#COWaterPlan: Pueblo area lawmakers weigh in

Photo via the Colorado Independent
Photo via the Colorado Independent

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado’s Water Plan was ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2013, and completed last year by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

It built on 10 years of efforts by nine basin roundtables and the Interbasin Compact Committee, a 26-member panel representing diverse political and geographic areas across the state.

One hiccup in the plan came in 2014, when some members of the state Legislature demanded a more active role, perhaps ignoring that the engine driving the train was conceived and constructed by lawmakers in 2005. In the end, most lawmakers have concrete ideas on how to move the plan ahead in years to come in a cooperative way.

In the final plan, the emphasis is on both state and local responses to water needs, it calls for new revenue — $3 billion by 2050 — which will certainly require cooperation from the Legislature. Sprinkled throughout the plan are recommended regulatory changes as well, all of concern to lawmakers.

The Pueblo Chieftain, working with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, reached out to state lawmakers from the Pueblo area to get their ideas on how the water plan will be implemented. Responding were Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo; Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa; Rep. Clarice Navarro, RPueblo; and Rep. Daneya Esgar, DPueblo.

How do we fill the gap in the Arkansas River Basin within the Colorado Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plan?

Garcia:

“It depends on the basin, because each one is different.

“As I talk to my colleagues, everyone has a unique perspective in the state Legislature. I think there’s a lot to be celebrated. The state has put forward a good plan, but it’s a challenge because each basin is different.”

Crowder:

“With a projected population of 10 million people in 2050, Colorado’s Water Plan attempts to study and prepare for the future. Since agriculture uses 86 percent of the state’s water, the pressure for transfer will increase. A 560,000 acre-foot shortage is predicted by 2030 for municipal and industrial uses. Conservation, storage, transfers, and other issues are an ongoing discussion.

Recreation in this state is estimated at $7 billion-8 billion per year on nonconsumptive use of our water. . . .

“There are issues in which need continuing monitoring such as, in 2013 alone, more than 13,500 acre-feet of water was lost in Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs due to faulty infrastructure. Broken water mains, leakage, malfunctioning meters and waste caused nearly 4 billion gallons of water to be lost before it ever reached these cities’ 2.1 million residents. . . .

Therefore, it is my strong belief that upgrading the metro areas’ antique water delivery systems is the better way to ensure urban residents have an adequate water supply.”

Navarro:

“The water plan talks about three main objectives which will all help meet the gap between our current water supply and our projected need. Efficiency is one of those components and we, indeed, need to get better at efficiency.

Conservation is another component which would help. Everyone needs to be aware of how to better use their water.

“For example, when people are watering their yards or businesses we shouldn’t see water running down pavement.

The third component is storage. We can become more efficient, and we can conserve, but if we have no place to keep that water for future needs, we have done it all in vain. Although new storage is an option, so is expanding existing storage and we should not forget about underground storage. All three are key to meet our future water needs.”

Esgar:

“I’m not sure that we will ever ‘fill’ the gap in the Arkansas River Basin. The water in the basin is already spoken for and appropriated, and the population of Colorado just continues to climb. I’m not convinced that we will ever be able to fill the supply of water that we need to sustain this growing population, so we must find ways to keep the water we do have, and to keep the gap from spreading even more.

“We need to be creative and diligent when it comes to the Arkansas River Basin. We need to be able to find innovative ways to conserve, store and repurpose the water we do have in our basin.

“One of the ways I’ve heard to accomplish this goal is to really look at responsible storage and flow for the entire area.

Agriculture depends on the water for farms and livestock, consumers depend on the water for their gardens and lawns, and our economy and Colorado lifestyles depend on the water for recreation throughout the entire Arkansas River Basin.”

What projects do you plan to fill the gap?

Garcia:

“Every approach will depend on the basin, and I don’t have any specific projects in mind. It will take a robust conversation.

In general, I would say we need to look at fixing the gap when it’s smaller, because that’s easier than watching it grow.

“I was talking to someone about the evaporative losses in Lake Pueblo. I’m a big fan of the reservoir and it’s no secret I use it to go fishing and boating with my boys and wife.

Lake Pueblo is a unique community gem that’s a destination for the entire state of Colorado.

“People take for granted the valuable resource we have and we need to be prepared so we don’t lose it to other uses. I think increasing storage could be a huge economic benefit.”

Crowder:

“It may easier to expand existing storage capabilities than creating new storage, and this is being looked at under the plan. I would like to see how the mitigation of Fountain Creek by Colorado Springs is going to prevent the devastation to the Arkansas River.

“Transferring water out of the basin is certainly not in the area’s best interest. A continuation of funding in water conservation districts is imperative under the circumstances.

Navarro:

“There are a number of opportunities for efficiency and conservation projects that can, and should be used by residents as well as businesses. Those would not only help with the water shortages, but it would also save money.

Many people are already realizing the benefits of xeriscaping and droughtresistant lawns, and as others see the results, the trend will be to do the same.

“When it comes to projects regarding storage, there are a number of small projects that have been talked about for years. Our basin roundtable is already talking about which options may be best to try and move forward on, and as to how to incentivize efficiencies and conservation. They are the experts and I will listen to them on how to best prioritize our water gap.

Esgar:

“As a state representative, I plan to work closely with the experts on water in Colorado, farmers, ranchers, and the conservation community to find the right projects to help stop the gap from getting bigger for the Arkansas River Basin. We have to have honest conversations and collaboration to keep the water in our basin.”

How do we keep the gaps for agriculture and municipalities from becoming bigger?

Garcia:

“Agriculture has a big target on its back, and I don’t think people appreciate the benefit it has to downstream users. We need a regional approach that involves the entire basin.

Crowder:

“Snowpack is always the predominate issue. “1. Municipalities need to make sure that their replacement decrees are in place to adequately serve their purposes. Inhouse water will always be available, but domestic use may not “2. Technology and advanced water practices for consumptive use should be studied and implemented.

“3. The conduit should be promoted for better quality water needs and conservation.

“4. The number one water right should be protected and that is the interstate compact.

“5. The prior appropriation rule of law for Colorado users should be adhered to.

“6. Updating canal by-laws is a very useful tool in protecting water transfers.”

Navarro:

“The water plan outlined those problems and those three main ideas are important for both agriculture and municipalities. Water storage needs to be that leveling factor to help us keep the water that we are entitled to use. When the river runs high, we need to keep that water so that we can use it when the river is limited.

It makes absolutely no sense to send extra water to Kansas when we have needs here.

“While agriculture has led the charge in becoming more efficient, they will need to find ways to produce more with less.

Incidentally, agriculture has done that very well over the last century.

Municipalities have also done a good job at creating incentives and finding ways to be more efficient. However, both will need to do even more in the future to meet the growing demands.”

Esgar:

”We need to depend on science to help us better use water that is allocated to Colorado’s important agricultural needs. As water shortages across America continue, there will be new and innovative ways to water crops and livestock. Colorado needs to be sure that we really look and see if these new methods could work here.

“When it comes to municipalities, we need to do a better job of educating consumers when it comes to conservation.

Folks didn’t completely understand why the rain barrel bill was so important to me. The simple tool of a 55-gallon barrel that collects rain that would have ran directly to the gutter, helps people understand how much water they may actually be consuming. Also, we need to be innovative when it comes to landscaping. I know that Coloradoans love their lawns, I do, too, but we have to have real conversations about more water-conscious ways to landscape our beautiful neighborhoods.”

PFC pollution’s 800 pound gorilla — what are the costs for clean up?

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Government agencies are just beginning to scratch the surface of costs incurred by a frustratingly hardy, toxic chemical polluting waterways across the U.S.

Air Force officials already expect to spend more than $400 million to study the chemical’s use in a firefighting foam at nearly 200 sites and replace it. Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy are on that list.

And on a local level, officials for water districts serving Security, Widefield and Fountain say they also may have to pay millions of dollars upgrading their water systems over the next few years to filter it out of tap water.

The tabs are expected to grow, and they don’t include costs associated with cleanup efforts. In one such project, the Air Force will pay $4.3 million to help filter well water across southeast El Paso County.

Nor does that tally include similar assessment efforts being conducted by the Navy and Army as well as clean up efforts in many other communities across the nation. One such study at Fort Carson had yet to start as of Wednesday.

All of it is for a chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency says may cause health ailments at levels no greater than a drop of water in a string of railroad tank cars 10 miles long.

“The fact that it doesn’t go away – it doesn’t degrade naturally, it stays in the environment – is a cause for concern,” said Daniel Medina, who is heading up the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s response.

The substance, called perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, remains unregulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the EPA has grown increasingly concerned about the substance.

In May, the EPA’s health advisory level dropped to 70 parts per trillion – leaving every well used by water districts in Security, Widefield and Fountain above the new limit.

The advisory was tailored to ensure it protected the most sensitive population – in this case, developing fetuses and breast-fed and bottle-fed infants. That means people using water below that level should not expect health effects, even if drinking that water over a lifetime, state and federal health officials said at a town hall Thursday.

Communities across the U.S. are grappling with the chemical.

To mitigate residents’ exposure here, local water officials have relied more heavily on surface water pumped in from the Pueblo Reservoir.

Doing so has limited the number of people receiving contaminated tap water to 10,000 to 15,000, said Tyson Ingels, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division.

Officials running local water districts are working to drop that number to zero, though it may take time. Projects underway or in development are unlikely to change how many people receive PFC-laden water this summer, water district officials say (see accompanying report).

In the meantime, people receiving water above the EPA’s new limit should consider other water sources – especially women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as infants, a Colorado health department official said Thursday.

The exact source of the PFCs in the Widefield aquifer remains unclear, though an Air Force official recently said that the chemicals possibly originated at Peterson Air Force Base.

From 1970 through the mid-1990s, firefighters at the base used a type of foam laden with the chemicals while training to extinguish high-intensity fires, such as during plane crashes.

Ever since then, firefighter have trained using water in a lined basin. It still has the firefighting foam that contains PFCs, but it is only used in emergency situations, Medina said.

The Air Force has spent more than $137 million through Thursday as part of an effort to study 191 sites across the nation where the foam is believed to have been used, Medina said. They include active duty and National Guard installations, as well as decommissioned bases.

So far, assessments have been completed at 96 percent of those sites, he said.

The Air Force also expects to spend another $271 million incinerating that foam and replacing it with another substance, Medina said. That effort is underway at Peterson, base officials said.

The price tag is expected to grow as more thorough assessments are ordered across the nation.

At Peterson, for example, officials plan to drill monitoring wells to pinpoint the source, and a draft report is due in March 2017.

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

#COWaterPlan racked up at least a $6 million tab — The Colorado Independent

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From the Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

Colorado taxpayers have spent at least $6 million on the state’s water plan, an eight-month-old document that has led to little, if any, real water policy action.

“That’s more than I expected,” said Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, a member of a legislative water committee that took public comment on the state water plan a year ago.

According to information obtained by The Colorado Independent, the price tag for the state’s first water plan is at least $5,964,227.

That amount doesn’t include hundreds, if not thousands of work-hours state employees at the Colorado Water Conservation Board spent combing through and responding to more than 30,000 public comments about early draft of the plan, which was finalized in November.

Nor does it include travel costs for CWCB employees. The board’s director, James Eklund, made more than 100 presentations on the water plan over the course of two years.

It also doesn’t include the travel or per diem costs for the 10-member legislative committee that visited nine communities throughout Colorado last year to gather public input on the plan.

According to Todd Hartman, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, “It is difficult to tease out [travel] costs related to plan due to the typically statewide and water-related nature of the CWCB’s work” and the interim water committee since in most cases the water plan would have been discussed as part of other discussions and conversations around water-related matters.

Some $287,263 in tax dollars paid for project management fees, layout, design, photography, printing and video production, as well as a rental fees for meeting spaces and an event at the Colorado History Center for the plan’s official roll-out last November.

According to the CWCB, $5,659,364 was spent by the state’s nine basin roundtables to develop the “implementation plans” that are the basis of the state water plan. These plans detail ways each region of the state would help to solve a potential one million acre-foot water storage projected by 2050.

An acre-foot of water is the amount of water it would take to cover Mile High Stadium from end zone to the other with a foot of water.

The basin roundtables are groups of water providers, as well as representatives of agricultural, environmental, recreational and other water users. The basins refer to eight major waterways in the state, plus a separate roundtable convened for the Denver metropolitan area.

Eight implementation plans were developed. The Denver and the South Platte roundtables collaborated on their plan, for a total cost of $2.2 million. But just how those dollars were spent is still unknown.
The other six roundtables collectively spent about $3.4 million to develop their plans.

Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat on the Joint Budget Committee, was taken back when informed about the costs, especially for the amounts tied to the basin roundtables.

“Where did they get the money?” he asked.

Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered Colorado’s first statewide water plan to ward against an impending water shortfall. By 2050, Colorado needs as much new water as it takes to serve about 2 million people.

They say the revised, 416-page document still is less of a plan than a water study — a detailed account of the struggles faced by water users throughout the state, painstakingly compiled by an administration more interested in making everyone feel heard than in making tough decisions.

Critics say the plan still lacks priorities and actionable specifics and that it fails to address the most practical question – how to pay for solutions. They’re also disappointed that it sets no clear expectations for how much, statewide, all of Colorado’s water users should be conserving.

#AnimasRiver: Long-term stabilization kicks off tomorrow at #GoldKingMine

Gold King Mine via Blog.YourColoradoWater.org
Gold King Mine via Blog.YourColoradoWater.org

From The Denver Post (Jesse Paul):

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday morning, specifically, it is mobilizing contractors to shore up the mine’s opening and the waste rock pile just outside the adit. The operations are expected to continue through October.

“We anticipate that the interim water treatment plant (below the Gold King) will continue to capture and treat any discharge from the mine,” the EPA said in a news release. “However, should any of this work impact downstream watersheds, EPA will notify stakeholders.”

The work will include installing steel bracing and concrete, the removal of waste sludge stored in the mine’s temporary water treatment plant and an analysis of how to move forward with water treatment in the long run.

With the beginning of the new initiative, the EPA is signaling it has heard the complaints of communities downstream of the mine who say they weren’t notified quickly of the Gold King disaster. The agency says it has an expansive notification plan in place to prevent any further communication issues.
Perhaps the biggest focus, however, of downstream stakeholders has been the still-leaching mine’s temporary water treatment plant. Officials have been worried about the EPA’s commitment to keep open the facility, which has been running since October.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Cory Gardner and local leaders for months have urged EPA officials to commit to keep this temporary plant running, and maybe expand it, until a federal Superfund cleanup of old mines is done.

The plant’s future, as of Friday, remained an unknown though the EPA said it has committed to taking a hard look — including public input — about how to proceed in the long-term. The plant will continue to operate as officials investigate alternatives.

Meanwhile the House of Representatives passed a funding bill for mine cleanups today. Here’s a report from Kate Magill writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., would create the Energy and Minerals Reclamation Foundation, which would be tasked with obtaining and using funds for the cleanup of abandoned coal mines, hard-rock mines and onshore oil and gas wells.

Hice’s legislation is part of a three-part bill package introduced to address abandoned mine cleanup. The other two bills include the Mining Schools Enhancement Act and the Locatable Minerals Claim Location and Maintenance Fees Act, which also includes good Samaritan language that was added by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez.

The Foundation Act specifically refers to mines that are located on federally managed lands. If created, the foundation would be a nonprofit corporation that would not be associated with an agency or government establishment. It would be led by a board of directors appointed by the Interior Department secretary.

The purpose of the foundation would be to obtain and administer private donations to be used for the “activities and services of the BLM,” according to the bill. In addition to the cleanup of abandoned mine sites and oil and gas wells, these activities include caring for wildlife habitats, National Conservation Lands, and cultural, recreation and historical resources. The foundation would also raise money for educational and technical resources to help with the management of the Bureau of Land Management.

Though Tipton supported Tuesday’s passage of the Foundation Act, he believes it is just the first step in the process of reclaiming abandoned mines, and it needs to be followed by the passage of good Samaritan legislation, according to Liz Payne, a spokesperson for Tipton.

Payne said it is a positive step to raise money to do site cleanup, but good Samaritan groups need liability coverage, a key component of the language Tipton added to legislation. Such coverage would protect groups that have the technical expertise to reclaim abandoned mine lands from being held completely liable for unforeseen problems such as a mine blowout.

Hice introduced the bill in part because of the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine spill, so that more private sector resources could be dedicated to cleanup efforts.

“By incorporating private sector policies and procedures, H.R. 3844, the Bureau of Land Management Foundation Act, revamps and improves the cleanup of contaminated water in abandoned mine sites,” Hice said in a statement following the passage of the bill.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it has been assigned to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Colorado abandoned mines
Colorado abandoned mines

There is little opposition to Superfund designation for the Bonita Peak Mining District according to Dan Elliot writing for the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

A proposal to deploy the powerful Superfund program to clean up leaky Colorado mines — including one that unleashed millions of gallons of wastewater last year — isn’t stirring up much passion, despite formidable resistance in the past.

Some people who live in the scenic southwest corner of the state feared a Superfund designation would scare off vital tourist traffic, even though dormant mines have been belching poisonous wastewater into rivers for years.

Others objected on the grounds that it was a federal intrusion. Some worried Superfund status, which delivers federal money up-front for extensive cleanups, would diminish the chances of mining making a comeback.

But as of Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had received only seven written comments opposing the planned cleanup, and 18 supporting it.

“I’ve gotten more letters to the editor on this topic,” said Mark Esper, editor of the Silverton Standard, a weekly newspaper in the heart of the storied mining district in the San Juan Mountains. “I’m a little bit surprised,” he said.

Since opening the public comment period in April, the EPA said, the agency has received a total of just 33 written comments , with 25 clearly for or against. Others made suggestions about specific sites or commented on other projects.

Monday is the deadline for the public to weigh in.

Opposition to a Superfund designation softened after a 3-million-gallon spill from the Gold King Mine on Aug. 5, 2015, even though it was an EPA-led crew that inadvertently triggered the blowout during a preliminary cleanup operation.

Many people came to believe only the federal government could pull off the sweeping cleanup that will be required, Esper said. The project is expected to cost millions and take years.

Silverton Town Administrator Bill Gardner said the scant comments might signal that residents had their say during months of public meetings.

“I’m hoping that people feel included and that their concerns have been heard,” he said.

Tainted wastewater from the Gold King reached the Animas River in Colorado and the San Juan River in New Mexico and Utah. The EPA estimates the spill sent 880,000 pounds of metals into the Animas, including arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc.

Water utilities shut down their intake valves and farmers stopped drawing from the rivers. The EPA says the water quality quickly returned to pre-spill levels.

After local officials and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper endorsed a Superfund cleanup, the EPA proposed the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund area in April. It encompasses 48 sites that spill a combined 5.4 million gallons of acidic waste daily, the agency said.

The EPA could formally create the Superfund district as early as this fall, after the agency reviews the comments and makes any changes to the plan.

If the area is designated a Superfund site, the EPA would examine the mountains for pollution sources and compile a list of cleanup alternatives. Long-term cleanup work would begin once the EPA chooses an alternative.

On April 7,  2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

2016 #coleg: Conservation Colorado hands bouquets to Democrats, rocks to Republicans — The Denver Post

Roan Cliffs Aerial via Rocky Mountain Wild
Roan Cliffs Aerial via Rocky Mountain Wild

Click here to go to the scorecard page on the @ConservationCO website.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Graded on 17 energy and environment bills picked by Conservation Colorado, 31 of 34 Democrats in the state House scored 100. Eleven of 17 Democrats in the Senate got perfect scores, as well.

On the Republican side, Rep. Kevin Priola scored the highest in his House caucus, 44 percent. Sens. Randy Baumgardner, Bill Cadman, Larry Crowder, Owen Hill, Ellen Roberts, Mark Scheffel and Jack Tate topped all party members in the upper chamber at 27 percent each.

Of the three Democrats who were less than perfect by Conservation Colorado’s grade, Rep. Ed Vigil scored the lowest, 67 percent, for his votes on three unsuccessful bills, House Bill 1441, requiring the Public Utilities Commission to consider the full cost of carbon for electricity generation; House Bill 1310 to make operators liable for oil and gas operations; and House Bill 1355 on local governments’ authority over where oil and gas facilities locate.

Reps. Millie Hamner and Paul Rosenthal each scored 89 percent. Rosenthal was docked for his vote on House Bill 1355. Hamner was flagged for voting against House Bill 1228, which became law and allows one-year water rights transfers.

In the Senate, Mary Hodge was the lowest scoring Democrat with 80 percent. She lost points on two bills. She voted with Republicans in favor of Senate Bill 007, which would have encouraged the use of biomass fuel for renewable energy generation in areas with high risk of wildfire.

She also voted in favor of Senate Bill 210, which would have allowed voters to decide whether to borrow money to expedite major road-and-bridge projects.

Democratic Sens. Kerry Donovan, Cheri Jahn, John Kefalas, Linda Newell and Nancy Todd each scored 91 percent. They also voted for Senate Bill 007, which passed the Senate 24-11, but was killed by a Democrat-led House committee.

The lowest scores in the Senate went to Republicans Kevin Grantham, Kent Lambert and Vicki Marble, each with a 9.

The lowest scores in the House, at 11 each, were assigned to Republicans Justin Everett, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Clarice Navarro and Jim Wilson.

SDS opens the tap for Security — The Pueblo Chieftain

All that was left at the end of 75 minutes of speeches was to have a sip of SDS water. Photo via the Colorado Springs Independent.
All that was left at the end of 75 minutes of speeches was to have a sip of SDS water. Photo via the Colorado Springs Independent.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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.

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

#Drought news: The Southwest Monsoon kicks up storms over most of #Colorado

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

A stationary front located over the central U.S., along with several systems dropping southeastward out of the Canadian Prairies, triggered widespread moderate to heavy (2 to 6 inches, locally up to 10 inches) showers and thunderstorms from eastern Colorado eastward into Kentucky. The wet and cool weather quickly dashed any thoughts of a possible July flash drought in the central Plains and Midwest. Decent rains (1-3 inches) also fell on parts of the north-central and south-central Plains, along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, the central Appalachians, parts of northern New England, and in southeastern Arizona as the monsoon commenced. Temperatures averaged much below normal (4 to 10 degF) in the Midwest, and subnormal in most of the Northeast, northern half of the Plains, and the Four Corners region. In contrast, seasonably dry and warm conditions enveloped the Far West, while portions of the southern Plains, Delta, and Southeast received little or no rain. Similarly, most of the upper Midwest, north-central Great Plains, Great Lakes region, and coastal New England saw minimal rainfall. Elsewhere, conditions were wet in interior Alaska, the windward sides of the Hawaiian Islands, and eastern Puerto Rico…

Plains

Scattered light showers (generally less than an inch) fell on most portions of the D0-D3 area in western South Dakota, southwestern North Dakota, northern Wyoming, and southeastern Montana, enough to maintain – but not improve – conditions from last week. An exception was in southwestern South Dakota where 2-3.5 inches of rain fell on southeastern Custer, Oglala Lakota, and Bennett counties, improving the area by 1 category. In northern Kansas, enough rain (1.5-2.5 inches) fell on Smith and Jewell counties to erase the D0; however, just to the west, Graham and Rooks counties missed the rain, and with 30-day dryness impacts occurring, D0 was added there. As mentioned in the Midwest summary, surplus rains eliminated much of the D0 in eastern Kansas. In north-central Oklahoma, heavy localized thunderstorms dropped 5-8.5 inches of rain on Osage and Pawnee counties, effectively ending the recently added D0 and D1 there. Farther west, the rains were less plentiful, so most D0 and D1 areas remained. Similarly, locally heavy rains also erased D0 in east-central Oklahoma, but dryness expanded eastward into west-central Arkansas where the rains missed. Drier weather in southern and central Texas during the 30-60 days is currently showing up in the SPIs as mild D0 with a few D1s, but seasonable temperatures have limited evapotranspiration rates across the state. As a compromise, D0 was added along the Rio Grande near Maverick County and immediate area where the indices had indicated as the worst spot in the short-term…

Northwest and Northern Rockies

July and August are normally the driest months of the year in the Pacific Northwest, so changes to the drought depiction are usually minor, if any. Similarly, precipitation typically decreases in the northern Rockies during the summer months, so deterioration is not common. However, the lack of rainfall over the past 30-90 days, along with bouts of above-normal temperatures and an early snow melt in the northern Rockies, has depleted soil moisture and lowered stream flows to much-below normal levels. As a result, D0 was added to portions of south-central and eastern Idaho. In coastal Oregon, although springtime precipitation is much lower than the winter, enough rain typically falls on coastal mountains to provide adequate stream flows. This spring, however, a lack of rain and occasional warmth has led to 90-day deficits of 3-6 inches and very low stream flows, thus D1 was added to coastal Oregon. Similar deficits existed in western Washington, but recent rains and lower temperatures were enough to temper the D1 expansion there for now…

California and the Great Basin

Little or no rain fell on California and much of the Great Basin, except for light monsoonal showers in eastern Nevada and western Utah. Since much of this region is climatologically dry and warm during the summer months, any drought degradation or improvement is highly unlikely in this region when dry is the norm, and any rain that falls quickly evaporates. Not surprisingly, no changes were made to the drought in California and the western Great Basin…

Southwest

The southwest monsoon kicked into gear around July 1 in Arizona, dropping light to moderate amounts (0.5-2 inches) of rain on southeastern and northwestern Arizona, southern Nevada, southern Utah, western New Mexico, and most of Colorado. With the increased moisture and cloud cover, temperatures also averaged slightly below normal. Since this was the first significant precipitation in southeastern Arizona and the D1 –D2 is long-term, it will take a few more events before any improvement is warranted there. Elsewhere, the rains were enough to prevent deterioration, but not great enough for any improvement. Therefore, no changes were made to the Southwest this week…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (July 7-11), moderate precipitation (more than an inch) should fall along the northern tier of States (Washington-Oregon eastward to New England), and in the northern and central Great Plains, Midwest, Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, and Appalachians. The greatest totals (more than 2.5 inches) were forecast for North Dakota, the western Corn Belt, the Tennessee Valley, and northern New England. Little or no precipitation was expected for the southwestern quarter of the Nation, the southern Plains, and Florida. Temperatures should average below-normal in the West, northern Plains, upper Midwest, and New England, with above-normal readings in the southern Plains and along the southern and mid-Atlantic Coast States.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for July 12-16 favors above-median precipitation along the U.S.-Canadian border, the Midwest, Tennessee Valley, southern Appalachians, and northern Alaska, with sub-median rainfall probable for most of the West and Rockies, south-central Plains, along the Gulf Coast, and in New England. Temperatures are likely to be subnormal in the northwestern quarter of the nation, while the odds favor above-normal readings in most of the eastern half of the U.S., southern Plains, and Alaska.