Fountain limits outdoor watering — The Pueblo Chieftain

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

City wants to avoid using wells that could become contaminated

Fountain restricts outdoor watering to avoid well use.

#Colorado Springs helps districts with water contamination — KOAA.com

From KOAA.com (Jessi Mitchell):

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.”

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

Colorado Springs woman fights for free bottled water for Security-Widefield, Fountain residents

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder):

In an online petition that has received about 2,000 signatures, Callie Loudenber is asking local and state officials to pay for bottled water and filters for El Paso County residents whose water she calls “dangerous.”

[…]

After reading about the issue Friday, Loudenber ran an online search on how to create a petition. She was directed to change.org.

She began sharing the petition on her personal social media, and it soon took off.

Although she is asking for short-term solutions, including free bottled water, she also is advocating for a long-term solution “that doesn’t increase these residents bills to pay for a problem they didn’t create and have been living with for years,” according to the petition.

She emphasizes that someone doesn’t have to live in the Security area to be concerned about the issue of contaminated water.

“I want it in people’s minds. I want people to be talking about it, thinking about it – not just in Colorado,” she said. “This could happen anywhere, and it’s something we need to take seriously.”

She’s a stay-at-home mother who lives in Colorado Springs, but she has already witnessed the effect the situation is having on her family members who live in Security Water District’s Zone 1. Her aunt, for example, has asked family not to visit because “she doesn’t feel comfortable” about it, Loudenber said.

In addition to creating the petition, she has reached out to businesses and organizations, including Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, which will hold a bottled water distribution for affected residents from 10 a.m. to noon Friday at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, 5354 U.S. Highway 85.

Loudenber said she plans to volunteer at the distribution.

Shannon Brice, Care and Share’s marketing and communications director, said the organization wants to make sure residents don’t have to cut into their food budgets to buy bottled water.

“We’re well aware of the need for people to have healthy food and nourishment for their bodies,” Brice said. “We wanted to make sure we were part of the solution.”

Danielle Oller, spokeswoman for El Paso County Public Health, said a community meeting is planned for 6 p.m. July 7 to provide “clear information to residents to address the concerns that they’re having. Information about the location will be released shortly.

The county will also test private wells for free, Oller said. For more information, call El Paso County Public Health at 575-8602.

On the petition’s page, Loudenber shares links to articles and places to go for further information. Many include examples of how other states have dealt with similar issues.

“I’m really careful to make sure I stay away from anything that looks like it might be relayed to a conspiracy theory, because I don’t want to invalidate what we’re doing,” she said.

The petition, titled “Free Bottled Water for Security, CO,” can be found at http://change.org/p/colorado-governor-free-bottled-water-for-security-co.

San Luis Valley: Habitat study to document change — The Pueblo Chieftain

1869 Map of San Luis Parc of Colorado and Northern New Mexico. "Sawatch Lake" at the east of the San Luis Valley is in the closed basin. The Blanca Wetlands are at the south end of the lake.
1869 Map of San Luis Parc of Colorado and Northern New Mexico. “Sawatch Lake” at the east of the San Luis Valley is in the closed basin. The Blanca Wetlands are at the south end of the lake.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

A San Luis Valley consulting firm is undertaking a study of wetlands and riparian habitat that state and federal wildlife officials hope will help their management efforts in the face of climate change and pending groundwater regulation.

The $228,000 project by Wetland Dynamics will look at past and present wetland habitat across the valley, agency capacity in managing that habitat on their respective jurisdictions and the needs of 35 species.

Jenny Nehring, a partner at Wetland Dynamics, said the agencies have a good understanding of what they manage inside their boundaries but the study will make it easier for them to collaborate.

“A valleywide perspective of how these wetlands function as a whole to provide resources for wildlife is not well understood,” she told the Rio Grande Basin roundtable earlier this week. “This effort will help us determine where we have information gaps regarding changes in historic habitats and populations.”

The information they gather will include a look at how wetlands have changed in the valley since its permanent settlement in the 1850s.

Missoula, Mont.-based Intermountain West Joint Venture is partnering with Wetland Dynamics and will analyze historic survey and land records from the U.S. General Land Office.

The General Land Office oversaw the public domain from its creation in 1812 until it was folded into the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 1934.

The analysis will also include satellite photos that were taken every 16 days between 1984 and now.

That time interval will help determine how wetlands habitat changes between seasons, Nehring said.

The final report, due in 2019, would include information for 35 species, detailing how, when and what type of habitat they use and whether the water source undergirding their habitat is secure.

It would also detail the water held by landuse and wildlife agencies and any limitations on the use of that water — a key piece of information for determining how agencies can work together.

Every March, thousands of Sandhill cranes stop in #GreatSandDunes National Park & Preserve on their way to their northern breeding grounds. The fields and wetlands of #Colorado’s San Luis Valley provide excellent habitat for these majestic #birds. With the dunes and mountains nearby, they dance and call to each other. It’s one of nature’s great spectacles. Photo @greatsanddunesnps by #NationalPark Service.
Every March, thousands of Sandhill cranes stop in #GreatSandDunes National Park & Preserve on their way to their northern breeding grounds. The fields and wetlands of #Colorado’s San Luis Valley provide excellent habitat for these majestic #birds. With the dunes and mountains nearby, they dance and call to each other. It’s one of nature’s great spectacles. Photo @greatsanddunesnps by #NationalPark Service.

Just one example of the importance of water use can be found at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, where U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials use groundwater to provide the roosting pools for the roughly 20,000 sandhill cranes that come through the valley in late winter.
Likewise, the Bureau of Land Management uses groundwater to supplement the Blanca Wetlands Recreation Area east of Alamosa that hosts migrating shore and songbirds.

The agencies that are partnering on the project and contributing manpower include the BLM, USFWS, the National Resource Conservation Service, National Park Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

But it could also help land trusts and state wildlife officials who work with private landowners.

“Really what it’s going to do is help us be better partners,” said Rick Basegoitia, area wildlife manager for CPW’s valley office.

San Luis Valley via National Geographic
San Luis Valley via National Geographic

Widefield aquifer: Looking for the source of PFC pollution

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

From KKTV.com (Alyssa Chin):

The Widefield Water and Sanitation District said while their PFC levels are not too far above the limit.

During a public meeting this afternoon, they suspected firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force base years ago could be the culprit.

Perflourinated chemicals, also known as PFCs, were found in wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain.

That prompted a health advisory for pregnant women and babies, and that concern is spreading…

The Air Force started using PFC based firefighting foam in 1970 to put out fuel based fires and told us they stopped using it about 10 years ago.

A map outlines where PFC foam was used at nearby local military installations in relation to Security and Widefield.

Fort Carson told us, their one fire training site will be tested in the near future. But, added their water couldn’t have moved uphill to the affected area.

Peterson Air Force Base told us, they just tested their two fire training sites. Those preliminary results will be public in the next few months. They are scheduled to have the sites tested again in May 2017, but said, based on the results of the preliminary test, that date could be moved up.

That’s where Widefield believes their problem begins.

In May 2016, the EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) lowered the allowed limit of PFCs in the water.

Widefield Water said more than 60% of their water has no traces of PFCs. And before the new guidelines, they were well below the accepted levels.

In security, the PFC levels tested much higher than Widefield’s. The water department there said it could be decades before the chemicals work their way out of the water supply.

“It made me immediately stop using everything- ice included. I don’t want another Flint happening here,” Security resident Latisha Mapu previously told us.

Widefield Water said they hope to have a plan ready to fix the problem in the next few months.

In the meantime, they said homeowners can install a reverse osmosis system or use carbon water filters in the home.

For a look at the affected areas in Security, Widefield, and Fountain click here.

For Colorado Springs Utilities customers and Pueblo Water Works customers, they told us this issue wouldn’t happen because those utilities get their water from places like Pueblo Reservoir and not well water.

From KRDO.com:

Members of the Widefield Water District held a public meeting this week, where citizens asked many questions. The most common question asked, was how people can protect themselves.

“You can get an activated carbon filter and a reverse osmosis filter,” said Brandon Bernard with Widefield Water District.

The different filter options cost anywhere from $30 to $500.

“Make sure the filters are NSF (National Science Foundation) approved, and follow all the recommended guidelines when you purchase your filter,” Bernard said.

But the idea of filters isn’t easing everyone’s mind…

Water district members say Widefield does not have a higher rate of cancer or developmental issues compared to anywhere else in Colorado.

“Widefield is going above and beyond, we’re improving our blending stations and looking into future treatment options,” said Brenard.

Meanwhile, local water companies are seeing a sudden spike in bottled water sales.

“This is by far the most interest in bottled water that we’ve seen here by far,” said Rick Baker, co-owner of Springs Mountain Water in Colorado Springs…

In just two days the business sold one month’s worth of water jugs.

Researchers following water flow out of toxic Breckenridge mine — The Summit Daily News

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From The Summit Daily News:

The team is injecting fluorescent, non-toxic, green dye into water that flows into the collapsed mine shaft on Illinois Gulch Road above Breckenridge. They’re then observing and sampling the water downstream to see how much of the water filters through the mine and emerges on the other side. The hill has been mined all the way through and is rife with tailings and collapsed mine shafts. Contaminated water — a toxic tangerine from heavy iron — trickles out of the mine openings and along the ground, staining the dirt and rocks in its path.

“Basically, the study is to figure out how the water is draining from the mine sites,” said Katherine Jenkins of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A group of partner agencies is managing this several dayslong water tracer study at the Puzzle Willard Mine. The Illinois Gulch Tracer Study — led by Colorado Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety and assisted by the Colorado Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service — is being conducted to trace the path of water flowing in creeks down Boreas Pass through the mine and out three adits, or openings.

At each of the adits downstream, there is an automated sampler that tests for traces of the dye every few hours. After the injection of the dye into the mine site on Monday morning, the team will spend the next 7-10 days testing the water on the other side of the mine for traces of the dye, to see whether the contaminated water was making its way into the surface water in the Illinois Gulch drainage.

Peter Stevenson, of the EPA, explained that the mine runoff presents no danger to the drinking water of Breckenridge residents. He said the water sources for the town are located in other drainages, and everyone who lives up near Illinois Gulch Road uses Breckenridge water. However, a small amount of this water could make its way to Lake Dillon. The stream that runs through the mine is the headwaters of Iron Springs, which feeds into Blue River and then the lake.

At this point in the process, the investigation is intended to establish a baseline of the water quality at the site and then use the data to determine what further steps must be taken.

“After we figure out where the water goes, then we’re going to come together with all of our partners and try to figure out what the next step is,” said Jean Wyatt of the EPA. “We’ve done fish studies, we’ve done macro-invertebrate studies and we’re still compiling all that data,”

When the amount of water that is actually running through the mine is found, the group can assess the situation and determine whether steps need to be taken and, if so, what the best method is for preventing the water from reaching the metals in the mine.

“We have a lot of sampling data from over the years. We need to compile it and review it and look at it. This is a piece of a multi-year assessment,” said Stevenson.

The research team is leaving all its options for mitigation open until this assessment is complete, but they do have an expectation of what may happen to the mine tailings in the area that are not sitting in the drainage water.

“Ultimately, I would expect this to get shaped and capped somewhere nearby,” said Stevenson

Security: Town is looking for dough to manage perfluorinated chemical pollution

securitywatersanitation

From Colorado Public Radio (Anthony Cotton):

In May, the agency reduced the levels for allowable contamination by perfluorinated chemicals from 0.4 micrograms per liter to 0.07 micrograms per liter, almost 10 times less. The advisory only provides technical guidelines to states and regulation isn’t mandatory, however it has had a great impact in Security.

“The EPA lowered the standards below what we had anticipated; and then the problem was the new health advisory was so much more stringent that none of our wells would meet them,” Heald said. “Different people have different concerns. The health advisory is protecting the most sensitive members of the population — pregnant women, fetuses, infants…I’m a healthy middle-aged male so I feel my risk is low. But I understand that others rightfully have concerns.”

Well water has been most affected by the advisory; Heald said that supply is largely being replaced by surface water. However, he adds that there’s not enough at present to meet peak demand — and water usage is as much as five times greater during the summer.

Wells have been shut down and other steps, like the installation of new pipes and building filtration structures, are underway. The problem is paying for them. Heald says the cost will eventually have to be passed on to customers.

“We’ve been asking for help from anyone who will listen for some financial support but no one has offered,” he said. “There’s no party that’s been found to be responsible for the contamination, so no one’s stepped up to pay for this.”

From KKTV.com (Katie Pelton):

“All of our water meets all federal and state drinking water standards,” said Roy Heald, general manager of Security Water and Sanitation Districts. “In other words, it meets all the regulations. This is an EPA health advisory, so it doesn’t rise to the level of a regulation. It just advises us and the public to be cautious.”

Heald said if you’re concerned, you “may want to consider a different source.”

In light of the advisory, Security has closed seven of its wells. One of them tested at a level of 1,300 parts per trillion of PFCs.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulation is 70 parts per trillion.

However, Heald said residents never got that amount because the water was diluted.

Security also gets its water from surface water in the Pueblo Reservoir, which is what Heald said the community is mainly relying on for now.

However, only certain residents are affected. The area is split into three regions…

Security’s water department didn’t say when the problem would be fixed, but said it could take a long time before the chemicals are out of the system.

“We’re looking at treatment over the long term because I think over the long term it’s going to be decades or maybe even generations before these chemicals work their way through the aquifer,” said Heald.

From KOAA.com (Jessi Mitchell):

Man-made PFCs have been in the ground water for years in the communities south of Colorado Springs, but last week the EPA lowered the safe level of contamination and put them in the danger zone. Now residents are paying out of pocket for bottled water and filters for their homes, which they say is not fair.

Families in the three communities are already feeling the impact of PFCs in the water. Stories are coming out on the petition page about health problems possibly linked to the contamination. Cancer, elevated cholesterol and birth and developmental defects are among the CDC’s listed effects…

Right now residents are buying clean water to use for drinking, cooking and bathing multiple times a week, in addition to paying their water bills, and say they should not have to. Loudenber says, “You’re talking single moms. You’re talking families that are already on assistance. They can’t afford to go get bottled water every few days.”

The EPA is encouraging people with wells in those three districts to make appointments to get their water tested. The local water districts are only advising pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to avoid the tap water. They continue to investigate the source of the PFCs, but Peterson AFB confirms they used firefighting foam that contained the chemicals up until 2002.

Still, people like Loudenber want action now. “I’m not saying it’s the water district’s fault,” she says. “Obviously it came from somewhere else, but it’s here now. We need to deal with it.”

In addition to the request for free water bottles and filters for neighbors in the three communities, she hopes the water districts implement a free long-term fix for the wells there. “There are filters out there that they can put on the wells that will help with the PFCs,” Loudenber says. “They just have to be willing to do that.”

Care and Share Food Bank will hold a meeting in the coming days to asses their supply of bottled water, and see if they will be able to get more if the water districts do not take action.

When News 5 spoke with Security Water District on Monday, representatives said they had not heard about the petition and would not provide a comment. They did say the district was already mixing more surface water into the supply that does not contain PFCs.

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