The Colorado Water Conservation Board Thursday, meeting at Edwards, approved seven grants requested by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.
Among them were funding to improve water supply to the Zinno Subdivision and more Fountain Creek flood control studies.
The St. Charles Mesa Water District received $75,000 from the CWCB toward a $1 million project to connect the Zinno Subdivision to the district.
The subdivision has experienced water outages several times in the past seven years and residents are unhappy about increasing water rates to maintain the system.
The current water provider, Joseph Water, claims the system is safe and reliable. The project is contingent on a district court case.
The state board also approved $93,000 toward a $133,300 study of flood control alternatives on Fountain Creek by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The district already has completed a U.S. Geological Survey study of the effectiveness of flood control measures, and opted to look at either a dam or series of detention ponds between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. It also determined any impact to water rights could be mitigated.
Other grants included:
$60,800 for the Arkansas Basin Roundtable coordinator, a position now filled by Gary Barber.
$50,000 toward a $60,000 project by the Fort Lyon Canal to evaluate seepage of the Adobe Creek Dam.
$175,000 to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District toward a $250,000 study of agricultural tailwater return flows.
$306,600 to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District toward a $642,000 project to evaluate the potential for underground water storage in Fremont, Chafee and Custer counties.
$30,000 to the Holbrook Mutual Irrigation Co. for a flow measurement upgrade at its reservoir in Otero County.
All of the grants were approved by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at its August meeting.
Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors reviewed the preliminary 2017 budget during the monthly board meeting [September 8] in Salida.
District General Manager Terry Scanga presented the draft budget, noting the addition of a new water education fund. He said the actual budget would be presented at the October board meeting and asked board members to review and comment on the preliminary budget prior to that meeting.
In a related discussion, Scanga relayed information presented at the recent Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference regarding water project funding, 69 percent of which comes from state severance taxes.
Scanga said the combined effect of lower oil and gas prices and a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in favor of British Petroleum will eliminate funding for the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Supply Reserve Account for the upcoming fiscal year.
The court ruled in May that the Colorado Department of Revenue had overcharged BP, and the extra severance taxes collected would have to be refunded, setting the stage for other oil and gas companies to seek refunds.
Legislators responded by passing Senate Bill 16-218, which diverts severance tax revenues for the upcoming year to pay the court-ordered refunds.
In addition to the WSRA receiving no funding for the upcoming fiscal year, Scanga said the account is slated to be funded at only 50 percent for fiscal year 2017-18.
The conservancy district has used WSRA grants to help fund a number of water projects and studies in the Upper Arkansas Valley.
Project Coordinator Chelsey Nutter elaborated on the new water education fund in the district’s 2017 budget while reporting on the inaugural Salida Water Festival.
After several directors provided favorable feedback on the festival, Nutter announced the Upper Ark district would be taking responsibility for the festival moving forward, in part due to the aforementioned severance tax funding issues.
Nutter said the new education fund in the budget will be used in part to provide continuing funding for the festival, and district staff are developing an education action plan.
Nutter reported the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Public Education, Participation and Outreach working group is beginning work on the 2017 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, which will take place in El Paso County.
Nutter also reported progress on the Lake Ranch Multi-Use Project and said a tour of both multi-use project sites is planned for spring.
…a group of 15 volunteers didn’t mind an early wake-up call Sunday before coming together at Palmer Lake to pick up trash, pull weeds and do cleanup as part of the third annual Creek Week – an effort to protect the Fountain Creek Watershed.
The goal is to reduce pollution that clogs waterways and leads to flooding, improves wildlife habitat and protects drinking water by collecting and removing litter and debris within the watershed during a nine-day period, according to an El Paso County news release.
Sunday was the second day of the cleanup project, and volunteers arrived at 8:30 a.m. to the Palmer Lake Recreation Area – located at the foot of Ben Lomand Mountain – and dedicated nearly three hours to beautifying the park. A few people spent their time gathering debris around the lake and pulling out weed, while others cleared some brushes near the entrance.
Then, there was the 21st Medical Group at Peterson Air Force Base that was in charge of replacing old railroad ties along the dirt path. Though the morning was cold and windy, the group didn’t mind being outside. They’re used to working inside a clinic with each other, so this was a good excuse to work up a sweat.
“We are dependent on the community,” said technical Sgt. Jamin Norton of Pennsylvania. “We need to be out there in the community, showing that we’re giving back and getting to know folks in the community. We move around a lot, so we don’t necessary have local ties. Some of us do, but a lot of us don’t. This way, we get out there and get involved. We meet some of the local folks. They see us and get to know us on a personal level and not just someone in a uniform.”
The project started as a way to maintain the watershed – which includes Fountain Creek, related wetlands, trails and recreational facilities – as an “important resource and asset of the people of El Paso County and the Pikes Peak region,” the county’s District 4 commissioner, Dennis Hisey, said during a county proclamation reading. The watershed features multiple streams that goes into Fountain Creek and that “an empty plastic water bottle discarded up north in Cottonwood Creek eventually floats south through Fountain and continues on past Pueblo.”
The first year of Creek Week drew 625 volunteers who collected seven tons of litter. The following year attracted 1,500 volunteers who picked up 10 tons of litter. This year, organizers expect about 2,000 volunteers who will clean up 12 tons of litter.
“There’s so many reasons to participate in Creek Week,” said Dana Nordstrom, the county’s community outreach coordinator. “There’s beautification, wildlife habitat, water ecology. We tell people to pick a reason, to pick a day and pick it up.”
The lawsuit seeking class-action certification was filed Thursday on behalf of the nine residents living near Peterson Air Force Base, was filed by Colorado Springs attorney Michael McDivitt and New York City attorneys Hunter Shkolnik, Paul Napoli and Louise Caro.
Other companies named as defendants in the lawsuit include The Ansul Company of Wisconsin; National Foam, Inc. of Pennsylvania; Angus Fire of Bentham, United Kingdom; Buckeye Fire Equipment Company of Mountain, N.C.; and Chemguard of Wisconsin.
The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the defendants acted with gross negligence and careless disregard for the safety of residents who use water from the contaminated watershed. They are seeking a court order requiring defendants to test and monitor each property and all drinking water within the contamination area.
They are also asking that a judge order defendants to provide medical monitoring for all those in the proposed class, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit says the U.S. Air Force and other branches of the military, including the Army, use or have used firefighting foams that degrade into perfluorooctanoic acid (C8), which is highly soluble in water and likely to contaminate water supplies. The so-called aqueous film forming foam is water-based and used to fight difficult fires, particularly those that involve petroleum or flammable liquids.
A similar federal civil lawsuit was filed Wednesday against 3M, Ansul and National Foam by Denver attorneys Kevin Hannon and Justin Blum on behalf of three Colorado Springs residents. Plaintiffs in that case are seeking class-action certification and damages in excess of $5 million.
Peterson, Fort Carson and the Colorado Springs Airport have been linked to contamination of the Fountain Watershed area, the lawsuit says.
C8 has been detected in levels exceeding EPA health standards of 70 parts per trillion in the Fountain Creek watershed that provides municipal water and feeds private wells, the lawsuit says. In fact, the Fountain watershed is one of the hardest-hit of 63 areas nationwide where C8 contamination exceeds EPA risk levels, it says.
A panel of scientists, including three epidemiologist formed to study water contamination in Wood County, W.Va., “found probable links between (C8) and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy induced hypertension and hypercholesterolemia,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs all tested for elevated levels of C8 in their blood and their properties likewise had elevated levels of C8. They include:
Alan and Leslie Davis and Donald and Theresa Easter, all of Colorado Springs, get their water from the Widefield Water and Sanitation District.
Billy and Linda Long, and Lonnie Rouser Sr., all of Fountain, get their water from Fountain Water District.
Joyce Moore and Rhonda Sharkey, both residents of Security, receive their water from the Security Water District.
Besides being used in firefighting foams, C8 was once widely used in nonstick cookware and as surface coatings for stain-resistant carpets and fabric, the lawsuit says. The chemical is readily absorbed in the blood stream, kidney and liver after consumption or inhalation, the lawsuit says.
The EPA issued lifetime health advisories about the health effects of C8, the lawsuit says. It can remain in the environment, particularly in water, for many years and can be carried in the air.
An August 2016 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study found that the source of groundwater contamination of the Fountain watershed could have come from fire training areas at Peterson Air Force Base, the lawsuit says.
All 32 of Security Water and Sanitation District’s municipal wells are contaminated, the lawsuit says. One well was 20 times the EPA’s risk level and the EPA recommended that pregnant women and small children should not drink the water.
The class-action designation is sought in part because it would be impractical for the great numbers of people affected by the pollution to litigate their claims individually, the lawsuit says.
Colorado Springs’ parks, grass and trees need more water. About $450,000 worth of water. And they need it soon, a parks manager told the Utilities Board on Wednesday.
Water costs paid to Utilities have escalated, said Kurt Schroeder, park operations and development manager.
While the Parks Recreation and Cultural Services’ budget was slashed by 80 percent between 2008 and 2010, potable water rates doubled between 2008 and 2012, from $93 to $188 for 1 inch of water on 1 acre, Schroeder said.
Meanwhile, drought conditions in 2008, 2010 and 2012 brought the city less precipitation than the average in bone-dry Tucson, Ariz.
So Parks sprang into action, reducing its bluegrass by 10 percent and reducing watering levels by installing irrigation systems with web and smart-phone controls.
But while Parks is saving 6 acre-feet of water a year, it’s also facing a crunch after this June proved to be the city’s third-warmest on record, followed by the seventh-warmest July on record, Schroeder said.
“We’ve got an expectation of what citizens want their community to look like,” he said. “We’ve been watering at a deficit for many, many years and only now are beginning to catch up. If we cut back? We would see the turf degrade, and the trees wouldn’t get any better.”
Utilities Board members empathized. Merv Bennett said some trees have died for lack of water. Some of those were Gen. William Jackson Palmer’s original trees, said fellow board member Jill Gaebler.
But Utilities has its own challenges, including a push to replace water mains before the city paves streets using Ballot Issue 2C sales tax dollars, noted Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier.
“Historically, over the past three years, park watering hadn’t spent all its money,” said board member Don Knight. “I really appreciate all the hard work Parks has done in conservation. Water usage is very, very weather dependent.”
He suggested a five- or 10-year plan be crafted so Parks could get extra money when needed to compensate for the years it had leftover water funds. Cherrier said Utilities will work on a plan to present to the City Council, whose members make up the Utilities Board, at its work session Monday.
“We are bumping up against the time of warm weather,” Schroeder warned, “and the dollars I have could be burned away quickly. I need to get a determination quickly.”
McDivitt Law Firm said it plans to file a lawsuit this week over the fouling of the Widefield Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to thousands of residents in southern El Paso County.
McDivitt is partnering with a New York firm, Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC, which has been running television ads in recent months to woo clients.
Mike McDivitt, the firm’s founder, said about 1,000 people have retained his firm, and many more residents have expressed interest.
The possible move comes on the heels of another federal suit filed earlier this week against 3M, Ansul Foam of Wisconsin and National Foam of Pennsylvania. The companies manufactured and sold a military firefighting foam laden with chemicals associated with a host of health ailments, including cancer.
The first suit was filed by the Hannon Law Firm of Denver on behalf of three customers receiving contaminated water.
McDivitt’s suit was expected to be filed Wednesday, but he said the filing was delayed.
Cotter Corp. has agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nearly $1 million to cover past costs the government agency incurred while working at the Superfund site during a two-year period.
The Cotter Corp. oversees a now-defunct uranium mill just south of Canon City which has been on the EPA’s Superfund cleanup list since 1984. Officials are in the process of decommissioning the mill.
The agreement requires Cotter to pay EPA $957,604 for past oversight costs, incurred between 2012 and 2014. Funds are required to be paid to the EPA by Sept. 23 and will be placed in a special account and used to pay for any future costs at the site, according to Richard Mylott, EPA spokesman.
Public comment submitted in June urged the EPA to seek full restitution.
“The EPA believes the settlement is in the government’s best interest. The EPA will immediately recover $957,604 in past response costs that will be used to fund EPA’s future work at the site and avoid potentially protracted expensive litigation,” according to the 19-page settlement agreement.
One public comment submitted indicated it is difficult for the public to weigh-in on the agreement because government documents were not made available to assess what the total cost of oversight has been to the EPA. Certain EPA billing documents were not made public because of confidential business information which protects the documents from being released under the Freedom of Information Act, according to the agreement.
In a separate agreement, penned in June 2014, Cotter Corp. has agreed to pay EPA’s costs for oversight of the mill’s cleanup into the future.
Cotter produced uranium oxide, or yellowcake, at the mill in Fremont County from 1958 until 2006. Contamination to groundwater and soil resulted from the use of unlined impoundment ponds to hold tailings between 1958 and 1979.
In addition, a June 1965 flood caused the impoundments to overflow into Sand Creek, releasing contaminates into the nearby Lincoln Park neighborhood, Mylott explained.
Cotter officials have been working to clean up contamination since 1988.