EPA awards $1.9 million to #Colorado School of Mines for water infrastructure research

Photo via Greg Hobbs
Photo via Greg Hobbs

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Lisa McClain-Vanderpool, Cathy Milbourn, Karen Gilbert):

[On May 4, 2016] the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3.9 million in funding to two institutions to research innovative, cost-effective technologies to manage stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows. Colorado School of Mines received $1.95M to develop a decision support tool to help communities evaluate alternative stormwater treatment technologies that consider diverse climates, regional practices and policies across the country. The tool will evaluate options and risks as well as life cycle costs associated with improving stormwater runoff management using green, gray and hybrid infrastructure. Colorado School of Mines will also create resources and hold workshops to conduct training sessions for these tools.

“EPA has done extensive research on green infrastructure to ensure the availability and quality of water in the United States,” said Thomas A. Burke, EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “These grants will take this work a step further by developing green infrastructure technologies and providing an understanding of the full costs of using these new technologies over time.”

As water flows through storm drains, it carries many pollutants that end up in streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans. Additionally, combined sewers carry sewage and stormwater runoff in the same pipe and when these exceed capacity, untreated water can be released into nearby waterways. Using the funding provided through these grants, researchers will produce tools and models to help communities evaluate the optimal mix of technologies that will treat stormwater with less energy, less expense and less burden on the environment. They will also research the possibility of reusing the cleaner water to help meet communities’ needs.

“Our decision support tool will help advance urban water management across the U.S. through integration of new green infrastructure technologies and by allowing decision makers to have access to state-of-the art tools, data sources and life cycle information” said Professor Terri Hogue, lead investigator at Colorado School of Mines.

Due to aging water infrastructure systems and regulatory requirements, stormwater management is an expensive challenge for many communities. The awardees will focus on the most cost-effective options like green infrastructure, practices that enhance natural ecological functions, such as growing gardens on roofs or building artificial ponds, to help manage stormwater and combined sewer overflows. Green infrastructure can replenish groundwater, provide flood control, add green spaces and parks, and revitalize neighborhoods.

The Water Environment Research Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia Also received $1.9 million to develop a life cycle cost and analysis framework, a publically accessible tool and database and a guide for decision makers that includes case studies.

To learn more about these awards recipients, visit http://www.epa.gov/research-grants/water-research-grants.

CMC Edwards: May 16 State of the River Public Meeting

Eagle River
Eagle River

From the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (Click through for the agenda):

Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, in partnership with the Colorado River District and the Eagle River Watershed Council, is hosting the Eagle River Valley State of the River community meeting, Monday, May 16, at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards.

All members of the public are invited to hear about issues that affect Gore Creek, the Eagle River, the Colorado River, Western Colorado’s changing climate, local water supply, and streamflow and runoff projections. A reception with food and soft drinks will be held at 5:15 p.m., with presentations scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Diane Johnson, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, at 970-477-5457.

Snowmass approves tax increase for sewer plant overhaul — The Aspen Times

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Aspen Times:

Snowmass Village water district residents approved a tax increase to pay for a new wastewater treatment plant Tuesday.

Four hundred twenty-eight residents voted in favor of the mill levy increase that will cover the almost $20 million cost of the project, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s election.

The increase means property owners in the district will pay an additional $1.89 per $100,000 of assessed property value each month. The water district is required to overhaul its wastewater treatment facility in order to comply with new standards handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sixty-nine residents voted against ballot measure 5A. All residents of the district, including rental tenants, who are registered to vote could participate in the election as well as any property owners or their spouses who are registered to vote in the state of Colorado.

Snowmass Villagers also elected Shawn Gleason and David Spence to fill two vacancies on the district’s board.

Denver: Big bump in storm and sanitary sewer rates in the works


From The Denver Post (Jon Murray):

Denver homeowners on average would pay $116 more in storm drainage and sewer fees over the next five years under a rate increase proposal that city officials will unveil this week.

The proposed rates, which would accelerate already scheduled automatic increases based on inflation, would bolster city plans for upgrades and projects through 2021 for the storm and sanitary sewer systems. Those aim to improve storm drainage, reduce flood risk and improve the quality of water discharged into the South Platte River. For the sanitary system that connects to homes and buildings, plans call for more maintenance and expansion of aging sewer pipes in several areas.

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin) Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).
Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

A big controversial project also is in the mix. About a quarter of the rate increases would help cover costs for northeast Denver’s “Platte to Park Hill” stormwater drainage projects, which have drawn opposition in part because of links to the planned Interstate 70 expansion and plans to regrade City Park Golf Course for stormwater detention.

Overall, storm drainage rates, which are billed annually by the city, would increase nearly 66 percent through 2020 — or 45 percent after annual inflation adjustments are taken into account.

The sanitary sewer rates that Denver Water customers pay monthly would increase 24 percent in that period. On top of the inflation adjustments, the new increase would amount to 8.6 percent.

Though Denver Public Works’ increase proposal was expected, the details were revealed this week for the first time in advance of a planned Wednesday presentation to the City Council’s Infrastructure and Culture Committee.

The proposal could advance to a final vote by the full council as early as May 23.

With the city facing an estimated $1.5 billion backlog in upgrades to stormwater pipes and an aging sewer system, Denver city officials portray the increases as necessary to step up progress.

“Just like so many other things in our city, we have huge infrastructure needs that are incredibly expensive,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, who chairs the infrastructure committee. “And we don’t have a way to pay for them,” requiring balanced plans.

If the rate increases win council approval, the money available each year for storm drainage system improvement and water quality projects would grow from $20 million to $30 million. For sanitary sewers, the city says the rate increase would boost annual spending for maintenance and new projects from $2.5 million to $8 million.

Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said the sanitary increase also would help the city “keep pace with increasing water treatment costs, update aging infrastructure and prepare the system for the city’s future expected population growth.”

Among the proposal’s major upshots:

• Sanitary sewer fee proceeds would grow from $86 million a year to $104 million in 2020.

• The total annual storm drainage fees generated would grow from $41 million before the increase to nearly $69 million by 2020.

• The fee increases would enable borrowing of up to $206 million for the Platte to Park Hill projects, completing a funding puzzle estimated at $267 million to $298 million in scope.

But the proposal would hit homeowners and businesses in the wallet as the city ratchets up both the storm drainage and sanitary sewer rates each year through 2020, starting in July. Subsequent increases would hit each January, starting in 2017.

The annual increase for an average single-family home, which paid $320.28 last year, would range from $21.56 this year to $25 in 2020, city estimates show.

A study provided by the city says that current average combined bill is about $100 less than the average for a selection of other Front Range systems and large cities around the state. Denver’s estimated combined bill in 2020 would rate slightly above today’s average.

Clark said he probed planned water-quality improvements during a briefing he received on the proposal. In 17 years of working for The Greenway Foundation, he focused heavily on the Platte, which at times has measured E. coli bacteria levels exceeding safety standards. Other contaminants, including trash, also have been a problem.

“I think this plan will have marked improvements on water quality in our streams and rivers,” Clark said. “And it’s a really good start, but this isn’t the end of the conversation on water quality.”

Besides the automatic inflation adjustments, the city most recently increased sanitary sewer rates a cumulative 83 percent from 2011 through 2013. The storm drainage rate was increased 20 percent in 2011.

A presentation prepared for the council committee says the city could aid ratepayers by asking Denver Water to add the storm drainage fee — now billed annually — to water customers’ bills, on a monthly or quarterly basis. The storm fee factors in a lot’s size and the amount of impermeable surface area.

Officials also are exploring “potential affordability program options” to aid low-income households.

Erie refinancing water, wastewater debt to save town funds — Broomfield Enterprise

Squeezing money
Squeezing money

From The Broomfield Enterprise (Anthony Hahn):

Anticipated growth has been largely responsible for Erie’s debt, the highest among the east Boulder County communities, which also include Lafayette, Louisville and Superior.

In a series of decisions made by former trustees in an effort to grow the population, the town accumulated roughly $100 million in bonded debt between 2004 and 2010.

The bulk of that debt is sunk into water and wastewater infrastructure and treatment facilities, taken on in installments over the past 11 years, a period that also has seen Erie leaders repeatedly commit to residential development.

Now, the town is trying to cut down on that margin.

During Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, council members approved an ordinance authorizing the issuance and sale of the town’s wastewater enterprise revenue refunding bonds in the approximate amount of $17.8 million.

Erie is refunding certain Wastewater Revenue Bonds, issued to finance the construction of the North Water Reclamation Facility in order to reduce the interest costs of its revenue bonds.

The refinancing is projected to save the town roughly $1.9 million in interest costs over the life of the bonds, a savings of approximately 6 percent. Furthermore, annual debt service savings are projected to range from $119,000 to $226,000…

The majority of debt in the town of about 22,000 is related to water and wastewater projects needed to accommodate a projected build-out population of 65,526 by 2055, according to the town’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan.

“Town boards embarked on a program to plan for, then encourage, then accommodate all that growth,” Krieger said last year. “Our specific challenge now is to manage our resources and services and retire our debt, which we’re doing. Second, we need to diversify our revenue base.”

The town might be growing at a slower pace than anticipated by previous officials, but Erie’s population still jumped 79 percent from 2000 to 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In anticipation of the population boom, Erie acquired about $76.4 million in debt for water-related bonds — about 78 percent of the town’s total debt.

Despite concerns early on about Erie’s debt, officials have said the town’s finances were strong following the trustees’ review of the 2016 budget proposal…

“The fact is that the town is rather effectively servicing our debt and three times in the last year Moody’s and S&P increased our credit rating,” [Diehl] said. “They’ve done so in recognition of our efforts to manage our finances and as an indication that the town’s financial outlook is strong.”

Sterling: Precipitation events cause headaches for wastewater infrastructure

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

Rob Demis of Hatch Mott MacDonald didn’t have good news when he gave an update on his company’s review of Sterling’s wastewater treatment plant during Tuesday’s Sterling City Council meeting.

The engineering firm, which was contracted by the city to look at what improvements will be needed at the plant, has been working on the review for three months, but they are still looking at the data and developing preliminary alternatives.

The company has identified two primary issues facing the city’s system: flooding and improvements necessitated by upcoming changes to regulations.

Demis noted that the system has experienced multiple flooding events at the headworks facility in the last five years, from flooding of the river and heavy rainfall events. The flooding damages to equipment and pumping, overloads the pumping system and treatment plant, overflows into the river and leads to violations of the city’s wastewater permit. Each event can cost around $50,000 to $75,000 to replace the damaged equipment.

Inflow and infiltration are the factors that lead to flooding. The water comes from leaky pipe joints, roof drain connections, leaky manholes, missing manhole covers — storm water coming into the waste water system — as well as leaky customer sewer lines and sump pumps, Demis said. He added that Sterling’s system is relatively old; the design life of pipes is about 50 years, so pipes that have been in the ground since 1966 or earlier are at the end of their useful life. “It’s now time to start thinking about fixing them, or at least trying to slow down the amount of leaks,” he said.

He showed a graph that looked at a significant rain event. Prior to the storm, the typical influent flow to the system was averaging about 1.7 million gallons per day. The rain event exceeded the system’s pumping capacity, so the total amount of inflow isn’t known, but Demis noted that for two weeks following the storm, inflow remained above average. He said that is due to infiltration from groundwater leaking into the sewer system.

Sterling needs a larger pumping capacity, and with it a larger pipe to carry the waste water to the treatment plant. Demis said the city also needs to put in 30 million gallons of storage so when there is above average flow, that water can be fed slowly into the treatment plant and allow the biological processes to occur, which prevents violations.

Changes to regulations as soon as next year will require additional processes at the treatment plant. In November 2017, Sterling will have to meet a Total Inorganic Nitrogen (TIN) limit of 10 mg/L of Nitrogen when discharging to the recharge basins, which it cannot do. By 2022, the city will face limits on nitrogen and phosphorus that it also cannot meet.

The city will need additional tanks and chemical systems for nutrient removal as well as new process equipment, and new clarifiers as the existing ones are at the end of their life. The new equipment will necessitate upgrades to the electrical system, and they will need to implement a process control system to ensure they are meeting the requirements.

Demis noted that nitrogen and phosphorus are popular fertilizers, and they promote the growth of algae, which can kill fish.

Demis told the council he would make further presentations as they complete analysis of the data and the options available to the city.

MCWC: Glenwood Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant Tour, April 27 #ColoradoRiver #COriver

From email from the Middle Colorado Watershed Council:

Have you ever wondered what happens to the dirty water from your shower, laundry and toilet after it goes down the drain? What about the runoff from lawns and gardens, and rainwater and car washing?

The Middle Colorado Watershed Council invites you to join us and the Roaring Fork Conservancy for a tour of Glenwood Springs’ wastewater treatment plant. Trent Mahaffey from the City of Glenwood Springs will give us an in-depth look at the process of treating wastewater and allow its safe return to our rivers and streams.

Treatment processes at the facility include extended aeration with aerobic digesters and oxidation ponds, with odor control provided by air ionization and circulation. Before all effluent is returned to the environment it is even disinfected though an ultraviolet process. Come join us for a free tour of this state of the art facility.

Location: Glenwood Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant, West Glenwood Springs. Find a map to the facility here.
Date: April 27, 2016
Time: 4:00pm-5:30pm
Cost: free
Registration Deadline: Registration is required by clicking here. The tour will be limited to 15 participants. For additional information, contact Dan at 970-389-8234.

This workshop is hosted by the City of Glenwood Springs in partnership with the Roaring Fork Conservancy and the Middle Colorado Watershed Council.

Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia
Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia