Colorado Springs Utilities Officials respond to claims that water main breaks and sinkholes are becoming more common. They say they’re spending $13 million per-year to fix it.
When a huge sinkhole opened up in the middle of Montebello Drive on Sunday after a water main break, neighbors complained that it was the third in about the last year…
Colorado Springs Utilities officials admit there is a problem. They say that roughly 60% of the city’s 2000 miles of water pipes are at or near the end of their lifespan; many of them are cast-iron and were put in in the 1970’s.
That is why in 2005 they started a water main replacement project; a systematic plan to proactively replace aging water mains before they deteriorate completely.
Right now Colorado Springs Utilities spends $13 million on the program every year. With that money they are able to replace about 8-12 miles of pipeline. That would mean that to replace the entire system could take up to 250 years at the current pace…
Utilities officials say they are planning on asking for a utilities rate increase for the 2017 budget. They will present that proposed increase this fall to the utilities board and the Colorado Springs City Council.
That rate increase would not mean an increase in the program’s budget, officials say the increase would be needed just to maintain the current $13 million budget.
There is no word yet on how much that increase will be because C.S.U. is waiting for the results of a cost of service survey. Those results are expected to be in on Friday.
About 4 percent of Colorado Springs’ water distribution pipes are more than 100 years old, but it’s the mid-century pipes that are causing problems around the city.
Cast- and ductile-iron pipes installed during the 1950s through the 1970s break more easily than older pipes because they have thinner walls and are more prone to corrosion, said Steve Berry, Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman.
Utilities is continually replacing as many of the problem pipes as possible…
Although crews try to “identify and prioritize areas that need attention,” Berry said, there is no way to track the city’s more than 2,000 miles of pipe. Over the past 20 years, national data has shown that these pipes have a higher failure rate, Berry said. Utilities has budgeted $13 million to upgrade water mains this year.
“It’s not an exact science, especially when you’re dealing with a system that’s as large as ours, and as spread out,” he said.
Repairs are not always straightforward, Berry said.
Simply shutting the water off is “much more complicated than it’s assumed,” he said. Then crews excavate the asphalt and assess the pipe’s condition. After it’s repaired or replaced, the line needs to be re-energized and re-pressurized, which occasionally causes a nearby segment to break.
More than 1,200 people endured 90-degree temperatures Saturday in eastern Colorado Springs to learn more about Colorado Springs Utilities’ new Southern Delivery System.
During the SDS Waterfest at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant on Marksheffel Road, kids and adults interacted with community volunteers at hands-on educational booths. And most of those on hand were treated to a guided tour of the state-of-the art facility…
David Schara, 42, said he is a Colorado Springs native and has watched as CSU and city officials spent more than 20 years planning the Southern Delivery System which began piping water north out of Pueblo Reservoir in late April.
“It’s much needed,” David Schara said. “As the city grows, they had to do something.”
David Schara said he and others have been skeptical over the years since CSU introduced the SDS in the Colorado Springs Water Plan of 1996. According to Schara, the biggest concern was about the capacity of Pueblo Reservoir, which he said has been “pretty low at times.”
The Southern Delivery System cost $825 million. Forte said that presently the SDS takes care of about 5 percent of the Colorado Springs Utilities customers and produces about 5 million gallons of water each day.
During Saturday’s event, CSU handed out free water bottles and had refill stations throughout the event where visitors could rehydrate with water from the Pueblo Reservoir. The hands-on exhibits allowed kids to make snow, touch a cloud, shoot water from a fire hose, and learn more about how CSU uses water supplied by the SDS…
Forte said the Waterfest was designed to thank customers “for their patience” over the last couple of decades while the SDS became reality.
“Our citizen-owners have come out to see what we’ve been talking about for the last 20 years,” Forte said. “It’s just a fun day.”
Here’s the release from the City of Colorado Springs:
The City of Colorado Springs today released the draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan designed to dramatically improve the city’s infrastructure and meet federal requirements.
City Public Works Director Travis Easton provided this statement.
“Today the City of Colorado Springs has released a draft Stormwater Improvement Plan. This is significant for our stormwater program, our citizens, and our City. The draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan reflects strong leadership by the Mayor and City Council. We began this effort last fall and we reached a preliminary draft in January. Today’s release includes updates through July 2016.
“The City’s Public Works Department would appreciate the public’s comments and suggestions for improvement of the plan over the next 60 days. We will take public input into account and release the Plan in final form shortly thereafter.
“Thank you in advance for helping to shape this plan, and being a part of the process.”
Individuals wishing to provide feedback on the plan can contact Richard Mulledy, the City’s Stormwater Division Manager at email@example.com or by mail to: Richard Mulledy, Stormwater Division Manager, City of Colorado Springs, 30 S. Nevada Avenue, Suite 401, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.
The City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities have committed to investing a total of $460 million over 20 years, beginning this year. The commitments essentially replace the city Stormwater Enterprise that was defunded in 2009.
“Fixing the stormwater issues that we inherited stemming from the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise has been a top priority for me and the City Council,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “Sustainable stormwater funding and management is not optional – it is something that we must do to protect our waterways, serve our downstream neighbors, and meet the legal requirements of a federal permit.”
Colorado Springs this week released its draft stormwater plan, which was spurred earlier this year by negotiations with Pueblo County commissioners over permits for the Southern Delivery System.
The 305-page implementation plan mirrors the terms of an intergovernmental agreement, outlining at least $460 million in expenditures over the next 20 years and restructuring the city’s stormwater department. It was released Wednesday on the city’s website (http://coloradosprings.gov).
It’s important to Pueblo because work within Colorado Springs is expected to reduce damage along Fountain Creek.
Work already has started on some of the projects that are expected to benefit Pueblo County as well as Colorado Springs. A total of 61 of the 71 critical projects have downstream benefits to Pueblo and other communities, in a March assessment that included input from Wright Water Engineers, which has been hired by Pueblo County as consultant for Fountain Creek issues.
That list can change, depending on annual reviews of which work is needed, according to the IGA.
The plan also attempts to satisfy state and federal assessments that the existing stormwater services failed to meet minimum conditions of the city’s stormwater permits. An Environmental Protection Agency audit last year found Colorado Springs had made no progress on improving stormwater control in more than two years.
This year, Colorado Springs formed a new stormwater division and plans on doubling the size of its stormwater staff.
The plan includes a funding commitment of $20 million annually by the city and $3 million per year by Colorado Springs Utilities to upgrade creek crossings of utility lines.
The plan acknowledges that Colorado Springs significantly cut staff and failed to maintain adequate staffing levels after City Council eliminated the city’s stormwater enterprise in 2009. Pueblo County suffered significant damage, including the washout of part of Overton Road and excess debris in the Fountain Creek channel through Pueblo, during prolonged flows last May.
Other parts of the Pueblo County IGA expedited funding for flood control studies and projects by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, as well as providing an additional $3 million for dredging in Pueblo.
FromThe Colorado Springs Gazette (William J. Dagendesh):
Landin kicked off the demonstration by explaining the value of water and asking where this resource comes from. “It comes from the sewer,” one boy blurted, to which the other children exclaimed with disgust.
Landin explained that Colorado Springs relies on precipitation from snow that falls west of the continental divide 100 miles away. A small portion comes from precipitation from the Arkansas River 40 miles away, she said, and that water travels through pipes down from the Rocky Mountains.
“Water falls to earth as rain, snow and precipitation,” Landin said. “Water later evaporates into the air, creates clouds and falls back to earth as fresh water.”
That’s when Landin discussed Utilities’ water treatment role. “Has anyone cooked spaghetti with unclean water?” Landin asked as children grimaced and shook their heads. “Of course not, that would taste yucky. This is why Utilities cleans up the water before you use it.”
Landin also conducted several water-related games to demonstrate how people receive and use water. In the water system relay, children rolled whiffle balls down half cylinder makeshift ramps to show that most of Colorado Springs’ water is imported from more than 100 miles away, and that the system infrastructure is vast and complex to ensure customers have quality water.
A vapor shower demonstrated that water is used in many ways and that everyone needs to use it wisely to ensure a sustainable future. The white vapor that spilled out of a bucket in a fun way emphasized that taking shorter showers is a great water-conserving idea.
The disappearing water trick game, “Where’s the Water?” emphasized that everyone must conserve and use water wisely. A chemistry experiment showed children how waste water can be restored to its usable state. Two volunteers stirred a chemically treated makeshift waste water-filled beaker only to watch the liquid return to its unclean state.
“It takes a lot to clean up waste water,” Landin said.
The cloud in a bottle and cloud cannon experiments showed that precipitation produces water and that everyone depends on nature for the amount of water available. The latter experiment, in which Landin shot wisps of cloud vapor into the crowd from a black plastic trash can cloud cannon, proved popular with youngsters…
Following the demonstrations, children received a Water Warriors Activity Book filled with water-related crossword puzzles, and fun money and water-saving tips. Energy and water conservation stickers reminded youngsters to take shorter showers and to turn off the water when brushing their teeth.
“This event is an experience kids can carry with them throughout life,” Landin said as children collected their activity books and stickers.
Citizens can learn more about water conservation during the Southern Delivery System Waterfest from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on July 23 at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant, 977 Marksheffel Rd. During the event, guests will get to touch a cloud, create a snowball, cool off with a fire hose and participate in a water scavenger hunt.
Tours of the new water treatment plant also will be offered. Everyone is encouraged to wear flat, sturdy shoes and to bring a small item for inclusion in the SDS time capsule scheduled for burial at noon. To learn more visit sdswater.org.
Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Patience Hurley):
The Bureau of Reclamation has completed the environmental study process and released the necessary documents for the Pueblo Hydropower Project to move forward.
“Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) were completed to address a request from Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Board of Water Works of Pueblo, and Colorado Springs Utilities to develop hydropower at the federally-owned Pueblo Dam,” said Signe Snortland, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office.
The next step for Reclamation is to enter into a contract called a Lease of Power Privilege. This contract authorizes the use of federal lands, facilities, and Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to construct, operate, and maintain a 7 megawatt hydropower facility at the Pueblo Dam. The project utilizes a “run of river” design that harnesses water releases from Pueblo Dam to generate power and provide a clean, renewable source of energy.
“A hydropower plant and associated facilities will be constructed at the base of Pueblo Dam, utilize the dam’s north outlet works, and immediately return flows to the Arkansas River downstream of the dam,” said Snortland.
About 1.4 miles of new power and fiber-optic lines will also be constructed to connect the hydropower plant to the existing Black Hills Energy’s Pueblo Reservoir Substation. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2016 with power generation anticipated in 2018.
Security will be able to use increased capacity in the Southern Delivery System pipeline to deal with contaminated well water in the Fountain Creek aquifer.
Security Water District reached an agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities to increase the amount of water transported through SDS in order to eliminate perfluoralkyl substances, or PFASs, in drinking water.
“The start of SDS could not have come at a better time,” said Roy Heald, Security Water general manager. “We always said SDS was being built to improve reliability to the existing water systems and the situation with PFASs in drinking water underscores that.”
SDS went online in April.
The cause of the PFAS contamination is unknown, but it typically finds its way into water systems through manufacturing processes or deicing at airports.
When contaminants were first detected, Security stopped using some wells and initiated voluntary watering restrictions.
Security, located south of Colorado Springs, historically blended equal parts well water and surface water. The majority of customers are not affected by PFASs, but in some parts of the district increased use of groundwater normally would be needed to meet summer watering demands.
Security also gets some of its water from the Fountain Valley Conduit, which, like SDS, pumps water from Lake Pueblo to El Paso County.
“We are pleased to work with our longtime SDS partner Security Water to help resolve the water contamination issues,” said Dan Higgins, Colorado Springs Utilities chief water services officer. “SDS is already showing how critically important it was for all the communities who partnered to build it.”
Meanwhile, here’s a report about the public meeting held yesterday about the problem from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:
More than 1,000 people south of Colorado Springs packed a high school Thursday night and buffeted government officials with questions and concerns about an invisible toxic chemical contaminating public water supplies…
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials repeated recommendations — especially for women and children, because they may be more vulnerable to the perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — to switch to other water as a precaution.
“You may or may not be getting your tap water from an area of concern,” CDPHE water-quality official Tyson Ingals told residents. “We have about 60,000 people in the areas of concern. We estimate 10,000 to 15,000 may be receiving water with PFCs above the level of the heath advisory.”
What about schools? residents asked. How long have people here been drinking water tainted with PFCs? What about property values? Should pets be drinking different water? Could organically home-grown vegetables be tainted?
Local utility officials in Widefield, Security and Fountain — all partially dependent on municipal wells drawing from tainted groundwater — assured residents they are intensifying efforts to dilute supplies by mixing in cleaner water piped from Pueblo, 40 miles to the south. A CDPHE preliminary health assessment has found elevated cancer in the area, but officials emphasized no link to PFCs has been established…
Officials from El Paso County, the CDPHE and the military now are looking more closely at contamination in the Widefield-Security-Fountain area. Of 43 private wells tested recently, county officials have received results from 37 tests, with PFC levels in 26 exceeding the EPA limit, spokeswoman Danielle Oller said.
In Security, all 32 municipal wells are contaminated, and water officials ranked the wells based on levels of contamination. One well where the level was nearly 20 times higher than an EPA health advisory limit has been shut down. Security officials urged voluntary cutbacks in lawn watering to reduce the need to use contaminated groundwater.
Security Water and Sanitation District manager Roy Heald has divided the city into three zones and said about 25 percent of residents live in a zone receiving water from contaminated wells. The residents in two other zones “are supplied water mainly from surface water sources,” Heald said…
Next week, utility officials plan to begin re-plumbing, installing new pipelines, trying to blend in more water from Pueblo into that zone and other areas…
Air Force representatives at the forum, where residents filled an auditorium, adjacent cafeteria and stood in hallways at Mesa Ridge High School, said the Air Force will pay $4.3 million to set up temporary treatment systems — while local utilities address the long-term implications of contaminated groundwater and a possible fix. Military airfields are suspected as a source of PFC contamination, and a broad investigation is planned, with drilling in October at Peterson Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs.
“Our short-term to mid-term solution is to use more surface water, which is not affected by these contaminants. Our mid-term to long-term solution will be to treat the groundwater,” said Heald, who met with Air Force officials and will continue those discussions. Security also has requested financial help from the EPA, CDPHE and elected officials.
“Security Water is a relatively small water district, and the costs of managing this issue is expensive for our customers,” Heald said.
Security residents typically pay about $25 a month for their water.
Widefield officials said they’ll set up a free bottled water distribution station — limiting residents to 10 gallons a week. They’re relying as much as possible on water from Pueblo, although they may draw from contaminated wells to meet peak demands during summer as temperatures rise.
Fountain utility officials planned to notify residents about PFCs in notices mailed along with July water bills. Fountain normally draws from eight municipal wells, all now contaminated with PFCs above the EPA limit, and has shifted to water from Pueblo while contract engineers search for a solution.
Yet Ingals from CDPHE pointed out that these cities “cannot function on surface water alone. … There are groundwater wells that are being pumped. … The wells kick on and off at different intervals. … Because it is not predicable, we cannot tell you that it always is safe…
CDPHE experts in February began a preliminary assessment of cancer rates in the area south of Colorado Springs and on June 30 completed a report showing elevated cancer rates. The CDPHE team found lung cancer rates 66 percent higher than expected, bladder cancer up 17 percent and kidney cancer up 34 percent. CDPHE officials emphasized there’s no clear link to PFCs…
The assessment looked at births from 2010-14 and all cases of 11 types of cancer from 2000-2014 in 21 census tracts covering Security, Widefield and Fountain. CDPHE researchers compared these with birth and cancer data from the rest of El Paso County.
They found no spike in low birth weights in the areas where water is contaminated with PFCs. But there were a higher-than-expected rates of lung, kidney and bladder cancers.
“Of these types of cancer, only kidney cancer has been plausibly linked to PFC exposure in human and laboratory animal studies,” Van Dyke said.
The increases may be explained by higher rates of smoking and obesity in the area. Smoking and obesity, CDPHE officials said, may be factors explaining the increased kidney cancer.
More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):
Residents from across Security, Widefield and Fountain flocked to hear more than a dozen federal, state, local and military officials hold a town hall about the work being done to clean the water in the Widefield aquifer.
As the evening wore on, one question rose above the rest: Why must residents have to incur more costs for bottled water and home filters because of a problem that wasn’t their fault?
“Why does the consumer have to pay more?” one man asked, to applause. He received no answer…
Roughly 60,000 people are served by water districts pulling from the contaminated Widefield aquifer, most of whom are in Security, Widefield and Fountain, officials said Thursday.
However, the majority of those people receive clean surface water pumped in by the Pueblo Reservoir. About 10,000 to 15,000 people receive contaminated water from wells tapped into the aquifer – and even they sometimes receive clean surface water, depending on daily water usage, a state health official said.
In general, those affected homes are along the western portions of Security and Widefield. Fountain has switched to clean surface water…
Throughout the meeting, officials stressed they are doing all they can to fix the problem.
Within a month, the Widefield Water and Sanitation District plans to set up a water dispensing site, allowing residents along the western portions of Widefield to receive up to 10 gallons of water a week. It is also working on a construction project to pump in more surface water.
Security officials announced a deal Thursday with Colorado Springs Utilities to increase the amount of Southern Delivery System water it will receive.
The project, which could take three months to complete, will likely end the community’s reliance on well water until a more permanent solution can be implemented. It might, however, come at the cost of higher water rates next year, the district’s water manager said.
Fountain officials also are working on a treatment plant.
The water districts are all connected through the Fountain Valley Authority and the Southern Delivery System project, which just went online last week. Right now, the SDS is coming in handy for Fountain, Security and Widefield.
Colorado Springs ratepayers turned Thursday’s public meeting about updates to the long-term Integrated Water Resource Plan into a Q&A session, asking what happens when neighboring districts are impacted by fracking, drought and contamination. Springs Utilities revealed to News 5 that the company is already helping in the efforts to deliver clean water to the three impacted communities after learning they had man-made compounds above the EPA’s new advisory level in their groundwater. “Right now, Springs Utilities staff is working with the staff of those entities to determine how they can use their allocations through the Fountain Valley Authority and SDS to augment their groundwater sources,” says CSU water resources manager Brett Gracely.
Colorado Springs shares the Widefield aquifer where the PFCs were found, but it has not used any water from it since the early 2000s. Now the other, smaller districts are scrambling to find other options. Springs citizens agree they should be good neighbors, but are still concerned about their own water. Ratepayer Dennis Moore says, “We’ve got to do something to help them, but how do we help them within our own resources without depleting our resources? It’s going to be interesting, so they’ve got to find a manageable way to do that.”
Instead of using its planned share of Pueblo Reservoir water through SDS and the FVA pipelines, Colorado Springs is letting the others siphon off a greater allotment, using other already established sources to provide water to its customers. Gracely says, “Because it’s a joint public health concern, it’s not well-defined, so we’ll do what we can in terms of in-kind services and our existing collaborations.”
As Colorado Springs continues to explore new options for retaining and delivering water for future generations, citizens agree that it is better to have extra as an insurance plan, since you never know when you will need it. “I remember back when, when people were fighting SDS and everything,” says Moore, “and now I’m beginning to see it’s a very good reason to have it.”