Sewage lagoons to be upgraded below ski resort — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

November 25, 2014
Wastewater Treatment Process

Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Work to upgrade two sewage treatment lagoons below Powderhorn Mountain Resort could begin soon with state officials monitoring the process closely. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a notice of violation in September to Grand Mesa Metropolitan District No. 2 for concentrations of ammonia in the lagoons that exceeded the limits of the permit for the facility. There are no allegations that the district released polluted water into a nearby stream.

“We did receive the notice and we knew it was coming,” said Larry Beckner, attorney for the district.

The metro district began working about four months ago with Westwater Engineers in Grand Junction to upgrade the lagoons to meet current standards, Beckner said. The 1968 sewage-treatment system was to have been replaced by a new system to accommodate expected growth. That growth, however, hasn’t taken place. The treatment system, meanwhile, was to have been upgraded to meet standards that took effect in July 2010. The permit was administratively continued in 2012, Beckner said.

The current permit for the water-treatment system included a compliance schedule to meet ammonia concentration limits, said Megan Trubhee, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division.

“The metro district failed to complete those upgrades,” she said.

The district is completing an evaluation of the facility, Trubhee said.

Metropolitan districts are established under state statutes to finance community planning and infrastructure projects, including initial construction of streets and some utilities.

Treated water from the lagoons is discharged into nearby Big Beaver Creek, which runs through pasture and farmland below, Beckner said.

There has been no discussion about whether the health department would levy a fine in the case, Beckner said.

The health department’s primary focus is to work with ​the district to ensure that compliance with the discharge ​permit ​requirements ​and Colorado’s Water Quality Control Act​ is achieved in a timely manner​ and no evaluation of potential penalties had yet been made, Trubhee said.

Violations of the Water Quality Control Act can result in fines of up to $10,000 per day.

More wastewater coverage here.


Water reuse: “It’s not a question of ‘Can we do it?’ We can do it” — John Rehring #COWaterPlan

November 23, 2014

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado water providers facing a shortfall…are turning to a long-ignored resource: wastewater.

They’re calculating that, if even the worst sewage could be cleaned to the point it is safe to drink — filtered through super-fine membranes or constructed wetlands, treated with chemicals, zapped with ultraviolet rays — then the state’s dwindling aquifers and rivers could be saved.

Colorado officials at work on the first statewide water plan to sustain population and industrial growth recognize reuse as an option.

“We need to go as far and as fast as we can on water-reuse projects,” Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund said.

But there’s no statewide strategy to do this.

Other drought-prone states, led by Texas, are moving ahead on wastewater conversion to augment drinking-water supplies.

Several obstacles remain: huge costs of cleaning, legal obligations in Colorado to deliver water downstream, disposal of contaminants purged from wastewater, and safety.

Local water plans recently submitted by leaders in five of Colorado’s eight river basins all call for reuse, along with conservation and possibly capturing more snowmelt, to address the projected 2050 shortfall.

Front Range utilities will “push the practical limit” in reusing water, according to the plan for the South Platte River Basin, which includes metro Denver. The Arkansas River Basin plan relies on reuse “to the maximum potential.”

Western Slope authorities in the Gunnison, Yampa and Colorado river basins contend Front Range residents must reuse all available wastewater as a precondition before state officials consider new trans-mountain projects.

The emerging Colorado Water Plan, to be unveiled Dec. 10, remains a general guide, lacking details such as how much water is available. Nor does this 358-page draft plan specify how much of Colorado’s shortfall can be met by reuse.

Water industry leaders urge an aggressive approach. Colorado officials should determine how much water legally can be reused and analyze how this could boost supplies, WateReuse Association director Melissa Meeker said in a letter to the CWCB. Colorado’s strategy “should be crafted to encourage innovation and creativity in planning reuse projects.”

Cleaning up wastewater to the point it can be reused as drinking water long has been technically feasible. Water already is recycled widely in the sense that cities discharge effluent into rivers that becomes the water supply for downriver communities.

Cleaning systems

In 1968, utility operators in Windhoek, Namibia, a desert nation in Africa, began cleaning wastewater and pumping it into a drinking-water system serving 250,000 people.

Denver Water engineers in the 1980s pioneered a multiple-filter cleaning system at a federally funded demonstration plant. From 1985 to 1991, Denver Water used wastewater to produce 1 million gallons a day of drinking water, which proved to be as clean as drinking water delivered today.

Delegations of engineers from Europe and the Soviet Union visited.

“There was a sense we were ahead,” said Myron Nealey, a Denver Water engineer who worked on the project.

But utility leaders scrapped it, partly out of fear that customers would object to drinking water that a few hours earlier might have been flushed from a toilet. They also were struggling to dispose of thousands of gallons a day of purged contaminants — a super-concentrated salty mix that must be injected into deep wells or buried in landfills. [ed. emphasis mine]

So Denver Water has focused instead on recycling wastewater solely for irrigation, power-plant cooling towers and other nonpotable use. An expanding citywide network of separate pipelines distributes this treated wastewater — 30 million gallons a day.

“Reuse is definitely a way to maximize the use of the water we have,” said Jim Lochhead, manager of Denver Water and former natural resources director for the state.

“We’re in the exploration stage of trying to analyze what are the options for various types of reuse,” Lochhead said. “What’s the most effective? What’s the least costly? What’s the most secure?”

Meanwhile, drought and population growth in Texas have spurred construction of water-cleaning plants at Wichita Falls and Big Spring. Engineers have installed water-quality monitoring and testing systems sensitive enough to track the widening array of pathogens, suspended particles and hard-to-remove speciality chemicals found in wastewater.

A Texas state water plan calls for increasing reuse of wastewater eightfold by 2060. The New Mexico town of Cloudcroft is shifting to reuse as a solution to water scarcity. And California cities hurt by and vulnerable to drought, including San Diego, are considering wastewater conversion for drinking water.

Costs can be huge, depending on the level of treatment. Water industry leaders estimate fully converted wastewater costs at least $10,000 per acre-foot (325,851 gallons).

By comparison, increased conservation, or using less water, is seen as the cheapest path to making more water available to prevent shortages. The most costly solution is building new dams, reservoirs and pipelines that siphon more water from rivers.

Colorado also faces legal constraints. The first-come-first-serve system of allocating water rights obligates residents who rely on diverted water from rivers to return that water, partially cleaned, to the rivers to satisfy rights of downriver residents and farmers.

However, much of the Colorado River Basin water diverted through trans-mountain pipelines has been deemed available for reuse. Western Resource Advocates experts estimate more than 280,000 acre-feet may be available. In addition, water pumped from underground aquifers — the savings account that south Denver suburbs have been tapping for decades — is available for reuse.

Indirect reuse

While nobody in Colorado has embarked on direct reuse of treated wastewater, Aurora and other cities have begun a form of indirect reuse that involves filtering partially treated wastewater through river banks. This water then is treated again at Aurora’s state-of-the-art plant. Cleaned wastewater then is blended with water from rivers to augment municipal supplies.

The most delicate challenge has been dealing with safety — making sure engineered water-cleaning systems are good enough to replace nature’s slow-but-sure settling and filtration.

While industry marketers focus on semantics to try to make people feel more comfortable — rejecting phrases such as “toilet to tap” to describe reuse — engineers are honing the systems.

They envision early-detection and shut-off mechanisms that quickly could stop contaminants left in water from reaching people. They aim for filtration and other advanced treatment sufficient to remove the multiplying new contaminants found in urban wastewater. Cleaning water increasingly entails removal of plastic beads used in personal-care products; mutating viruses; resistent bacteria; synthetic chemicals such as herbicides; ibuprofen; birth control; anti-depressants; and caffeine.

“That’s the whole job of treatment and monitoring, to remove pathogens and other contaminants to where it is safe to drink,” said John Rehring of Carollo Engineers, a Denver-based expert on water reuse.

“It’s not a question of ‘Can we do it?’ We can do it,” he said. “And because of growing affordability and public acceptance, we’re starting to see it implemented.”


San Juan Basin: “Compliance with [federal salinity discharge standards] is impossible” — Ron Rosen

November 20, 2014
Wastewater Treatment Process

Wastewater Treatment Process

From the Farmington Daily Times (Dan Schwartz):

A city contractor says Farmington is seeking an exemption from a federal law regulating San Juan River salinity levels.

Compliance with the law — which the city is violating — is impossible, said Ron Rosen, project director for CH2M Hill, an agency contracted to operate the city’s water and sewage treatment plants.

“We’ve been really aggressive. We’ve done everything (the Environmental Protection Agency has) told us to do,” Rosen said.

The main cause of the pollution, he said, is domestic water softeners. They discharge salt into the city’s sewer system, which the Wastewater Treatment Plant then discharges into the San Juan River.

The city is currently testing whether softening water at its treatment plants could reduce its drinking water’s hardness, allowing residents to shut off their water softeners.

In 2005, the EPA began regulating the levels of salt that industries and cities discharge into the Colorado River Basin. The largest river in the basin, the Colorado River, winds about 1,400 miles from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. The San Juan River is one of its major tributaries.

The regulations date back to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty and were amended many times before they became law in 1974, when Congress enacted the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act.

Now, for Farmington to consistently comply with the law, it would have to spend $60 million to $70 million — an engineering firm’s estimate — and the city can’t afford to do that, Rosen said. The EPA could fine the city $27,500 a day for the violation, but it hasn’t yet, he said.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.


CDPHE extends Durango’s wastewater treatment compliance deadline by 6 years

October 29, 2014
Durango

Durango

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

While all the estimated $55 million upgrades will have to be made, the state health department agreed to extend the city’s deadline until 2023, City Manager Ron LeBlanc announced Tuesday night.

As a result, the city will be able to rethink its steep 2015 sewer-rate increases. City Council had been told the plant would need 80 percent more revenue in 2015 to fund all the needed projects and to finance a bond issue.

“The pressure to rush to an 80 percent increase has now been alleviated,” LeBlanc said.

Under the law, if the wastewater-treatment plant did not meet all the new regulations by December 2017, the plant would face consent order. Under this order, the city would not be allowed to issue more sewer taps and could face hefty fines.

Under the extension, the city will have to adhere to a schedule to come into compliance and limit the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen in the water. These two chemicals need to be reduced to curb imbalances in the environment.

Also, the city now will have more time to consider potentially relocating the plant further south away from town or another location. Councilor Christina Rinderle has been encouraging her peers to consider this alternative.

“It’s an opportunity to really think through these major investments,” LeBlanc said.

More wastewater coverage here.


Durango faces possible $55 million in wastewater plant upgrades

October 22, 2014
Wastewater Treatment Process

Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

In addition to the staggering estimate, the construction must be completed by December 2017 to meet state regulations for higher water quality.

Currently, the plant is releasing more nitrogen and phosphorous into the Animas River than the new regulations allow.

If the plant does not meet the new rules, it could be placed under a consent order by the state and will not be allowed to build any more sewer taps. This would halt any city growth. It could also equate to a $25,000 daily fine, said Utilities Director Steve Salka.

The regulations were approved in 2012 because high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous causes algae to bloom faster than ecosystems can handle. Too much algae deprives fish and other aquatic life of oxygen, said Meghan Trubee, community relations liaison for the Colorado Water Quality Control Division.

“We’re affecting the base of the food cycle in the wild,” said John Sandhaus, wastewater treatment plant superintendent for the city of Durango.

To remove what is effectively too much fertilizer, the sewer plant will need greater capacity and new technology, he said.

The upgrades should make the plant quieter and reduce the sickening smell that occasionally wafts across Santa Rita Park.

“If this plant is built the way we suggest it be built, you won’t even know it’s here,” Salka said.

Designs include 11 new structures, including a new administration building that may be built near the park to distance the public from the process, Salka said.

The capacity of the plant also will be increased from 3 millions gallons of water per day to 4 million, so it would be prepared for growth.

The new structures will add more equipment to almost every step of the treatment process.

When raw sewage enters the plant, it flows into a headworks building where the current flow-measurement device is too small to handle peak times. It also violates state standards because it cannot be cleaned or calibrated because it is underneath the concrete floor, Sandhaus said.

Once inorganic matter is removed, the waste flows into stilling basins, called primary clarifiers. Here, solid waste is separated from the liquid waste. These would not be replaced, but they would be covered with domes to filter the air.

The water then flows into an aeration basin where micro-organisms digest the waste in the water.

“We call ourselves bug farmers,” Sandhaus joked, while looking out across the dark-brown bubbling basins.

Four new aeration basins must be built with about five times the capacity of the existing basins, Sandhaus said.

Management also plans to replace the blowers that pump air into the basins from direct current to alternating current for efficiency, Salka said.

Solids are then removed from the water again in secondary basins, and the plant will need two more of these basins.

The water is then sterilized with ultraviolet light. A secondary sterilizer will be part of the upgrades because the plant is violating state regulations without one.

Sludge is processed separately from water in a digester. Much as the name suggests, here micro-organisms feed on the waste. The upgrades call for another digester that will prevent the stench currently caused by cleaning and maintenance.

Under the plan, processed waste will be dried in another new building. Here, human waste will be turned into dry pellets that can be sold as fertilizer.

Currently, the plant produces four to five tanker truck loads a day of mostly water mixed with 2.5 percent processed human waste. The plant pays $250,000 a year to truck this waste away.

The preliminary designs also call for a station where restaurants could send grease instead of pouring it down a drain. This can be used to increase the production of methane and produce more electricity.

All of these improvements would be scheduled, so that the plant can continue processing waste during construction. April 2016 is the earliest that construction may start.

More wastewater coverage here.


In Praise of Wastewater Managers

August 29, 2014

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

August is National Water Quality month.  This Sunday, August 31 is the 160th anniversary of the outbreak of one of the worst cholera epidemics to hit London – an epidemic that ultimately led to the identification of contaminated water as a conduit for the disease.

Humans have always sought sources of drinking water, and some water clearly looks and tastes better.  But we didn’t always understand that the wrong water could make us sick.

Where Does Your Water Come From?

Before I came to CFWE, I worked as a historical interpreter.  Whether wearing pioneer or Civil War-era dress, I always got the same question – “Don’t you wish you lived back then?”  And my answer was always no.  When asked why I prefer the present, the first thing on my list is always indoor plumbing.

Jennie Geurts before she joined CFWE - the clothes were pretty, but the water quality could be deadly. Jennie Geurts before she joined CFWE – the clothes were pretty, but the water quality…

View original 1,154 more words


Cortez Sanitation District gives some businesses a break on rates

August 26, 2014
Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker):

The Cortez Sanitation District will provide temporary relief to dozens of local businesses that saw sewer rates spike 100 percent or more this year…

The CSD resolution states it is “fair, equitable and in the public interest to limit any rate increase to 100 percent in any one calendar year.” Teresa Wlodyka, owner of the Tomahawk Lodge on South Broadway, is among 54 customers to be impacted by the resolution. Rate changes should be reflected in September bills…

CSD manager Tim Krebs said the adjusted rates could remain in effect for 12 months.

“The board can adjust rates at any time,” said Krebs. “We just wanted to give some relief to those who were affected above 100 percent.”

The resolution also states “rates being adjusted down are subject to up to another 100 percent per calendar year until their rates meet the current SFE schedule.” Krebs said that if a customer’s previous bill, for example, was $100 per month, the stipulation allows the board to increase the bill to $200 per month next year and even up to $400 per month the following year.

“The rates need to eventually meet the same rate schedule everyone else is being billed from,” said Krebs.

Approved by a 3-1 margin, the resolution is forecast to cost the district $68,589, but save business owners $56,628 and public entities $11,961. Board member John Stramel voted against the measure. Board member John Candelaria was absent from the public hearing.

More infrastructure coverage here.


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