State provides $9.4 million for small community wastewater and drinking water system improvements

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (Meghan Trubee):

Thirty-two drinking water and wastewater systems in small communities throughout Colorado will receive a total of $9.4 million to fund planning, design or construction of public water systems or treatment works necessary for the protection of public health and water quality.

Governmental agencies, nonprofit public water systems and counties representing unincorporated areas with fewer than 5,000 people were eligible to apply for grants up to $850,000. Funding was provided by the state Legislature under Senate Bill 09-165 and SB14-025.

In the event a recipient cannot accept the grant in whole or part, available funds will be distributed per the small communities grant program rules. This list is subject to change based on contract negotiations.


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Three Pueblo communities are among 32 entities receiving $9.4 million in state grants for planning, design or construction of water projects.

The Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment announced the funding this week. It is available to small towns or water systems serving fewer than 5,000 people.

Boone, located east of Pueblo, will receive $850,000, which will be used to upgrade its water system.
The town is looking for an alternative source, because its wells suffer from water quality issues, said Mayor Robert Ferriter.

Rye, located southwest of Pueblo, will get $440,000 for its water system. The town has been improving its water system since 2009, when it was under a boil order.

The Avondale Water and Sanitation District will get $596,057 to make sewer improvements.

“We were happy to get it,” said Bert Potestio, president of the district. The grant will be matched by local funds and used to lift water to treatment lagoons. “We plan to start work as soon as possible.”
Several other area water and sanitation providers also are tabbed to receive funds. They include: Pritchett, $185,000; Manassa, $15,000; La Veta, $850,000; Manzanola, $253,328; Baca Grande Water and Sanitation, $88,300; Costilla County (Garcia Water), $99,816; Sheridan Lake Water Co., $609,568; Patterson Valley Water Co., $150,500; Fowler, $304,355; and Bristol Water and Sanitation, $94,500.

Cortez: Solids from county jail causing back ups

Wastewater lift station
Wastewater lift station

From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker) via The Durango Herald:

Montezuma County inmates are under suspicion, but not for unlawful activity.

Cortez Sanitation District officials suspect that inmates at the 104-bed Montezuma County Jail are flushing items in their jail cells, plugging a pumping station or contaminating the wastewater-treatment facility.

“We get a ton of Ramen noodle packages,” CSD manager Tim Krebs told board members at a monthly meeting last week.

Krebs initially relayed his concerns to CSD board members in December, reporting that plastics and other debris from the detention center had been an ongoing problem.

Vici Pierce, detention captain at the Montezuma County jail, confirmed that inmates were allowed to purchase Ramon noodles from the commissary, but said she was unaware of any sanitation district complaints until notified by The Journal.

“Garbage bags are provided in each unit, and inmates are instructed to use them for the disposal of their trash items,” Pierce said.

Several years ago, a garbage grinder was installed in the jail’s sewer system to help alleviate improper trash disposal.

According to Krebs, that grinder pump on Driscoll Street failed, and after it was repaired recently, sanitation officials started to observe bits of plastic in the district’s treatment facility on South Broadway about four miles south.

Krebs said the grinder pump was recently taken offline at the district’s request to help staff determine whether the inflow of debris could be minimalized.

“The smaller plastics have disappeared in parts of the plant, but now larger plastics are filling up the bar screen at the lift station,” Krebs said.

Krebs said sanitation crews now make two trips per day to the district’s north pumping station to manually clear a screen that captures the plastics. Officials indicated the screen was routinely plugged when crews responded.

Water district fights for relaxed quality standard — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Upper Black Squirrell Creek Designated Groundwater Basin
Upper Black Squirrell
Creek Designated Groundwater Basin

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):

For years, the Cherokee Metropolitan District has failed to meet one of its water quality standards, and the eastern El Paso County water district has proposed a change in state regulations to make it easier to meet that requirement.

The proposal has started an unorthodox process with the state’s Water Quality Control Commission to allow the district to have a higher level of dissolved solids – like salt – in its water. The change would only affect wells in the district, but the proposal has raised concerns from well-owners about the health of the system’s aquifer and prompted three stakeholder meetings before a rulemaking hearing in August.

The Upper Black Squirrel Creek aquifer has already been degraded by the number of wells that tap into it, well owners argue. Wells in the Cherokee district pull from an aquifer that is recharged with treated wastewater – water that, under a new requirement, would have more dissolved solids. If Cherokee fails to change regulations for its so-called “total dissolved solids” levels, it will have to spend tens of millions of dollars to meet current state requirements – a cost that will be borne by the district’s ratepayers.

The problems date back to 2010, when a new waste water treatment facility was completed without machines to treat water for total dissolved solids, known as TDS. At a Tuesday stakeholder meeting, the first in a series, Cherokee’s General Manager Sean Chambers described the consequences of this to a group of around 30 people.

“So whatever comes in the waste water plant in terms of total dissolved solids comes out the other end,” Chambers said. “Thus, we have a $30 million waste water plant that does not treat a lick of TDS.”

The district’s drinking water quality more than complies with state requirements for dissolved solids levels, but the levels in waste water pose problems. The water district typically measures 600 mg per liter of dissolved solids in its treated waste water, well over the state requirement of 400 mg per liter, said Chambers. Ever since the district opened its new facility in 2010, it has never been compliant with state standards for dissolved solids. By changing the level allowed in its water, the district hopes to save $10 million on costs over the next 20 years while it tries to become compliant.

On Tuesday, the district emphasized that dissolved solids in its water do not pose a public health risk, but only affect the water’s taste. Most water districts around the country adhere to the federal standard of 500 mg per liter of dissolved solids, except for Texas, which has its threshold set at 1,000 mg per liter, said Andrew Ross, with the state’s water control commission.

While the water district is aiming for compliance, well owners fear that more dissolved solids will continue to degrade the quality of the aquifer, said Jerod Farmer, a well owner who attended Tuesday’s meeting. Officials with the water quality control commission acknowledge that a higher presence of those solids in water can impact the aquifer’s quality.

Unlike surface water, which is regulated for quality at the federal level, groundwater quality is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Colorado’s groundwater regulations have remained relatively unchanged since the 1980s, when two regulatory structures were set up- one for statewide regulation, and another to grant individual exceptions to the state’s rules.

The Cherokee district is unique in Colorado – it has the largest facility in the state that dumps its waste water back into the groundwater. Its request to change the dissolved solids requirements in its waste water is equally unusual – the water quality commission rarely handles regulatory changes proposed by an outside agency, representatives said on Friday.

The public will get two more chances to learn about the proposed changes at stakeholder meetings on Feb. 11, time and location to be determined, and March 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., location to be determined. Both will help the commission gather as much public opinion and information as possible before the August hearing, said Lisa Carlson, who facilitated Tuesday’s meeting.

“The hope is that, when you get to the hearing, you will all be well educated and understand what the issues are in the process,” Carlson told the audience.

Mosca sewage treatment update: “This is not the smell of money” — Gigi Dennis

Septic system
Septic system

From the Valley Courier (David Gilbert):

Long-awaited grant funding has finally come through to finance the construction of a sorely-needed sewage treatment system in Mosca.

Alamosa County officials recently received approval of a grant request from the state’s Department of Local Affairs, or DOLA, for $634,500, which will cover a sizeable chunk of the roughly $1.2 million price tag to replace the aging septic systems in the little town.

The balance of the project’s cost will come from a grant and loan package from the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA.

The grants were won through a spirited and determined effort largely spearheaded by Alamosa County Deputy Land Use Administrator Rachel Baird and Code Enforcement Officer Jinger Tilden.

DOLA grants require the community requesting the money to match awards with funds from other sources, some of which must be loans to ensure that agencies have some “skin in the game.” The USDA package totals $810,000, of which $160,000 is in the form of a 40-year , 2-percent interest loan that will be paid back by users of the Mosca system.

The awards signal the beginning of the end of the lengthy saga of sewage problems in the town. The 55 users of Mosca’s current system mostly residences utilize 10 clustered septic tanks installed in the early 1980s, which must be regularly pumped out. Two of the tanks are critically damaged and require bi-weekly pumping. The tanks’ leach fields are so saturated that they are essentially non-functional , and the fields are only 50 feet from wellheads, which is less than the 100-foot minimum distance now required by code. The new treatment plant will be a modern system called a sequencing batch reactor, which uses oxygen and bacteria to digest waste.

Construction on the new plant is likely to begin in spring, and officials anticipate it will be on-line before the snow falls next year.

It will cost a little more than $24,000 a year to operate , including the salary for one maintenance person, as well as money set aside in an emergency fund. The annual cost is an improvement over the current system, which the county subsidizes at a cost of more than $30,000 a year. Payments by the system’s users often added up to only $7,000 a year.

The new system will be fully self-supported by its users. Households using the current system pay $25 a month. The fee to use the new system will be higher, but a final monthly figure hasn’t been arrived at, though it will be limited to a proportion of the town’s median income.

The system is designed to be low-maintenance , long lasting, and to allow for expansion and greater capacity. The shortest lifespan of any system component is said to be 75 years. Alamosa County officials have been seeking a solution to the problem since the mid-1990 s, but three previous attempts to secure funding from the state were rebuffed.

Meanwhile, problems in the town got steadily worse. Sewer lines to houses back up regularly. Cracked tanks leak sewage to the surface, causing a foul odor to hang over the town at times.

“They’re just ticking time bombs for a health crisis,” Baird said.

The Mosca sewage issue has been a “noose around the neck” of the county for a long time, said Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis.

“This is not like Greeley and the stockyards,” Dennis said. “This is not the smell of money.”

Dennis commended the efforts of Baird and Tilden. “These two ladies have been quite tenacious,” Dennis said.

Eliminating the sewage problem leaves Mosca poised for growth, Baird said.

“It’s a well-positioned town,” Baird said. “It’s the closest town to the Great Sand Dunes. The employees might just live there if there weren’t consistent odor problems.”

Dennis agreed that the new system sets Mosca up for comfortable future development .

“If they get more businesses or homeowners who want to tap into it, they’ve got a safe system they can access,” Dennis said. Tilden said that many Mosca residents felt left out of the process that left them with the clustered tanks over 30 years ago, and that she and Baird strove to ensure thorough community input in the current effort. She stressed that the county will not leave Mosca residents holding the bag with the new system.

“The county’s going to help the community,” Tilden said. “We’re not giving up on them.”

Tilden said winning the award was thrilling.

“I started crying,” Tilden said. “Rachel screamed. It was so gratifying. They’ve been trying to figure this out since 1996, and it seems we’ve finally got it all squared away.”

Whiting Oil & Gas Corp sells saltwater disposal and fresh water transportation and storage system in Weld County for $75 million

Deep injection well
Deep injection well

From the Denver Business Journal (Ben Miller):

Whiting Oil & Gas Corp., a unit of Denver-based Whiting Petroleum Corp., has sold its Redtail saltwater disposal and fresh water transportation and storage system in Weld County for $75 million.

Whiting sold the system to BNN Water Solutions, a unit of Tallgrass Energy Partners of Leawood, Kansas.

The water system consists of 148,000-acre system consists of 62 miles of pipeline along with associated fresh water ponds and disposal wells.

State shortens selenium compliance period — The Pueblo Chieftain

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The state has put Pueblo on a shorter leash for dealing with selenium in wastewater discharges.

On Monday, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission rejected Pueblo’s plea for a 10-year extension of a temporary modification, instead just giving the city a little over two years to develop a discharge specific variance that sets numerical limits and strategies to attain them.

“Everyone, even the EPA, recognizes that selenium is naturally present in the Arkansas River,” said Gene Michael, Pueblo’s wastewater supervisor. “What we’ll have to do in the next two years is come up with an effluent limit and a compliance schedule.”

Pueblo already is implementing a $32 million project to line sewage collection pipes on the West Side to reduce infiltration of groundwater tainted with selenium.

The city’s position is that more of that selenium could reach the Arkansas River because it would not be removed in treatment.

“We still will be in negotiations with the state health department on selenium levels to determine standards,” Michael said. “The potential exists to extend the temporary mods as well.”

Another contaminant, sulfates, is also being looked at. But it may not be an issue, since there are few diversions of surface water for domestic use directly downstream from Pueblo, Michael said.

Water testing on Yampa River could lead to more regulations after reclassification — Steamboat Today

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

City officials in Steamboat Springs say some high water temperature readings taken in the Yampa River just west of Hayden in recent years could soon lead to a big change in how a 57-mile stretch of the river is regulated by the state.

The stretch of the Yampa that runs from the confluence of Oak Creek south of Steamboat to the Moffat County border is poised to be listed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as an impaired waterbody.

City officials are concerned that the listing could eventually lead to some costly, multi-million upgrades to such things as the wastewater treatment plants that discharge water into the river.

They are questioning the methodology used to arrive at the listing and are hoping a proposal to monitor the health of the river in more areas will help municipalities along the river avoid costly new regulations.

“Given the variability of altitude, temperature, and aquatic life throughout the 57-mile segment, the City questions whether the standard applied to such a long reach is appropriate,” city officials recently wrote in a memo to the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Kelly Heany, the city’s water resources manager, said the Water Quality Control Commission will consider whether to list the Yampa as an impaired waterbody at its Dec. 14 meeting.

“It could potentially have a costly impact n the wastewater treatment plants in Hayden, Milner and ours,” Heaney said.

She said the added regulations could call for such things as the installation of expensive cooling towers at these wastewater treatment facilities.

The classification could also add more regulations to construction de-watering permits, industrial discharge permits and stormwater permits.

Heaney will attend the Dec. 14 hearing to outline the city’s plans and the extensive efforts it has undertaken already to protect the water quality of the Yampa.

Heaney said the city does not have enough temperature data from the entire stretch of the Yampa to oppose the listing on the impaired waterbody list.

So city officials are proposing to invest more in monitoring the quality of the Yampa at more locations to better understand what impacts the temperature changes.

Yampa/White/Green/North Platte river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey
Yampa/White/Green/North Platte river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey