Colorado College community pitches in on Fountain Creek cleanup

CC President Jill Tiefenthaler hands out snacks to volunteers. Photo via Colorado College.
CC President Jill Tiefenthaler hands out snacks to volunteers. Photo via Colorado College.

Here’s the release from Colorado College:

More than 350 members of the Colorado College community participated in a local day of service, cleaning up trash along neighboring Monument Creek. Participants worked in two-hour shifts and collected a total of 3,140 pounds of trash from both sides of a two-mile stretch of the creek.

The daylong event, sponsored by CC’s Collaborative for Community Engagement, EnAct, and the Regional Business Alliance, brought out CC faculty, students, and staff, as well as neighbors and area alumni.

The lure of the water and the potential of the area appealed to many, including those who went as part of a CC class called Re-enchanting the World: Reality in Ecological Perspective, co-taught by mathematician Mike Siddoway and theologian Phil Devenish. Among them:

  • Cassie Cohen ’17, a psychology major from Lincoln, Massachusetts, says she wanted to help clean up the creek “because it feels like a part of our campus.”
  • Leah Di Filippo ’17, an economics major from Gladstone, New Jersey, says cleaning the watershed area “will help change how it’s viewed and how it’s branded.”
  • Ben Garinther ’17, a fly fisherman from Baltimore with a self-designed major in environmental philosophy, says “This creek should be valued more. It would be unreal to come down here and fish in Monument Creek.”
  • Rebecca Glazer ’18 from San Francisco with a self-designed major in philosophies of sustainable development, says “It’s important. CC has a responsibility for the waterway that flows through it.”
  • Local alumna Carrie Ryden ’95, MAT ’96 joined the cleanup effort, along with husband Doug and 9-year-old daughter Hazel. “It’s something we can all do together as a family, and the fact that we’re doing it as part of a community is even better,” she says.
  • Other communities were represented as well. All six Greek life organizations on campus participated, and well as nine Colorado College athletic teams, including men and women’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, men’s soccer, cross-country, tennis, women’s rugby, Nordic skiing, and swimming and diving.

    A variety of student organizations joined the effort, including Mortar Board, CC’s Student Government Association, President’s Council, Chinese Students Association, Community Engaged Scholars, and Boettcher Scholars. Entire CC offices had strong showings, including Human Resources, the Career Center, and Communications. Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler was on site during the afternoon, handing out water and a variety of snacks to the volunteers.

    Community members got involved as well, with participants from the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, Regional Business Alliance, Old North End Neighborhood, Steele Elementary School, Palmer High School, and Patty Jewett Neighborhood Association.

    Jake Walden ’16, a fellow in the President’s Office and lead coordinator on campus for the effort, said he was pleased with the enthusiastic turnout. The event was capped off by a community barbecue for volunteers, which was hosted by members of EnAct, a CC student environmental organization, and paid for by the CC Student Government Association.

    Security now on 100% surface water

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

    From KOAA.com:

    All Security Water District customers are now using Perflourinated Chemical (PFC) free surface water. According to Security Water officials, the surface water is brought in from the Pueblo Reservoir. Groundwater wells in the area have been shut down since the EPA found elevated levels of PFC’s, a man-made chemical, in water sources used by Fountain, Security, and Widefield.

    The US Air Force plans on changing the type of firefighting foam it uses because of concerns that the foam is responsible for the water contamination.

    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

    The move by Security Water and Sanitation Districts signaled the last time that contaminated water is expected to reach residents’ homes, said Roy Heald, the water district’s general manager.

    “We’re confident now that we can maintain this, really, until we can get treatment online,” Heald said.

    Security’s announcement comes as temperatures cool and the summer watering season comes to a close.

    Water districts in Security, Widefield and Fountain have traditionally relied largely on surface water pumped into the area from the Pueblo Reservoir during winter months. However, those water districts relied much more heavily on the Widefield aquifer during the spring and summer months to meet demand.

    That strategy became a problem in May when the Environmental Protection Agency tightened its guidelines over perfluorinated compounds and left residents in Security, Widefield and Fountain scrambling to find other water sources.

    Fountain managed to go the entire summer without dipping into the aquifer, due largely to watering restrictions.

    Widefield Water and Sanitation District, however, does not expect to completely wean itself from the contaminated aquifer until “sometime in October,” according to Brandon Bernard, Widefield’s water department manager.

    In Security, multiple projects are underway to ensure the chemicals no longer get into the drinking water, Heald said.

    This year, the district purchased extra surface water from Colorado Springs Utilities to limit its well water use.

    And this winter, Security plans to install a second line connecting it to the Southern Delivery System – a move that should significantly boost its capacity for bringing in cleaner water from the Pueblo Reservoir.

    Both moves are meant to keep the district from using well water until it can be filtered. The Air Force has promised to provide nearly $4.3 million in water filters to affected water systems and well owners, though Security may not get any filters until next year…

    The chemicals have been associated with a host of health ailments, including kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease and high cholesterol.

    Two lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed on behalf of residents in the area against the manufacturers who produced and sold the chemicals.

    Creek Week volunteers work to beautify Fountain Creek watershed — The #Colorado Springs Gazette

    UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.
    UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Chhun Sun):

    …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.”

    For volunteer information and cleanup locations, visit http://www.fountaincreekweek.com.

    Class-action certification sought by residents of Fountain, Security and Colorado Springs — The Denver Post

    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

    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.

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    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.

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

    The latest “Fountain Creek Chronicle” is hot off the presses

    UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.
    UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.

    Click here to read the newsletter from the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District. Here’s an excerpt:

    The 2016 Steering Committee has been working very hard to make this 3rd annual event bigger and better than ever, including a new website! Mark your calendars for Sept. 24-Oct 2 , gather up your Creek Crew and get ready to make a huge difference for our watershed and beyond. Read about last year’s event for inspiration. Interested in getting involved, need more info, want to sponsor – contact us (creekweeksoco@gmail.com)!

    Fountain Creek stormwater mitigation update

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    While the [Fountain Creek Watershed Drainage, Flood Control and Greenway District] has limped along for seven years with more hopes than funding, now it’s flexing some muscle after an injection of $10 million from Colorado Springs Utilities. It was the first of five such payments through 2020 that are part of the city’s deal with Pueblo County for the city’s Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, completed in April.

    But so much needs to be done that the money quickly will be absorbed into a long list of projects, leaving the district, again, penniless.

    “What we’re going to find out is that $50 million is much less than what we need for that project list,” says district executive director Larry Small, former Springs vice mayor.

    The district has conducted a host of studies over the years and done a few projects, including sediment reduction near the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River east of downtown Pueblo. Thus far, its projects have been largely funded through grants from such agencies as the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Now, with the Utilities money, it wants to take on the herculean task of trying to reshape the creek.

    First up is a bank restoration project along the Masciantonio Trust farm just south of the El Paso County-Pueblo County line where, over the years, the creek’s rushing waters have carved away a massive amount of land, leaving sand bars behind and sending tons of sediment down the creek every year.

    “The creek has seriously eroded the bank there,” Small says. “It’s taken 12 acres of farm land.”

    The project’s engineering study was launched in July, and a construction contract will be awarded next year, he says, with a budget of $2.5 million.

    It’s unclear if the project actually will restore those 12 acres, because that would require a huge amount of fill material, Small says.

    “We are looking at an option to restore the creek to the 1955 channel,” he says, “but we have to figure out how to deal with the hole that would leave behind the wall we would have to build.”

    The problem, he adds, is that Young’s Hollow flows into the creek at that point and can carry a water flow of up to 6,000 cubic feet per second during heavy storms, so the creek has to be equipped to handle that volume.

    “This is a challenge,” he says.

    Two more projects for the farm also are planned, he says, noting, “That whole 4-mile stretch is seriously eroded.”

    Another project will assess stability and sediment along the entire 51 miles of the creek from Colorado Springs to its confluence with the Arkansas.

    “That’s going to generate a project list where we need to do bank restoration,” Small says. Started in May this year, the study will wind up in March and be followed by an evaluation of flood control alternatives, which includes a dam.

    That study, also started in May, will address how much land would be required, how a dam would function, what property the district would need to acquire and what permitting processes would be necessary, among other things.

    This month, the district began compiling a drainage criteria manual, which will enable the board to evaluate development that takes place within the district and recommend requirements to the jurisdictions at issue, such as city of Fountain, city of Colorado Springs, Pueblo County or El Paso County.

    So as Small says, the district has quickly picked up the pace this year.

    “As I told some people recently, on May 31, I had one project, and on June 1, I had five projects,” he says.

    The biggest single project undertaken by the district so far is dredging the levees east of Pueblo at a total cost of $5.25 million. Funded with additional money from Springs Utilities, Pueblo County and Pueblo’s stormwater enterprise fund, the project will be overseen by the Fountain Creek district, which also will loan $1.25 million to Pueblo to be repaid in 2018, Small says.

    The project will begin this year — the district hopes to let the contract this fall — and be finished next year, if all parties sign off on the plan, which is expected, he says. The dredging will start at 18th Street and extend to the creek’s confluence with the river. The job will include removing vegetation and two railroad piers that act as debris traps.

    The source of money for projects when the $50 million from Springs Utilities runs out isn’t clear. Small says the board, in coming years, will start researching a ballot measure for a property tax to fund the district. Even after all the projects are built, money will be needed for maintenance, he says.

    The district covers all of El Paso and Pueblo counties. One mill would generate roughly $6.85 million from El Paso County taxpayers and $1.6 million from Pueblo County taxpayers, for a total of about $8.5 million a year. (Assessed value of property in El Paso County totals $6.85 billion, and in Pueblo County, $1.66 billion.)

    About $8 million a year is a lot for a district that’s never spent more than $480,000 in any single year so far and relied on grants from various agencies and member contributions from Green Mountain Falls, Palmer Lake, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, El Paso County and Pueblo County.

    Any infusion of cash, though, is subject to revenue limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, so in early 2015 the district created a companion agency, the Fountain Creek Watershed Water Activity Enterprise. The enterprise is exempt from TABOR revenue caps, Small says, as long as less than 10 percent of its funding comes from state and local grants. The $10 million annual payments for five years from Utilities are not considered grants, he says.

    But the Utilities’ payments, while large, won’t fix all the creek’s problems, says Greg Lauer, Fountain city councilor and district board member.

    “When you look at the substantial need for projects and maintenance, these numbers barely scratch the surface,” he says. Lauer predicts the board will begin discussing a tax measure next year, though it’s unlikely it would appear on the 2017 ballot.

    For one thing, he notes, the board needs “legal clarification.” For example, would a tax measure approved by voters in El Paso County but not in Pueblo County result in the tax being applied only in El Paso County, or would it be considered defeated? Would a tax approved by a majority of voters, regardless of their place of residency, result in it being added to the tax rolls in both counties?

    Regardless, Lauer says it’s hard to argue against ongoing funding when the board is reminded regularly by landowners along the creek about flood damage.

    For now, though, the board is eager to get long-awaited projects underway with the money it has.

    “We are so beyond excited,” Lauer says. “It’s been a long time coming.”

    Water restrictions lifted in Fountain — The #Colorado Springs Gazette

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

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

    Stage 3 water restrictions, which were put in place in Fountain June 24 after perfluorinated compounds were found in area groundwater wells, were lifted Thursday.

    The restrictions, which limited irrigation to two days a week to avoid using well water and meet demands with surface water, were imposed after contamination was found in groundwater wells in Fountain, Widefield and Security at levels above Environmental Protection Agency recommendations…

    Stage 1 voluntary water restrictions remain in place in Fountain until Sept. 30, according to the utilities’ website.

    Under the voluntary restrictions, property owners and renters with street addresses ending in an even number are encouraged to use water outdoors on even-numbered calendared days, and vice-versa with residents with street addresses ending in an odd number. Property owners and renters area also encouraged to refrain from using water outdoors on the last day of each calendar month.