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.”

Thousands of #Colorado Springs Utilities customers getting water quality notice

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

About 47,000 Colorado Springs Utilities customers are being notified that a water quality standard has been exceeded at the Fountain Valley Authority’s water treatment plant.

Those customers get a blend of water from Utilities and the FVA, but the exceedance of Total Organic Carbon does not pose a health threat, Utilities advises.

Leaves, sticks, dirt and other substances washed into the Pueblo Reservoir, where the FVA gets its water, during heavy rains over the past two years.

The excessive levels of TOC occurred temporarily in the first quarter of 2016, Utilities reports. Although the TOC exceeded standards, it “does not pose an immediate health risk and is not an emergency,” Utilities said in a news release.

A standard is set for TOC because it can lead to formation of disinfection byproducts, which can have adverse health effects. Those byproducts include trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids.

Both byproducts are below drinking water standards and thus pose no health risks, Utilities reports.

The FVA also supplies water to Security, Widefield, Stratmoor Hills and Fountain through their water districts, which are responsible for alerting their customers.

Town’s drinking water is safe, high quality — The Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Estes Park
Estes Park

From The Estes Park Trail-Gazette (David Persons):

If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.

Additional information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800.426.4791 or at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

For more information about Estes Park’s water, go online to http://www.colorado.gov/pacific/townofestespark/consumerconfidencereport.

The water that Estes Park residents drink is among the cleanest, highest quality water in the state, according to town officials.

Recent testing seems to confirm that.

That’s comforting to know since a regional newspaper story last Sunday – citing test results of high levels of lead found in drinking water at four sites in the Estes Valley – had many people around town wondering what might be coming out of their tap.

“We’re very proud to remind the community that the town works around-the-clock to provide high-quality water to our customers,” said Estes Park Town Administrator Frank Lancaster. “We continually surpass strict federal and state standards to provide the very best drinking water possible.”

[…]

So what’s being done to ensure that the town’s drinking water is clean and rid of contaminants like lead?

According to Estes Park Public Information Officer Kate Rusch and Estes Park Laboratory and Water Quality Supervisor Diana Beehler, the town, as a water utility, is required by federal law to have a corrosion control program to minimize lead in drinking water and is required to do annual testing.

The corrosion control program began in the late 1980s and involves adding a chemical which coats pipes and plumbing fixtures to prevent water from corroding the metals. This program includes on-going monitoring of the treatment chemicals, the distribution system and households in our community to ensure that the corrosion control is effective.

The most recent annual testing of town drinking water occurred in 2015. The town sampled 23 homes that were built between 1982 and 1986. Homes were tested, instead of businesses, because lead poisoning is a chronic condition that occurs over long periods of time, and most people are drinking water from their homes daily.

Federal requirements mandate that the town reports the value at the 90th percentile, which was 2.3 parts per billion (ppb) of lead. The highest value in all the homes tested in 2015 was 6.5 ppb, Rusch and Beehler said. On the other hand, 14 of the 23 homes sampled were below the detection limit of 1 ppb.

The federal action level for lead is 15 ppb.

The local samples were taken after the water sat undisturbed in the plumbing for at least six hours to give the water an opportunity to react — allowing a “worst case” scenario for our testing, they said.

So, how safe are the town’s current and older water lines and pipes?

“The town’s main distribution lines are made of ductile iron, cast iron and galvanized steel, which are not a concern when it comes to lead,” Rusch and Beehler said. “The town has no lead main lines and is unaware of any lead service lines on private property. In addition, our corrosion control program is designed to coat the pipes and lead solder to reduce the amount of lead, anywhere in the system that is able to leach into the water.”

If concerned about the possibility of lead in drinking water, homeowners or business owners can test and mitigate the concerns themselves, Rusch and Beehler say.

A licensed plumber can inspect fixtures to determine if any lead sources are present, and a state-approved laboratory can test private water services to determine if lead is present in the water. When the levels are 15 ppb or higher, the EPA recommends taking precautions like flushing the tap for 15-20 seconds, using only cold water for drinking and cooking, and considering purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Flushing the tap is the easiest and most cost effective way to reduce lead if the customer is concerned.

While the town’s water and water system is closely monitored for quality, even the four sites cited by the Fort Collins Coloradoan in its Sunday story — the YMCA of the Rockies, Covenant Heights Camp and Retreat, Prospect Mountain Water Company, and Ravencrest Chalet — have each taken measures to ensure the quality of their drinking water is up to the levels required by state and federal agencies.

According to documents that the Coloradoan was able to obtain, each of those sites had test results that equaled or exceeded the federal action level of 15ppb in recent years.

Wwater samples tested at the YMCA of the Rockies, 2515 Tunnel Road, were found to have exceeded 15ppb four times since 2012, the Coloradoan reported. Those tests involved 10-60 samples taken around the property. The Coloradoan also reported that at least one sample each year since 2012 has tested at or above 15ppb.

YMCA of the Rockies collects water from the Wind River Stream diversion, not the Town of Estes Park. It then disinfects the water, and distributes it to guests and staff.

Martha Sortland, the Communications Director at the YMCA of the Rockies, told the Coloradoan that she believed the elevated levels of lead in drinking water were caused by water left in pipes too long.

When contacted on Wednesday, Sortland told the Trail-Gazette that providing safe drinking water for guests was a high priority, one that the business takes seriously. She added that a lot of time and money is invested in the operation of the water system to ensure water quality.

“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides regulations for safe drinking water,” Sortland said. “Our water falls within those regulations and always has.

“We are committed to adhering to Colorado state water regulations and we will continue to do so unequivocally.

“We have five full-time certified water treatment operators on staff at Estes Park Center, and we have partnered with the experts at JVA Consulting, an independent, third party contractor with expert credentials and experience in water quality management.”

The Coloradoan also reported that lead in drinking water at the Covenant Heights Camp and Retreat, 7400 Colorado Highway 7, tested 117ppb and 143 ppb in 2015, the highest levels of lead in Colorado drinking water recorded since at least 2012.

The high lead levels were attributed to lead soldering in staff cabins. Retreat officials told the Coloradoan that they quickly relocated staffers who had been in the cabins and have retrofitted the water pipes with PEX plastic piping.

Prospect Mountain Water Company (PMWC), also mentioned in the Coloradoan story, is a private community water system that serves about 124 residents.

The company has struggled for years and is now in bankruptcy. It has had lead levels in its drinking water that ranged from 91 ppb (in 2012) to 28 ppb (in 2014) to 15 ppb (in 2015).

Lead pipes and lead soldering are being blamed for the high lead levels.

The water company recently signed a temporary intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Town of Estes Park to provide water and run the water system until a new company can be contracted.

Rusch and Beehler said upgrades to the PMWC water system are being planned. They include distribution lines, water tanks and water pumps. The cost of these upgrades will be absorbed by fees paid by the PMWC customers.

In addition, Rusch and Beehler point out that PMWC lead tests have vastly improved since the Town of Estes Park began providing treated water including corrosion control.

Ravencrest Chalet, a bible school located 501 Pole Hill Road, had a high lead test of 16 ppb in 2013. However, that dropped to 4ppb in 2015.

Officials at Ravencrest could not be reached for comment to explain what measures they took to lower their lead level.

Lead less of a worry in West — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Roman lead pipe -- Photo via the Science Museum
Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ken Moon):

When it comes to dissolved lead, residents in the West are lucky because a large majority of the region’s housing stock and infrastructure – interior piping, water mains and service lines – are newer and less likely to contain components that can leach lead into water.

Copper water lines that were installed in a house before the early 1980s might have been connected using lead-based solder (after about 1981, we switched to a tin/antimony solder formulation). Even so, that’s likely not a big worry. Many municipal water suppliers inject chemicals, such as sodium carbonate, that attach to the inside of pipes and form a barrier to isolate lead solder intrusion. Plus, even the purest water contains some microscopic organic contaminates that, over time, build up a thin layer of slime that also coats the inside of the piping.

One easy way to “get the lead out” is to run your cold water full force for a minute or two when you get up in the morning (or anytime the system has been still for six or more hours). That will flush stale water from the pipes and ensure that fresh product from the street main is available for drinking. If you’re the conserving type, you can collect it and use it on houseplants. Also, check the screens in the faucet aerators and remove any metal particles they have caught.

Water companies are required to monitor their supplies for excessive lead and other contaminates. But if you’re concerned that the water running through old pipes is not safe, get it tested; the local health department can help. The EPA considers any concentration above 15 parts per billion as an action level, requiring mitigation or avoidance. If your level is too high, it would be advisable to have a plumber replace suspected piping in your home plus the water service line.

You also can filter the water. A simple $200 reverse osmosis system under your kitchen sink can remove about 95 percent of the lead contaminates. Can you shower and bathe if the lead concentration is high? Yes. Lead is not absorbed through the skin.

Flint-level lead numbers found in water at 4 area sites — Fort Collins Coloradoan

Roman lead pipe -- Photo via the Science Museum
Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Lead comparable to levels in Flint, Michigan, has contaminated drinking water sources in a place you might least expect: the picturesque mountains near Estes Park, known for its spectacular views of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Documents show four locations clustered near Estes Park since 2012 have met or exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for lead in drinking water.

The results catapulted Larimer County to a tie for the most sites in the state with drinking water test results of 15 or more parts of lead per billion parts of water between 2012 and 2015. Clear Creek County, west of Denver along Interstate 70, also had four sites with lead contamination during that period.

Fort Collins tested well below federal lead standards.

The Estes Park sites are:

  • YMCA of the Rockies, which sees thousands of guests annually and has flirted with the action level for lead since at least 2012.
  • Covenant Heights Camp and Retreat, which in 2015 saw lead levels in two staff cabins comparable to the highest levels documented in Flint.
  • Prospect Mountain Water Company, which supplies water to about 120 Estes Park residents and as recently as 2014 displayed an average lead about equal to Flint.
  • Ravencrest Chalet, a bible school and retreat that just exceeded the action level for lead in 2013.
  • Officials with the town of Estes Park water system, which supplies water to Prospect Mountain Water Company and Ravencrest Chalet but operates independently from all four sites, said Estes Park water sources aren’t to blame for the lead contamination. The Estes Park water system tested 2 parts per billion for lead in 2015, and none of its 23 samples exceeded the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb.

    “They have their own distribution systems,” Estes Park water distribution supervisor Cliff Tedder said of the contaminated sites. “Whatever they’re doing isn’t working.”

    ‘Fully compliant’

    YMCA of the Rockies, located just southwest of Estes Park, supplies drinking water to more than 3,700 guests and staffers. It is the largest water system in Estes Park that has seen elevated lead levels. YMCA collects water from the Wind River Stream diversion, disinfects it and distributes it to guests and staff independently of Estes Park’s water system. YMCA uses a corrosion control system, spokeswoman Martha Sortland said.

    YMCA’s lead levels tested from 10 to 60 water samples around the property, has been 15 ppb four times since 2012. Every year since at least 2012, at least one drinking water sample from the property has tested at or above 15 ppb.

    Sortland said at least one of the samples that contained lead higher than the EPA’s action level came from a guest cabin. But YMCA didn’t take action because “we were, and are, fully compliant with Colorado drinking water regulations,” Sortland said.

    She’s right.

    A water system’s 90th percentile lead value, which means 90 percent of test sites will have levels below the threshold, has to be more than, not equal to, 15 ppb to trigger action such as mandatory treatment plans and public water quality warnings. But the facility’s water contained more than seven times the amount of lead present in Town of Estes Park water.

    From USA Today (Trevor Hughes) via the Fort Collins Coloradan:

    [Firestone] officials repeatedly notified all water customers of the high levels and distributed information explaining how to reduce the risk. But the town, about 30 miles north of Denver, has taken no direct action to help residents replace the aging faucets and fixtures blamed for leaching lead into their drinking water.

    The town’s testing found lead contamination only in homes built before 1986…

    The town’s water provider installed a system in the fall to inject a phosphate coating agent into the water to help reduce the corrosive effect that leaches lead from plumbing. That’s the solution required by state regulators, who say Firestone is making progress in bringing down lead levels.

    “It is our hope that this additive to our water supply will continue to reduce the lead levels inside these older homes,” Mayor Paul Sorensen said in a prepared statement.

    Like many fast-growing towns on Colorado’s Front Range, Firestone is a small, old-town area surrounded with new suburbs. The town has a few blocks of old homes amidst nearly 3,500 newer ones.

    In Firestone’s case, testing never has found lead in the municipal water supply or in any of the newer homes. That means the bulk of the town’s 12,000 residents face almost no risk.

    Louisville councillors approve 13% water rate increase

    This is the oldest known photo of Louisville. In this beautiful image you are looking west on Spruce Steet from Main Street and can see the Flatirons in the hazy distance. This photo provides an amazing feel of how wide open the spaces were between the new cities on the front range. Photo via DowntownLouisville.com.
    This is the oldest known photo of Louisville. In this beautiful image you are looking west on Spruce Steet from Main Street and can see the Flatirons in the hazy distance. This photo provides an amazing feel of how wide open the spaces were between the new cities on the front range. Photo via DowntownLouisville.com.

    From the Colorado Hometown Weekly (Alex Burness):

    Seeing a significant need for infrastructure repair, the Louisville City Council on Tuesday approved a 13 percent water utility rate increase for 2017, with city ratepayers projected to see their bills rise much higher over the next five years.

    The average Louisville ratepayer currently forks over $63 combined for water, wastewater and stormwater services, and the newly approved schedule will see that figure bumped up to $71 on May 1, through the end of 2017. Unofficial projections from the city suggest the average could be in the range of $93 by 2021. And 10 years from now, citizens may be paying twice what they pay now.

    According to staff from the city’s Public Works Department, the extra money will fund improvements at the Louisville wastewater treatment plant that bring the city to compliance with mandatory federal and state standards. The rate increases will also provide revenue that staff believes is needed to properly operate and maintain city utility systems.

    Though the City Council unanimously approved the hike, several lamented the rising cost burden on citizens.

    “We’re at the point now where we have to make significant reinvestment,” Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lipton said. “But we’re looking at raising rates another 48 percent over five years. Some people can afford it, some people are going to be challenged by it, but we’ve always got to keep this in mind. … We’re continuing to increase the cost of living here in a variety of ways.

    New wells, treatment improvements erase Wiggins’ water supply problems

    Wiggins
    Wiggins

    From the Brush News Tribune (Stephanie Alderton):

    After many years of struggling to provide enough clean water for the town’s growing population, Larino reported Feb. 24 that Wiggins now has more than enough for several years to come — even taking into account the two new housing developments that will begin construction this year.

    Much of the water system’s success can be attributed to improved filtration methods, new wells the town has added over the last few years and some recent water deals with the Front Range. But although the water system is in better shape today than it has been in years, Larino said there’s still room for improvement.

    “A lot of people don’t recognize, I think, over the last couple of years, how (the water system) has changed and diversified,” he said.

    Wiggins gets most of its water from three wells that pull from the Kiowa Bijou basin, and two more recently dug wells that pull from the South Platte River.

    The town also owns permits for two more Kiowa Bijou wells that have not yet been drilled. These wells are augmented by a 112-acre recharge pond facility north of town, shares in Weldon Valley ditch water and a recently approved lease agreement with the city of Castle Rock for augmentation water over the next three years.

    The town also has two more recharge ponds and a few more Weldon Valley shares pending court approval.

    Larino also pointed out that, thanks to an improved cleaning and filtration system, Wiggins’ water is well below the state limit for nitrates and other chemical content.

    The water’s quality, particularly its nitrates level, has been a problem for the town in the past, but Larino said those days are over.

    In 2015, the town pumped about 182 acre feet of water out of the 256 available acre feet. Thanks to the new water agreements, Larino said they will be able to pump up to 737 acre feet in 2016 and for the next two years.

    “We have a lot of water,” he said. “Three times the town, basically.”