Morgan County source water protection plan drafting committee meeting recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Colleen Williams, a source water specialist with the Colorado Rural Water Association, a nonprofit organization that helps water districts and other groups with source water protection plans, presented the group with a draft of a plan for the Morgan County area. Members of the group will review the plan and suggest revisions. A final version of the plan is to be presented at the group’s next meeting Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m. at the quality water district’s headquarters.

County buy-in to source water protection plans appears likely — Tony Carlson, one of the county commissioners; Barb Gorrell, zoning administrator; and Steve Enfante, emergency management coordinator, have been attending committee meetings. The plan will address a wide range of concerns about the protection of source water and ways of addressing those concerns. Public education looms large as a means of protecting water. In addition to county officials, the Northeast Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the city of Brush, Log Lane Village, the Morgan Conservation District and other entities have been involved in working on the plan.

The group is focusing on three areas — Hay Gulch near the border between Morgan and Weld counties, San Arroyo Creek southwest of Fort Morgan and Beaver Creek south of Brush. There are more than 600 oil and gas wells within the areas, but most of them are abandoned and capped. Regulations now call for oil and gas companies to use liners in water pits when drilling wells. In addition to oil and gas wells, other areas of possible concern to source water quality include transportation (particularly spills from vehicles), growth and development, septic systems, agricultural practices (especially fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides), private water wells, underground water storage, recharge ponds, residential practices and the Clean Harbors hazardous waste storage facility on Highway 36.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Environmental effects catalogued

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Here’s a recap on Thursday night’s meeting of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, from Dennis Webb writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

…the level of disturbance where any development might take place would be significant, said Jeremy Boak, director of the industry-funded Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the Colorado School of Mines. Boak said oil shale development would have less of a region-wide impact on the land than has been seen with local natural gas development. That’s thanks to the world-class richness and unmatched density of the region’s oil shale resource, which has underground concentrations of as much as a million barrels of oil per acre, he said. But where any oil shale development might occur, “you will for a time essentially have scraped off the surface if you’re doing a process like Shell’s,” Boak said…

Boak said the biggest environmental challenge for shale development is water — how much is used and how quality is affected.

More coverage from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson). From the article:

He [Jeremy Boak, head of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the School of Mines] said one company, Red Leaf Resources in Utah, had recently completed tests on a shale-oil extraction process that involved heating up the rock in place, underground, and piping out the kerogen…

He noted that Shell, which is one of the corporate sponsors of his institute, is working on a process involving the stripping away of the surface, followed by the drilling of numerous bore holes to be used to heat the “extraction zone” to a temperature of some 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Other bores are drilled around the extraction zone, to be used to freeze the area around the zone to prevent the oil and other contaminants from flowing into nearby ground water. Once the oil has been extracted, he said, the process calls for the injection of water into the bore-holes that turns to steam and scours out the area once permeated by the kerogen. That water is then to be treated and recycled, he said…

“But it will be pretty disruptive of the surface,” he said of that technology, which would involve in-situ plants that would move from one zone to another, scraping topsoil and drilling holes. He said reclamation would be easily accomplished using the same topsoil that had been removed prior to the process. Boak indicated that some of the new technological processes are said to consume relatively little water, but conceded that studies are needed to determine how much water is available for such uses, and what might be the effects of oil shale extraction on area water supplies and water quality. In addition, he said, there are potential impacts to the general ecology of the area that must be identified, as well as the socio-economic effects on the region’s communities.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Hot Sulphur Springs turning dirt on new treatment plant

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, in the amount of $3.3 million to the town, is paying for a new state-of-the art water plant, a new clear well, a second 230-gallon storage tank, a new water intake system and related river restoration work. The existing water plant will be retrofitted to be used as a pre-treatment facility, while the new neighboring plant will boast the latest technology in water filtration. Three of the town’s contracted water engineering consultants — Curt Thompson, Ed Duerr and Geoff Elliott — said the two plants combined will make “cutting-edge” technology…

The new system, said Thompson, water program manager for Merrick & Company engineering of Aurora, should satisfy the needs of Hot Sulphur Springs consumers for the next 15 to 20 years. The town will have the option to add a second membrane to the system in the future which, depending on how much Hot Sulphur Springs grows, would make the system sufficient for the next 40 years…

Low bidder Garney Companies Inc. of Littleton starts work on the new plant and system improvements this week with a completion date set for October 2010. In statements, Garney outlined that it aims to “use local work forces when available, hire local subcontractors and suppliers whenever possible, and contribute to the businesses of the community.”

More water treatment coverage here.

Bayfield: New wastewater plant online and performing well

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It’s been a long time coming but Bayfield’s shiny new treatment plant is online and performing well, according to a report from Carole McWilliams writing for the Pine River Times. From the article:

Bayfield’s new sewage treatment plant has been up and running since mid-September. Town officials are delighted with the quality of effluent it is producing. They hosted a tour and grand opening of the plant on Sept. 24. The treatment system is called a “sequencing batch reactor. Outside in huge concrete tanks are the open lagoons. At any given time, one is still and one is aerating. Sludge settles out in the still pool and is screened into a third pool. From there the sludge is piped into the control building where water is pressed out of the sludge and it is compacted and moved into an outside container to be transported to a landfill. The sludge looks like black dirt, Public Works Director Ron Saba said. With the sludge removed, the treated effluent is passed through an ultraviolet light chamber to kill bacteria before it is discharged into the Pine River.
The effluent is cleaner than the river, Saba proclaimed.

The effluent is cleaner than the river, Saba proclaimed. He led a tour of the control building. The first room is a small lab for testing sewage and treated effluent samples to make sure the plant is operating properly and within state permit limits. The effluent has been testing virtually zero for ammonia and suspended solids, and 2 parts per million on bio-oxygen demand which indicates sewage residue, Saba said. “That’s amazing. The old plant, we would barely make our permit limit.” The first room also has a computer system that shows what the plant is doing in real time. After that is the large noisy room where the sewage comes into the plant. Non-sewage trash is screened out. Then a lift station sends the sewage out and up into the sequencing batch reactor tanks. “Bugs” (specialized bacteria) in the tanks do the treatment work. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe provided “seed” sludge to start the bug colony, Saba said. “We put 25,000 gallons in the first basin, and it started right up. Then the second basin.” The start-up was aided by perfect weather conditions, he added. Seasonal temperature changes won’t affect operation of this system as they did with the old lagoons. Saba and his crew are still determining how much the high tech system will cost to operate, mainly electric use and staff time. So far the staff time is equivalent to one full-time person. It may need someone there seven days a week, eight hours a day, he said. Saba said the last room where the sludge is dried and compacted is one of the most critical and labor intensive. He speculated that the process might have to happen every day, “for sure three or four times a week.” It depends on strength of sewage coming in, not total volume, he said. Someone has to be there overseeing this process. The plant has a large emergency generator to keep it going during a power failure.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Hotchkiss: New treatment plant on schedule

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From the Delta County Independent:

On the Hotchkiss Public Works Director’s wish list is that the new water treatment plant upgrade will be completed and operational by the end of January 2010. Right now, Mike Owens said the department is hard at work completing the exterior of the building while the weather holds. Members of the Hotchkiss Public Works Department stand next to a control skid with the membrane modules they will assemble for the water plant upgrade. From left to right are Chad Lloyd, Don White, Leonard McCulloch and Greg Allen. Lloyd, who is a deputy with the Hotchkiss Marshal’s Office, is working part-time on the installation. They have completed framing the building. The doors are in so the new Pall equipment is secure. Scott Electric is in the process of the electrical installation. Once the exterior is completed the crew will begin plumbing the new equipment, making all the connections to the Pall system.

More water treatment coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Montrose County approves Piñon Ridge Mill 3-0

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the Piñon Ridge Mill, put forth by Energy Fuels Inc. Now, Energy Fuels must collect approval from the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment — a process opponents pledge will be heavily contested. The approval the company collected in Montrose was laden with 19 conditions, meaning the company must address county concerns such how much ore it processes per day. Commissioners also made a condition allowing them to tack on even more conditions in the future, cracking a door for more review.

The 880-acre project site is on private land zoned for agricultural use, not for industrial operations like processing ore, thus meriting a special use permit from Montrose County. The mill has torn an otherwise quiet region in two. Supporters say the revival of the uranium industry can create much-needed jobs in an area short of them and that uranium is the area’s roots — ore pulled from the earth went toward the Manhattan Project and shot life into boom towns like Naturita and now-bust Uravan. Opponents, meanwhile, say that the industry is part of the past and sickened people and the land alike and claim its environmental effects will be too great — from affecting crops to impacting tourism.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Western Resource Advocates pushes needs assessment while southern Wyoming towns help with ‘evaluation’

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Here’s a release from Western Resource Advocates:

At the urging of Western Resource Advocates and others, the US Army Corps of Engineers is requiring proponents of a controversial water pipeline to prove that it is needed. The proposed Million Project, a 560-mile pipeline that would move water from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s populous Front Range, is applying for a permit — yet there are no identified customers for the water.

At least six other major water projects that pre-date the Million Project are already in the planning stages. And although the Million Project claims it is needed to meet the Front Range’s future water demands, the proponents of these other projects have shown no indication that they’ll abandon their plans and rely on Million’s proposal instead. Thus, as a mechanism for solving anticipated regional water demands, the Million pipeline proposal is at least a decade too late.

The Million Project is vehemently opposed by residents of Wyoming and is under scrutiny in Colorado. As the largest proposed private water project in Colorado’s history, the Million Project raises concerns about speculation because it is against Colorado water law to acquire water without first identifying who will use it.

Demonstrating the need for the pipeline is but one troubling question confronting the Million Project. The movement of up to 250,000 acre-feet of water each year would require a vast amount of energy, adding to the ecological impacts of the pipeline. The pipeline could also jeopardize endangered fish, transport invasive species, and diminish recreation and wildlife habitat in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River that is already suffering from drought.

Meanwhile, from the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via The Denver Post:

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming says local governments in southwestern Wyoming will help to evaluate a private developer’s proposal to build a pipeline to take water from the Green River.
Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million has proposed building a multibillion dollar pipeline to carry water from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. Barrasso, a Republican, says he stepped in to allow Sweetwater County, the Sweetwater County Conservation District and the cities of Rock Springs and Green River to serve as participating agencies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in reviewing the pipeline proposal.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.