Wells tested in Widefield, Security and Fountain areas exceed EPA advisory limits for damaging chemicals — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Widefield aquifer map via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer map via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

The majority of private wells tested in the Widefield, Security and Fountain area have tested above new levels announced Thursday for chemicals that may cause low birth weight in children or certain types of cancer.

Fourteen of the 17 wells tested so far were above the newly announced levels – leading health officials to say some people who rely on those wells may want to switch to bottled or treated water. Those people include infants, nursing or pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant.

In addition, health officials are urging people using private wells that draw from the Widefield aquifer to contact El Paso County Public Health and get their water tested for free.

In the meantime, people using those wells – especially those at highest risk – also may want to use other sources of water, said Larry Wolk, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s executive director and chief medical officer.

“It’s really more out of caution and trying to be as conservative as possible to provide the advisory and pass on the information,” Wolk said.

The developments mark the latest in a growing concern over the presence of perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, in groundwater across the nation.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate the chemicals, but they are on a list of potential pollutants that might be regulated in the future.

On Thursday, the EPA issued new health advisory levels for the human-made chemicals, which have been used for decades in firefighting foams, furniture fabrics, food wrappers and in chemicals used to protect carpets and clothing.

The EPA’s previous alert level was 200 parts per trillion. But current research – while limited – suggests the chemicals may cause low infant birth weight.

As a result, the EPA lowered its advisory level Thursday to 70 parts per trillion.

Low birth weight has been linked to a higher risk of physical or developmental health issues later in life.

Links also may exist between PFCs and several conditions, including kidney and testicular cancer, liver damage and thyroid issues, the EPA said.

Determining the exact risk in humans is difficult, because research has only focused on animals so far, Wolk said. Still, many companies that once used PFCs have stopped them.

The new advisory is a so-called lifetime advisory – meaning that the chemical may be harmful after repeated use over a long period.

The 14 wells that tested above the new health advisory level did not exceed the old level, said Tom Gonzales, El Paso County Public Health’s deputy director.

State health officials say that historical data does not show a “significant difference” in low birth weight between areas where PFCs have been detected and the rest of El Paso County. However, their analysis is ongoing.

The source of the contaminants remains unclear, Gonzales said.

Several other water sources near the aquifer – such as surface water – as well other wells tapped into it are being analyzed to pinpoint its source. The tests usually take about three weeks to process.

The county Health Department plans to continue testing water in the area through March – all to gain a better idea of where the PFCs originated.

The aquifer stretches from Stratton Meadows area to Fountain and extends east to the Colorado Springs Airport. It’s the only one in Colorado where PFCs have been detected, Wolk said.

The chemicals initially reached or exceeded the EPA’s old health advisory levels in three public wells in Security and one public well in Widefield.

That water, however, has been diluted with water pumped into the area from the Pueblo Reservoir.

Local health officials’ main concern has been private wells that draw directly from the aquifer, of which there are an estimated 87.

For those people, Gonzales urged water quality tests. They are available by calling El Paso County Public Health at 575-8602.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

El Paso County health officials are aware of more people using water contaminated with chemicals that may cause low infant birth weight.

Security Mobile Home Park, which has about 150 residents, and the Fountain Valley Shopping Center appear, to be drawing from Widefield aquifer wells with unhealthy levels of perfluorinated compounds, said Tom Gonzales, El Paso County Public Health’s deputy director, during a Board of Health meeting Wednesday.

Further, residents on the western end of Security and Widefield may be using water with unhealthy levels of the compounds, water district managers said. That is because efforts to dilute it do not appear to work well enough…

It’s a lifetime advisory – meaning adverse health effects might happen after prolonged use over years. Those effects include low infant birth weights and kidney and testicular cancer.

The Widefield aquifer, which stretches along Interstate 25 from the Stratton Meadows area to Fountain and east to the Colorado Springs Airport, appears to be the only aquifer in Colorado contaminated by PFCs at levels triggering health alerts. The contaminants’ source remains unknown.

Different types of wells pull from the aquifer.

Concerns first centered on public wells, which help supply water to thousands of people in the area via a few water districts. Some of those wells tested positive for elevated levels of PFCs during initial tests by the EPA. In those cases water from the Pueblo Reservoir was used to dilute the chemicals.

However, in a few areas, those efforts may not be working well enough, officials with the Widefield Water and Sanitation District and Security Water and Sanitation Districts said.

Each district serves roughly 18,000 or 19,000 residents. Water serving some of those people – especially those on the western end of each district – may be using water with too many PFCs. That is based on tests performed prior to the middle of last week, and further testing is ongoing.

In Security, the issue may be of particular concern on peak water usage days, when the district must use a higher ratio of well water to meet demand, said Roy Heald, general manager of the Security Water and Sanitation Districts.

As a result, the Security water district will institute voluntary watering restrictions from June 1 to Oct. 1 to limit water usage, he said. Those restrictions are three days a week, based on address. [ed. emphasis mine]

El Paso County Public Health officials also have been testing private wells, which are often only used by one household and tap directly into the aquifer, meaning they do not include water from other sources.

The vast majority of the roughly 15 to 20 private wells tested have registered levels above the new EPA advisory level, and more testing is ongoing.

Gonzales once again urged people drawing from private wells to contact the health department for free tests, to determine the PFC levels of their drinking water.

In the meantime, he said the health department is working on ways to remove the chemicals from the water.

“That is our number one priority right now,” Gonzales said.

From the Associated Press via the The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Federal regulators announced tighter guidelines [May 19, 2016] for human exposure to an industrial chemical used for decades in such consumer products as non-stick pans, stain-resistant carpets and microwave popcorn bags.

The cancer-causing chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, has been found in the tap water of dozens of factory towns near industrial sites where it was manufactured. DuPont, 3M and other U.S. chemical companies voluntarily phased out the use of PFOA in recent years.

Also at issue is the related chemical perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, used in firefighting foam.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued the stricter guidelines for the chemicals after years of pressure from public health experts and advocacy groups. The agency said the new limits were prompted by recent scientific studies linking PFOA and PFOS to testicular and kidney cancers, as well as birth defects and liver damage.

“EPA will continue sharing the latest science and information so that state and local officials can make informed decisions and take actions to protect public health,” said Joel Beauvais, the EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water. “This is an important part of our broader effort to support states and public water systems as we work together to strengthen the safety of America’s drinking water.”

Trace amounts of PFOA and PFOS can be detected in the blood of almost every American as the result of exposure through food and consumer products. But of specific concern to regulators is the risk posed to residents in the relatively small number of communities where higher levels of PFOA and PFOS have been found in public drinking water.

EPA now says long-term exposure to either chemical at concentrations above 70 parts per trillion could have adverse health impacts. That’s significantly lower than the agency’s prior advisory level based on short-term exposure of 400 parts per trillion.

Under the EPA’s new guidance, water systems where concentrations of PFOA or PFOS are found above 70 parts per trillion are advised to promptly notify local residents and consult with their state drinking water agencies.

EPA said public notification is especially important for pregnant or nursing women because of the impact the chemicals can have on the development of fetuses and infants who are breastfed or drinking formula made with tap water.

In 2013, EPA ordered about 4,800 public water systems nationwide to test for PFOA. More than 100 cities and towns in 29 states had trace amounts of PFOA, but none exceeded 400 parts per trillion.

However, the new lower limit means that a handful of those communities will now qualify as having water with contamination levels above the advised threshold.

EPA’s national survey also did not include many smaller communities located near sites where the chemicals were used for decades.

Hoosick Falls, New York, is located near a plastics plant and where the water supply system serves just 4,500 people, wasn’t included in the testing. PFOA levels of 600 part per trillion were discovered in village wells in 2014 because residents demanded testing amid concerns about what they perceived as a high cancer rates.

More recently, testing turned up PFOA concentrations of about 100 parts per trillion in the drinking water of nearby Petersburgh, New York, and North Bennington, Vermont, which also had plastics plants. A second round of water testing in North Bennington recently yielded readings of up to 2,730 parts per trillion — nearly 40 times the EPA’s new advisory limit.

Farmers express concerns about a Fountain Creek dam — La Junta Tribune-Democrat

Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013
Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013

From the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District (Norman Kincaide) via The La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

At a work session held Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District (LAVWCD) board members listened to farmers’ concerns about the possibility of a dam to be built on Fountain Creek. All board members were in attendance except Melissa Esquibel. First on the agenda was Cindy Lair, Colorado Department of Agriculture. Lair reported on salinity and nutrient pollution in the Arkansas River, stating that agricultural users are not big polluters compared to municipalities. Regardless of historically high levels of salinity in the Arkansas it is likely that the salinity issue will have to be addressed in the future. This means that agricultural users will have to address the issue along with municipalities. How and by what means salinity in the Arkansas will be remediated remains to be seen but funding for remediation may come from NRCS or the Colorado Water Quality Control Department. Regardless of the means and funding, Kansas wants to see Colorado users moving in the right direction by 2022.

Following Lair’s report, Alan Frantz of Rocky Ford, gave a short slide presentation: Fountain Creek vs. Individual Water Rights. Slides showed graphs and data on Fountain Creek that from 1921 to 1965 (44 years) that there were 21 flows with less than 10,000 cfs and 10 flows higher with 13 years of data missing. From 1966 to 2014 (48 years) there were 36 flows less than 10,000 cfs and 7 flows higher with 5 years of data missing. This data came from the Fountain Creek Flood Control Study of Oct. 14, 2015. Frantz raised the question of: Is there really a problem? Speaking for ditch directors and shareholders of all the ditches, county commissioners, Ark Valley Ditch Association, well associations and others, they think there is not a problem with Fountain Creek and wanted some questions answered.

These groups want an independent engineering study to evaluate possible consequences of any type of structure on Fountain Creek, (whether it be a dam or holding ponds), an in depth assessment of historical precipitation versus stream flow and assess the validity of Duane Helton’s Fountain River study. Furthermore, a professional analysis and discussion on long term effects of structures on the whole river system was also desired. What was needed from LAVWCD was expertise and technical assistance.

Agricultural users want to form a committee consisting of 5 to 7 individuals, including farmers and ditch directors, a county commissioner or two, with Jack Gobel, District Engineer for LAVWCD, for technical support and funding from LAVWCD for completion of the study. Frantz asked if there are any valid reasons this study should not be pursued.

Farmers are concerned about the amount of press given to a Fountain Creek dam. A Pueblo Chieftain article published Tuesday, May 17, 2016, the opinions of two researchers, Del Nimmo and Scott Hermann, indicated that a dam on Fountain Creek would decrease erosion. Without mentioning the consequences to peak flow users and prior appropriations to agricultural users, Nimmo said: “A large dam could provide better understanding of what’s happening in the watershed, and be a good recreational benefit to the entire watershed of Fountain Creek.” The main reason for supporting a dam on Fountain Creek is to reduce erosion, which is the primary cause for selenium making its way into the water. Scott Hermann said: “A large dam on Fountain Creek would give us the flood control we need, but also provide recreational opportunities that are primary, with a pool of water as well as tailwater. So we have a fishery and fishing benefits from such a structure.”

#Snowpack #Runoff news: Streamflow up as the basins melt-out

Arkansas River at Salida May 24, 2016 via the Colorado Division of Water Resources
Arkansas River at Salida May 24, 2016 via the Colorado Division of Water Resources

From Rocky Mountain PBS (Jim Trotter):

Spring snowmelt is already bringing fast-moving and rising water to the Arkansas River in Pueblo, according to the local Swift Water Rescue Team, and kayakers and fishermen alike are being urged to take caution.

The U.S. Geological Survey showed the Arkansas River spiking by 600 cubic feet per second on Monday through Pueblo, deepening one stretch by a whole foot. The river at the Moffat Street gauge was running at 1,440 cfs on Wednesday afternoon, making water in the city kayak course in particular a challenge, according to KOAA Channel 5.

“The kayak course … was designed for people who are used to kayaking or boating, who know what they’re doing and have more river experience,” Pueblo Fired Department engineer Ryan Moran told the news outlet. “This is not a place for just inner-tubing leisurely.”

From 9News.com (Colleen Ferreira and Blair Shiff):

Denver Water says, so far this year, their water supply is in good shape thanks to above-average snowpack levels in the local collection areas, nearly full reservoirs and continued efficient water use by consumers.

But what will it look like as the state heads into the hot, summer months?

Water conservation is not only needed in dry years. Colorado is a dry area, and water is finite. It’s vital for those who live in the state to conserve water in order for Colorado’s economy to thrive. Farmers and ranchers across the state rely on higher water levels. Wildlife and aquatic life in local rivers and streams need enough to live off of. Those who enjoy the recreational activities in the state want higher river and reservoir levels.

useonlywhatyouneed

No matter what the conditions may be, Coloradans must use water efficiently. Denver Water has annual summer watering rules in place from May 1 until Oct. 1. The rules should reinforce best practices to help customers use water properly and when needed while still keeping landscapes healthy.

The biggest mistakes people make is with their irrigation controller settings. Sprinkler systems are not meant to be forgotten once they are set. It’s important that consumers adjust their settings depending upon the month and recent rainfall. That means, if it rains, and your system doesn’t have a rain sensor, turn off your irrigation system until your landscape needs water again.

Fountain Creek District board meeting recap

<a href="https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/sir20145019">Report</a>: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013 -- USGS.
Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013 — USGS.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two projects to improve Fountain Creek will get underway soon after contracts were approved at Friday’s meeting of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

A $67,000 contract with MWH Global was approved to evaluate flood control alternatives on Fountain Creek between Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

It’s the next phase of a project to determine the best type and placement of flood control structures on Fountain Creek, which could include a dam or several smaller detention ponds.

The planning started with a U.S. Geological Survey study in 2013 that identified the most effective concepts to protect Pueblo from severe floods and reduce harmful sedimentation. Last year, another study determined flood control projects could be built without harming water rights downstream.

The new study will use $41,800 in grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board through the roundtable process. It is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2017.

A second project, totaling $60,000, was approved to continue a study of Fountain Creek stability and sediment loading by Matrix Design. The project was begun in 2010, and will identify the most critical areas for projects along Fountain Creek.

The district obtained matching funds for the projects through the payment of $125,000 from Colorado Springs Utilities to the district under terms of a recent intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County that allowed Southern Delivery System to be put into service.

The district board also agreed on a formula to fund routine operation of the district among member governments in Pueblo and El Paso County. The district is looking at $200,000 in funding for next year’s budget. The funding is allocated by population, with Colorado Springs paying half; unincorporated El Paso County, 25 percent; small incorporated cities in El Paso County, 5 percent. The city of Pueblo would pay $26,000, or 13 percent; Pueblo County, $13,000, or 6.5 percent.

Those costs are still subject to approval by each governmental entity.

#Colorado Springs pays first $10M to Fountain Creek district — The Pueblo Chieftain

Fountain Creek
Fountain Creek

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities presented the first of five $10 million payments to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District this week.

The check was actually for $9,578,817, in order to reflect prepayment of $600,000 and interest payments.

The payment of $50 million to the district is a condition of the Pueblo County 1041 agreement with Pueblo County, reached in 2009 for the construction of the Southern Delivery System.

The district has plans to spend about $2.5 million this year, as it continues studies of where the best sites for dams or detention ponds are located. The money could be used to leverage funds for large projects such as a dam.

The second $10 million payment is due Jan. 15.

The money is to be used for Fountain Creek flood control projects, including a possible dam, that have a primary, not incidental benefit to Pueblo.

The release of the money was made possible by the settlement of stormwater control issues that arose after Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009. That agreement requires Colorado Springs to spend an additional $460 million to control stormwater in the city.

The enterprise was in place when Pueblo County issued its 1041 permit in 2009, which allowed Colorado Springs Utilities to construct the 17-mile portion of the pipeline in Pueblo County.

SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West all benefit from the $825 million project.

Meanwhile, Fountain Creek keeps knocking out Colorado Springs’ stormwater control projects. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Two projects meant to improve Fountain Creek through Pueblo have not held up well, but the city is not in a position to simply walk away from them.

Both were kicked off with a great deal of fanfare in 2011 as part of a $1.5 million demonstration project, but neither was able to withstand high water that came in single events in 2011 and 2013 or in a prolonged deluge in 2015.

Jeff Bailey, Pueblo’s stormwater director, gave a bleak assessment to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Friday of the side detention pond that was built behind the North Side Walmart and the sediment collector located just north of the confluence with the Arkansas River.

He inherited both projects two years ago, and didn’t sound thrilled with either. But because of the investment put into the collector and the environmental implications of the detention pond, he is obligated to try to make them work.

The pond was designed to collect water as it backs up from a full channel, then slowly release it as the water recedes.

But the detention pond flooded in September 2011 before the project was completely finished. That scoured the ground too deeply, causing the pond to intercept groundwater. There wasn’t enough money to fill the pond, so the city — through an arrangement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works — must repay the evaporation costs each year.

The floods in 2013 and 2015 damaged the east retaining wall of the pond and took out most of the service road to the north bank. Disaster funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency can be applied to repairing the embankment, but the money is slow in coming, Bailey explained.

The Army Corps of Engineers won’t allow the city to disturb the wetlands that were created as part of the project. Finally, sediment has clogged the inlet/outlet pipe.

“Because of all this stuff, it’s difficult to maintain,” Bailey said.

The sediment collector was put in by Streamside Systems, and billed as a way to continuously dredge Fountain Creek by removing sediment as water washed over the large concrete structure. But differing opinions about where it should be placed and how it should be operating led to failure after it initially collected a pile of sand.

The device relies on pumps to remove sediment laden water, then return the water to the exact point where it was taken out. But when it is turned off, sediment continues to fall into it.

“It’s very labor intensive to clean out the collector and the pipes,” Bailey said.

No sediment has been collected since July 2013, and the collector is buried under 3-4 feet of sand.
“Since I came into stormwater, I’ve decided to give it one more college try and attempt to make it operational at low flows,” Bailey said. “We’re hoping to do it this winter. But we have to get it set up before we can turn it back on.”

Bailey said collectors work in other places, and there’s still a chance Pueblo’s could be functional. He plans to install a concrete “forebay” that could be easily cleaned, and then perhaps it could begin collecting large amounts of sediment.

During the initial installation, there were discussions about what to do with the sediment.

“That’s a problem I’d love to have,” Bailey said.

Some of the funding for the project could come from $3 million that Colorado Springs Utilities made available through its recent settlement with Pueblo County and $2.2 million that it paid earlier to settle dredging issues under the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. Already, $350,000 has been spent on the sediment collector.

Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, chairman of the Fountain Creek board, said that money also has to be used for such things as debris removal as well.

“But some of the money could go for (the collector),” Hart said, “We’ve invested a lot of money in it already.”

#Colorado Springs lists 71 stormwater projects to be built in region — The Colorado Springs Gazette

The confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River in Pueblo County -- photo via the Colorado Springs Business Journal
The confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River in Pueblo County — photo via the Colorado Springs Business Journal

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

New detention ponds and detention basins dominate the list of 71 stormwater projects that will be built throughout Colorado Springs over the next 20 years as part of a $460 million intergovernmental agreement.

Topping the list released by the city Wednesday are $2 million worth of projects through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to maintain and repair city stormwater fixtures; a $250,000 King Street detention pond; a $2.5 million detention basin at America the Beautiful Park, and a $3 million detention basin on Sand Creek, surrounded by Forest Meadows housing developments near Woodmen and Black Forest roads.

The projects are intended to stanch the flow of flood waters into Pueblo County, and cut back on sediments and other pollutants entering drainages and going downstream.

Asked why the developers aren’t providing the Sand Creek pond, Public Works Director Travis Easton said he couldn’t recall for certain but thought one of the developers was providing other stormwater work.

The America the Beautiful project calls for a consultant to be hired and to coordinate the work with Kiowa Engineering, designer for the adjacent Olympic Museum, one of three City for Champions projects that all are privately funded.

The city money isn’t being spent to benefit the museum; rather, it’s needed for that entire downtown area, Easton said.

“What we realized is we have open space in that park, with a low-lying area, and needed to route water from downtown into the pond to treat it before it enters Fountain Creek. They didn’t have detention ponds back when that was built, and it just goes straight into Fountain Creek,” he said.

Many of the detention ponds and basins got the nod from Wright Water Engineers Inc., which is representing Pueblo County in its three-way pact with the city and Colorado Springs Utilities.

Other projects throughout Colorado Springs, including many listed by the Pikes Peak Stormwater Task Force in 2013, are lower on the city’s new list.

But, Easton said, “I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the order of things farther down the list because these will change. We’re starting the top nine projects this year. We’re meeting with Pueblo County’s engineers soon to go over the list, which we’ll do every year, and plan the projects for the next five years.”

Big concessions to Pueblo County had to be made in the agreement, or Utilities could have been blocked from launching its $825 million Southern Delivery System last month. The county held a critical permit for the massive water project, and its commissioners demanded extensive stormwater work on Fountain Creek and its tributaries.

The county’s needs were heavy on flood control, sediment loading and channel stabilization, Easton said, “but we agree those are needed.”

The city’s Stormwater Division is spending $7.1 million next year on operating costs alone, primarily personnel and equipment, he said. Three new employees have been brought on board, and five more will be hired over the next three months.

“We need to make sure we have processes in place so these people can hit the ground running and do the job.”

The city has launched a new website to highlight the location of all 71 stormwater projects on an interactive map. Easton said he also plans to combine the city’s new interactive maps so stormwater and roads projects all will be in one place.

“It will be a one-stop shop for citizens to go and see where their money is being spent. This is a tool meant for the citizens, a communication tool.”

Senate bill would ease conduit cost to Lower Ark towns — The Pueblo Chieftain

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A bill that would ease the cost burden of the Arkansas Valley Conduit to local communities got its first hearing in the U.S. Senate water and power subcommittee Tuesday.

The bill, S2616, would allow miscellaneous revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to be applied to the local match of the conduit.

Legislation in 2009 allowed those revenues to be applied to the federal cost of building the $400 million conduit.

Because of the 65-35 cost share, however, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District will face heavy expenses. The bill would allow the district’s share to be paid first, with any funds not needed being used to repay the federal share.

Under the new law, the costs of Ruedi Dam, the Fountain Valley Conduit and South Outlet Works still would be repaid before funds could be used for the conduit. Like the Arkansas Valley Conduit, they are all parts of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project which was authorized in 1962.

The district is anticipating up to $100 million in loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board — $60 million already has been committed, said Bill Long, president of the district board.

He presented the committee with a letter of support from the CWCB.

Long, a Las Animas businessman and Bent County commissioner, detailed the water quality problems faced by the Lower Arkansas Valley. Those include radioactivity, salts and sulfates. The 40 communities involved in the project serve more than 50,000 people and face increasingly strict regulatory standards, he said.

“S2616 will achieve the goal of significantly reducing federal outlays while providing a reliable, safe drinking water supply to the rural communities in the Lower Arkansas River Valley,” Long said. “The alternative — contaminated supplies which pose a significant threat to public health and prohibitive costs for individual system improvements — is unacceptable.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., a member of the committee, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., are co-sponsors of the legislation.

“Water is a precious resource in Colorado and throughout the west. As home to the headwaters for 20 states, our communities continuously look for ways to conserve water,” Bennet said.

During the hearing, Estevan Lopez, commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, lent his support to the bill.

“While we are still undertaking a detailed analysis of the full implications of such a reallocation of federal receipts, the reallocation of federal revenues to a non-federal entity for the benefit of that non-federal entity should be given careful consideration,” Lopez said.

Lopez said about $21 million in appropriations already has been provided through this year. At least $3 million is anticipated this year.

Construction on the conduit is expected to begin in 2019.

Once the conduit is completed, there would be a 50-year repayment of the 35 percent local share that is addressed in S2616.