The Colorado Department of Health and Environment met with water providers in the Lower Arkansas Valley on Thursday. The topic of discussion was treatment processes to remove radionuclides from groundwater to comply with stricter state standards, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental met with area water providers Thursday to share the results of a study begun in 2006 of 33 Colorado water systems that operate on wells potentially contaminated with either radium or uranium. About 50 people attended. About 16 of those systems are in the Arkansas Valley below Pueblo, but nearly any community that depends on wells could be subject to new standards that could cost millions of dollars for compliance. Shallow wells are more susceptible to radium contamination, while deeper wells have encountered uranium. Some districts have created problems by drilling deeper wells, while others have long-standing problems that now are tolerated. “We focused our efforts on developing a solid treatment option that you know would work,” said Jon Erickson, who coordinated the state study. “The costs are high. I was foolishly optimistic that when we got into this, we would find a way to lower costs. The costs of compliance are high. This will create a hardship.”
Of the 16 Lower Ark communities in the study, 15 would be served by the Arkansas Valley Conduit, if it is built. Holly, which was part of the study, is located outside the boundaries that would be served by the conduit. The $300 million conduit would be a much more effective solution, since it would bring non-contaminated surface water into most of the systems now served by wells between Pueblo County and Lamar. There are about 42 communities, which would pay for 35 percent of the project, if current legislation passes in Congress. While that cost also is high, it would be far less than the numbers systems are looking at under the suggested remedies of the state study, said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and a Bent County commissioner. “This is why the conduit is absolutely necessary, to meet both the drinking water standards and future demand,” Long said. “I hope the state is patient and gives us time to work with our congressional delegation to get the conduit passed.”[…]
The conduit was part of original Fryingpan-Arkansas legislation passed in 1962, but was never built because of the cost to local communities. A public lands bill that includes authorization for using excess-capacity lease revenue to repay the federal government has passed the Senate, but is facing some opposition in the House, for other provisions in the legislation. The bill also would create a 65 percent federal match. A standalone bill with the same provisions has been introduced in the House by Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey, both Colorado Democrats. The conduit also has received an Environmental Protection Agency planning grant and a loan of $60.6 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board that is up for renewal in this year’s state water projects bill.