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


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


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.

@USGS: Certain wastewater management techniques can lead to more mercury in groundwater

9th Annual Grand Junction Water and Wastewater Conference, August 13 and 14, 2015

Grand Junction back in the day
Grand Junction back in the day

Save the Date!

August 13 and 14, 2015, are the dates for the 9th Annual Grand Junction Water and Wastewater Conference at the Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main Street, Grand Junction, CO. The Conference is designed to provide water and wastewater industry personnel with current information and training to address relevant issues in these industries.

Topics will include Water and Wastewater Treatment, Collection and Distribution Systems, Operations and Maintenance, Operator Math, Laboratory Practices, Safety Emerging Trends and Technologies. TU’s will be awarded.


More water treatment coverage here. More wastewater coverage here.

Pueblo County is caught between enforcing water quality upstream and supporting a variance for the City of Pueblo

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo city and county officials are at odds over water quality regulations that could add millions of dollars to city sewer expenses.

The rift was great enough that the Pueblo Area Council of Governments backed down from a vote Thursday to support a variance for selenium and sulfates the city is seeking from the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

PACOG delayed its vote one month, after putting it off in December as well, in order to allow Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart to participate in debate.

Hart, along with Commissioners Sal Pace and Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, raised concerns that the county’s ability to insist on standards from upstream communities in El Paso County under the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System would be compromised if they agreed to support a variance for Pueblo.

“Commissioner Hart is not here, and he wants to have a say,” McFadyen said. “In our future, we will have water quality issues in this county and we need to be consistent.”

That means the city will have to go into a state pre-hearing on Feb. 4 without support from other local governments. The variance itself will be considered by the state in April.

Pueblo City Manager Sam Azad said sewer fees could double or triple if the city is forced to meet numeric standards.

The reach of the Arkansas River below the Pueblo wastewater treatment plant has naturally high levels of selenium and sulfates. If numeric standards are enforced, no additional releases would be allowed.

Pueblo would have to pay up to $92 million and $9 million annually to seal its wastewater lines from collecting groundwater and to treat water released from the plant to remove all traces of contaminants, said Wastewater Director Gene Michael.

Sealing the lines from collecting groundwater, $35 million of the total, would actually increase selenium because existing treatment removes some of it from water that’s released. The disposal of waste from reverse-osmosis treatment would compound environmental damage, Michael said.

“Let me be crystal clear, the county is not in favor of spending $92 million,” Pace said.

One of the conditions of the delay was to give environmental attorneys John Barth of the county and Gabe Racz of the city time to work out a way to gain county support for the resolution without jeopardizing future SDS deliberations.

While Pace said that agreement was close, the city disagreed.

“It’s unlikely John Barth and the city would agree to anything,” said Dan Kogovsek, city attorney.

After an hour of discussion, City Council President Steve Nawrocki agreed to back off a vote until the February meeting in hopes of getting unanimous support from PACOG before the April state rule-making hearing. Pace and McFadyen promised the vote would not be delayed again.

More water pollution coverage here. More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here. More wastewater coverage here. More stormwater coverage here. More Southern Delivery System coverage here.