EPA and Navajo Nation EPA Enter Historic Agreements with Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to Halt Water Pollution

Grand Falls Little Colorado River
Grand Falls Little Colorado River

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Soledad Calvino/Rick Abasta):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation EPA announced a pair of settlements with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to bring its wastewater treatment facility in Window Rock into compliance both with the federal Clean Water Act and the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act.

EPA’s agreement backs up a recent ground-breaking NNEPA settlement that required the NTUA to pay a $25,000 penalty. This is the first time that a tribally-owned entity has paid a penalty for violations of the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act. The NTUA has committed to bring the Window Rock facility into full compliance by December 31, 2015, or face additional penalties. NTUA has also agreed to build new infrastructure for the treatment plant at the site.

“For over 35 years we have partnered with the Navajo Nation to protect public health and the environment,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA applauds the Navajo Nation EPA for its leadership in setting this precedent that protects the Nation’s precious water resources.”

“The Navajo Nation Clean Water Act was created to protect the public health and the environment. These laws must be complied with by everyone within the Navajo Nation,” said Dr. Donald Benn, Executive Director of NNEPA. “The Window Rock Facility was out of compliance for a long time, prompting NNEPA’s Water Quality program to initiate an enforcement action. The parties have reached an agreement and Navajo EPA appreciates the cooperation by NTUA to implement a long term goal for compliance.”

An EPA inspection revealed that since at least 2011 NTUA had been discharging pollutants above its permit limits to Black Creek, a tributary of the Puerco River that feeds into the Little Colorado River. Other violations of the NTUA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit included its failure to submit complete and timely reports while inadequately operating and maintaining its existing treatment system. The plant collects and treats sanitary sewage from a population of about 13,300 in Apache County, Ariz., within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.

The settlements require the NTUA to conduct sampling, submit quarterly reports, train and certify the plant’s operators, and hold regular compliance meetings with senior officials of EPA and NNEPA. The NTUA will also submit a plan for EPA and NNEPA’s approval for the construction of an entirely new treatment plant including a detailed schedule for commissioning and bringing the new facility on-line. Approximately $10 million in funding for the new facility was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Loans and Grants Program

For more information on EPA’s Clean Water Act NPDES program, please visit: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/

For more information on EPA’s Region 9 Tribal Program, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region9/tribal/

For more information on Navajo Nation EPA, please visit: http://navajonationepa.org/ or call the Administration Office for assistance at (928) 871-7692.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here

Sump pumps hooked directly to wastewater lines a headache in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com
Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):

…some incorrectly installed sump pumps in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood, around Colorado Avenue and 31 Street, have caused Colorado Springs Utilities’ wastewater lines to overflow with groundwater.

Utilities crews have worked for the last two weeks to remove some water from overloaded wastewater systems before the contaminated water overflows manholes and rushes into the street, said Utilities spokesman Steve Berry.

Pumps hooked up directly to the wastewater system are a problem for Utilities and homeowners.

“The number one risk is really for the customer,” Berry said Tuesday. “If the sump pump is hooked up to the wastewater system … then the biggest threat is really to your home.”

If excess groundwater gets pushed into the wastewater system, it could backfire and send water back into a home or a neighboring home, Berry said…

Sump pumps are supposed to discharge excess groundwater outside a home, typically through a pipe that dumps into a yard. But, particularly in older neighborhoods such as Pleasant Valley, sometimes the pumps are connected directly to a home’s wastewater line, which connects to Utilities’ wastewater main.

Homeowners own their wastewater lines and are responsible for maintaining them, and if damage on the private line affects the main Utilities line, homeowners could be liable, Berry said. He said homeowners should make sure pumps are correctly installed, although most will likely have to hire someone to check the system.

“These folks don’t even know, and it’s certainly not their fault, but now they need to,” Berry said.

More wastewater coverage here.

Colorado’s Water Plan and WISE water infrastructure — The Denver Post

WISE System Map September 11, 2014
WISE System Map September 11, 2014

From The Denver Post (James Eklund/Eric Hecox):

The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) project is a partnership among Aurora Water, Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority to combine available water supplies and system capacities to create a sustainable new water supply. Aurora and Denver will provide fully treated water to South Metro Water on a permanent basis. WISE also will enable Denver Water to access its supplies during periods when it needs to.

All of this will be accomplished while allowing Aurora to continue to meet its customers’ current and future needs.

Aurora’s Prairie Waters system will provide the backbone for delivering water from the South Platte when Aurora and Denver Water have available water supplies and capacity. The water will be distributed to the South Metro Denver communities through an existing pipeline shared with Denver and East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District, and new infrastructure that will be constructed over the next 16 months…

WISE is a key element to this plan. With construction agreements in place, we will break ground in coming weeks to begin connecting water systems throughout the Denver Metro area. When WISE begins delivering water in 2016:

• The South Denver Metro area will receive a significant new renewable water supply;

• Denver will receive a new backup water supply;

• Aurora will receive funding from partners to help offset its Prairie Waters Project costs and stabilize water rates; and

• The Western Slope will receive new funding, managed by the River District, for water supply, watershed and water quality projects.

More WISE Project coverage here.

Fountain Creek District meeting recap

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A debate over water quality on Fountain Creek in Pueblo County bubbled over into last week’s meeting of a district formed to improve Fountain Creek.

Pueblo Wastewater Director Gene Michael told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District that studies by the city show no clear link between increased development and increased amounts of selenium in the water supply.

He said information from some city studies was misinterpreted at a recent function of the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum and he wanted to clear the air for the Fountain Creek district.

“There’s no way to measure what the selenium was 100 years ago,” Michael said. He explained there simply was no technology to measure parts per billion at the time. “The levels in 1981, when it was first measured, were higher than today.”

Selenium is known to accumulate in the Pueblo area because of water flowing over the Pierre shale formations.

The arguments are crucial to a case Pueblo is trying to make with the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission that it should have a specific discharge variance. An April hearing on the issue was postponed.

Pueblo maintains that it removes some selenium from groundwater intercepted in its treatment plant under a temporary modification. The ambient concentration of selenium in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River near Pueblo is more than three times the EPA’s numeric standard, 4.6 parts per billion, he said.

The discussion touched a political nerve with the Pueblo city and county representatives on the Fountain Creek board.

“This is an interesting discussion to have with the Water Quality Commission,” said County Commissioner Terry Hart. The commissioners have supported a numeric standard on Fountain Creek, largely because of dealings with Colorado Springs Utilities for increased releases related to the Southern Delivery System. “My feeling is that we study it, find out where it is coming from and take it out.”

“It’s important to discuss it,” said City Councilman Dennis Flores, who invited Michael to speak at Friday’s meeting. He noted that the Pueblo Area Council of Governments supported the city of Pueblo 9-2, with two county commissioners in opposition. “I feel strongly about this and think it’s important.”

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.

Greeley pursues $8 million bond project for sewer system improvements — The Greeley Tribune

sewerusa

From The Greeley Tribune (Trenton Sperry):

At its regular meeting this week, the council introduced an ordinance allowing the city to sell $7.5 million in bonds in May. The bond revenues would be used to fund improvements to the city’s sewer system, marking Greeley’s first issuance of sewer debt since 1994.

Greeley’s annual debt payments — estimated at $550,000 for the next 20 years — would be funded by current sewer user fees, according to the ordinance.

Victoria Runkle, Greeley’s finance director and assistant city manager, said rate increases for Greeley’s sewer customers may be on the horizon, but they would adhere to the city’s current rate schedule, which raises rates by about 2 percent to 3 percent each year.

“We assume we will have to raise rates over time,” Runkle said. “Will that actually come to pass? That will depend on if revenues continue as they are. There have been years when we didn’t raise rates.”

In a draft of the bond project’s official statement, the city claims Greeley’s single-family residential customers paid less for sewer services than 17 of 24 Front Range municipalities surveyed in fall 2014. However, the city will be required to raise rates, fees or charges to balance debt payments as needed.

The bonds are being considered to help Greeley make needed upgrades to the sewer system more quickly, Runkle said.

“We’re not earning enough interest on the money we have in cash funds,” she said. “Interest rates are very low. We’re only able to make about 2 percent on cash reserves, but construction costs are up to 4 or 5 percent.”

Portions of Greeley’s sewer system date to 1889, according to the ordinance, and about 4 percent of the current system is more than 100 years old.

More infrastructure coverage here.

La Junta sewer rates to increase January 1, 2016

sewerusa

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Candi Hill):

The La Junta Utilities Board approved a resolution Tuesday that sets new sewer rates for La Junta customers. The rates go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

The per-month rates are as follows:

Residential Rates — $42.37

Residential West Side Rates (all residential units used as commercial rentals) – $64
Commercial/Municipal/Industrial/Large Customer Rates (all non-residential customers) – $59.21 … unless adjusted. For current commercial users, the adjusted charge shall be computed using the 12-month average water consumption from January through December of the prior year. Commercial accounts will be adjusted annually. A new commercial or industrial account shall be charged a sewer rate of $120 until the annual rate can be established using three months’ usage.

The commercial, municipal, industrial and large customer sewer rate is calculated as follows – Over 7,000 gallons: $3.50/1,000 gallons

Commercial West Side Rates – $89

The commercial West Side Sewer rate is calculated as follows – Over 7,000 gallons: $5.20/1,000 gallons
The minimum rate regardless of water use of residential, multi-dwelling, mobile home and commercial units will be $42.37 per month beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

The rate increase ties in with the city’s process of obtaining a loan to improve the city’s wastewater facilities. City Attorney Phil Malouff said the people who are going to purchase the bonds for the up to $14.2 million loan want to know there’s a minimum amount of revenue coming in from customers. These rates will establish that minimum amount of cash flow. The city has an obligation under the loan agreement and the bond, according to a resolution authorizing City Council to approve the loan, to constitute a revenue obligation of the city payable solely from the pledged property of the wastewater enterprise fund and will not create a debt or indebtedness of the city.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Mosca wastewater project progressing — the Valley Courier

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From the Valley Courier (Phil Ray Jack):

Alamosa County Commissioners (ACC) received an update on the Mosca Wastewater Infrastructure Improvement Project Wednesday.

“The project is moving forward,” Rachel Baird reported , “and we are in the process of applying for the additional funding it will take to complete it.”

In January, the commissioners approved a $1.4 million plan for a new wastewater treatment system in Mosca. For years now, the small community located in northern Alamosa County has wrestled with a failing sewage system and the threats to public health caused by it.

According to some reports , the system has been in disarray for two nearly two decades, threatening residents’ health because the sewage is not being adequately treated before being discharged, and leaching into the area surrounding existing septic tanks. Seven of the 10 septic/leach fields systems have wells located within the minimum 100 foot setback distance, which makes them highly susceptible to contamination.

A preliminary engineering report describing the proposed system had been presented to the county during a previous meeting. Mosca’s new wastewater system will consist of three parts: a collection system, a wastewater treatment facility and a discharge system.

Ken Van Iwarden, who is representing Alamosa County in the process, explained that groundwater tests were conducted on March 17 by the Colorado Water Association. The results will not be known but will provide more information that will help with determining what type of system will be appropriate for the project.

Until the project is completed , the county will continue to regularly pump the failing system because there is no other option, costing county taxpayers upwards of $50,000 annually.

More wastewater coverage here.