Tours are available from 1 to 3 p.m. on June 3 and Sept. 9.
  • Marston Treatment Plant treats South Platte River and Roberts Tunnel water for distribution throughout the metro service area. Tours are available from 1 to 3 p.m. on July 8 and Aug. 5.

Tours are limited to 25 people. Participants must be 18 or older and request a spot at least two weeks in advance.

Reserve your spot online or call 303-628-6160.

@NWSPueblo: April 2016 Climate Review and May Preview

April of 2016 started out relatively warm and dry across south central and southeast Colorado. However, a cool and unsettled weather pattern then developed across the region, with slow moving weather systems moving across the state April 10th and 11th, April 14th through the 20th and April 27th through the 30th. These slow moving weather systems brought abundant widespread rain and snow to much of south central and southeast Colorado. This very benefical precipitation has helped to suppress much of the moderate to locally severe drought conditions, which had developed across the far southeastern Colorado Plains over the past several months.

For the month as a whole, near to slightly below normal normal temperatures and above to well above normal precipitation were experienced across the south central and southeast Colorado over the past month of April. The following graphics depict monthly temperature and precipitation departures from normal across the state for April of 2016.

The preliminary average temperature in Alamosa for the month of April was 41.9 degrees, which is 0.1 degrees above normal. Alamosa recorded 1.75 inches of precipitation through out the month of April. This is 1.16 inches above normal and makes April of 2016 the 3rd wettest April on record in Alamosa. This is still well behind the 3.06 inches of precipitation recorded through out April of 1942. Alamosa recorded 15.2 inches of snow through out the month of April. This is 11.6 inches above normal and makes April of 2016 the 2nd snowiest April on record in Alamosa, behind the 17 inches of snow recorded through out April of 1938.

The preliminary average temperature in Colorado Springs for the month of April was 46.7F, which is 0.2 degrees above normal. Colorado Springs recorded 2.28 inches of precipitation and 13.6 inches of snow through out the month of April, which is 0.86 inches and 8.7 inches above normal, respectively. Of note, the 2.28 inches of precipitation and 13.6 inches of snow recorded in Colorado Springs only makes April of 2016 the 20th wettest and 13th snowiest April on record.

The preliminary average temperature in Pueblo for the of month April was 52.5 degrees, which is 1.9 degrees above normal. Pueblo recorded 2.97 inches of precipitation through out the month of April. This is 1.57 inches above normal and makes April of 2016 the 10th wettest April on record in Pueblo. This, however, remains well below the 8.13 inches of precpitation recorded through out April of 1900. Pueblo also recorded 3.3 inches of snow through out the month of April, which is 0.5 inches below normal.

Looking ahead into May, in Alamosa, the average high and low temperature of 64 degrees and 29 degrees on May 1st, warm to 74 degrees and 37 degrees by the end of the month, with an average montthly temperature of 51.2 degrees. Alamosa averages 0.58 inches of precipitation and 0.9 inches of snow through out the month of May.

In Colorado Springs, the average high and low temperature of 65 degrees and 38 degrees on May 1st, warm to 74 degrees and 47 degrees by the end of the month, with an average monthly temperature of 55.9 degrees. Colorado Springs averages 2.03 inches of precipitation and 0.7 inches of snow through out the month of May.

In Pueblo, the average high and low temperature of 72 degrees and 39 degrees on May 1st, warm to 81 degrees and 49 degrees by the end of the month, with an average monthly temperature of 60.4 degrees. Pueblo averages 1.51 inches of precipitation and 0.5 inches of snow through out the month of May.

Below is the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) temperature and precipitation outlook for the month of May, which gives better chances of below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation, across all of south central and southeast Colorado.

#ColoradoRiver District — State of the River: Summit County, May 4 #COriver

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Colorado River Water Conservation District:

TIME: (Wednesday) 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm

LOCATION: Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, CO

ORGANIZER: Blue River Watershed Group & Colorado River District 970-945-8522

Denver: Big bump in storm and sanitary sewer rates in the works

unionstationdenver04212016

From The Denver Post (Jon Murray):

Denver homeowners on average would pay $116 more in storm drainage and sewer fees over the next five years under a rate increase proposal that city officials will unveil this week.

The proposed rates, which would accelerate already scheduled automatic increases based on inflation, would bolster city plans for upgrades and projects through 2021 for the storm and sanitary sewer systems. Those aim to improve storm drainage, reduce flood risk and improve the quality of water discharged into the South Platte River. For the sanitary system that connects to homes and buildings, plans call for more maintenance and expansion of aging sewer pipes in several areas.

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin) Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).
Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

A big controversial project also is in the mix. About a quarter of the rate increases would help cover costs for northeast Denver’s “Platte to Park Hill” stormwater drainage projects, which have drawn opposition in part because of links to the planned Interstate 70 expansion and plans to regrade City Park Golf Course for stormwater detention.

Overall, storm drainage rates, which are billed annually by the city, would increase nearly 66 percent through 2020 — or 45 percent after annual inflation adjustments are taken into account.

The sanitary sewer rates that Denver Water customers pay monthly would increase 24 percent in that period. On top of the inflation adjustments, the new increase would amount to 8.6 percent.

Though Denver Public Works’ increase proposal was expected, the details were revealed this week for the first time in advance of a planned Wednesday presentation to the City Council’s Infrastructure and Culture Committee.

The proposal could advance to a final vote by the full council as early as May 23.

With the city facing an estimated $1.5 billion backlog in upgrades to stormwater pipes and an aging sewer system, Denver city officials portray the increases as necessary to step up progress.

“Just like so many other things in our city, we have huge infrastructure needs that are incredibly expensive,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, who chairs the infrastructure committee. “And we don’t have a way to pay for them,” requiring balanced plans.

If the rate increases win council approval, the money available each year for storm drainage system improvement and water quality projects would grow from $20 million to $30 million. For sanitary sewers, the city says the rate increase would boost annual spending for maintenance and new projects from $2.5 million to $8 million.

Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said the sanitary increase also would help the city “keep pace with increasing water treatment costs, update aging infrastructure and prepare the system for the city’s future expected population growth.”

Among the proposal’s major upshots:

• Sanitary sewer fee proceeds would grow from $86 million a year to $104 million in 2020.

• The total annual storm drainage fees generated would grow from $41 million before the increase to nearly $69 million by 2020.

• The fee increases would enable borrowing of up to $206 million for the Platte to Park Hill projects, completing a funding puzzle estimated at $267 million to $298 million in scope.

But the proposal would hit homeowners and businesses in the wallet as the city ratchets up both the storm drainage and sanitary sewer rates each year through 2020, starting in July. Subsequent increases would hit each January, starting in 2017.

The annual increase for an average single-family home, which paid $320.28 last year, would range from $21.56 this year to $25 in 2020, city estimates show.

A study provided by the city says that current average combined bill is about $100 less than the average for a selection of other Front Range systems and large cities around the state. Denver’s estimated combined bill in 2020 would rate slightly above today’s average.

Clark said he probed planned water-quality improvements during a briefing he received on the proposal. In 17 years of working for The Greenway Foundation, he focused heavily on the Platte, which at times has measured E. coli bacteria levels exceeding safety standards. Other contaminants, including trash, also have been a problem.

“I think this plan will have marked improvements on water quality in our streams and rivers,” Clark said. “And it’s a really good start, but this isn’t the end of the conversation on water quality.”

Besides the automatic inflation adjustments, the city most recently increased sanitary sewer rates a cumulative 83 percent from 2011 through 2013. The storm drainage rate was increased 20 percent in 2011.

A presentation prepared for the council committee says the city could aid ratepayers by asking Denver Water to add the storm drainage fee — now billed annually — to water customers’ bills, on a monthly or quarterly basis. The storm fee factors in a lot’s size and the amount of impermeable surface area.

Officials also are exploring “potential affordability program options” to aid low-income households.

WISE water project honored — Castle Rock News-Press

WISE Project map via Denver Water
WISE Project map via Denver Water

From the South Metro Water Supply Authority via The Castle Rock News-Press:

The South Metro [Water Supply] Authority received a 2016 Metro Vision Award from the Denver Regional Council of Governments for the WISE Partnership.

The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE) is a regional water supply project between Aurora Water, Denver Water and members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. First conceived in 2008, the partnership combines water supplies and system capacities to create a sustainable new water supply for the region.

The WISE Partnership will benefit roughly 2 million people and it will bring a sustainable water supply to south metro communities. When water deliveries begin in early 2017, some of Colorado’s fastest-growing communities will be able to partially replace non-renewable groundwater.

DRCOG’s Metro Vision awards are presented to individuals and programs who contribute outstanding efforts to the Denver region and its communities, and to DRCOG’s programs and activities. The regional council has been honoring outstanding achievements for more than 30 years.

Sterling: Precipitation events cause headaches for wastewater infrastructure

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

Rob Demis of Hatch Mott MacDonald didn’t have good news when he gave an update on his company’s review of Sterling’s wastewater treatment plant during Tuesday’s Sterling City Council meeting.

The engineering firm, which was contracted by the city to look at what improvements will be needed at the plant, has been working on the review for three months, but they are still looking at the data and developing preliminary alternatives.

The company has identified two primary issues facing the city’s system: flooding and improvements necessitated by upcoming changes to regulations.

Demis noted that the system has experienced multiple flooding events at the headworks facility in the last five years, from flooding of the river and heavy rainfall events. The flooding damages to equipment and pumping, overloads the pumping system and treatment plant, overflows into the river and leads to violations of the city’s wastewater permit. Each event can cost around $50,000 to $75,000 to replace the damaged equipment.

Inflow and infiltration are the factors that lead to flooding. The water comes from leaky pipe joints, roof drain connections, leaky manholes, missing manhole covers — storm water coming into the waste water system — as well as leaky customer sewer lines and sump pumps, Demis said. He added that Sterling’s system is relatively old; the design life of pipes is about 50 years, so pipes that have been in the ground since 1966 or earlier are at the end of their useful life. “It’s now time to start thinking about fixing them, or at least trying to slow down the amount of leaks,” he said.

He showed a graph that looked at a significant rain event. Prior to the storm, the typical influent flow to the system was averaging about 1.7 million gallons per day. The rain event exceeded the system’s pumping capacity, so the total amount of inflow isn’t known, but Demis noted that for two weeks following the storm, inflow remained above average. He said that is due to infiltration from groundwater leaking into the sewer system.

Sterling needs a larger pumping capacity, and with it a larger pipe to carry the waste water to the treatment plant. Demis said the city also needs to put in 30 million gallons of storage so when there is above average flow, that water can be fed slowly into the treatment plant and allow the biological processes to occur, which prevents violations.

Changes to regulations as soon as next year will require additional processes at the treatment plant. In November 2017, Sterling will have to meet a Total Inorganic Nitrogen (TIN) limit of 10 mg/L of Nitrogen when discharging to the recharge basins, which it cannot do. By 2022, the city will face limits on nitrogen and phosphorus that it also cannot meet.

The city will need additional tanks and chemical systems for nutrient removal as well as new process equipment, and new clarifiers as the existing ones are at the end of their life. The new equipment will necessitate upgrades to the electrical system, and they will need to implement a process control system to ensure they are meeting the requirements.

Demis noted that nitrogen and phosphorus are popular fertilizers, and they promote the growth of algae, which can kill fish.

Demis told the council he would make further presentations as they complete analysis of the data and the options available to the city.