Pueblo: Wastewater treatment plant moving to ultraviolet disinfection

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo’s sewer plant, the James R. DiIorio Water Reclamation Facility, was built in 1987, and treats about 11 million gallons per day. It’s already past the end of its design life – 20 years – and parts of the system are being retrofitted to meet new requirements for ammonia removal. The plant has a capacity of 19 million gallons per day and provides treatment for the city of Pueblo, as well as St. Charles Mesa, Blende and Salt Creek sanitation districts. It also accepts water from septic tanks collected throughout Pueblo County. Last week’s discharge of about 250,000 gallons of unchlorinated treated effluent followed a release of nearly 500,000 gallons of overchlorinated sewage in 2007, and both problems would have been alleviated if an ultraviolet treatment system were in place, said Gene Michael, Pueblo wastewater director. “It would reduce the likelihood of those situations,” Michael said.

The problem is finding the money to build the $4 million system. A federal stimulus grant this year will fund the solar array to power the UV system, which is really the city’s final step in a series of upgrades that has been in the works for the past three years. Pueblo ratepayers have seen roughly 25 percent rate increases since 2006 designed to help pay for both upgrades to the sewer plant and to repair aging sewer lines throughout town. The city spent $800,000 in 2008 and $1 million this year in upgrading lines, and plans to spend a similar amount next year, Michael said. Priorities are determined by video inspection of the lines to look for potential breaks. When a line breaks, it can cost the city $100,000 per block and $7,000 per manhole to repair. The city has about 467 miles of mains, two-thirds of which are more than 50 years old.

But the needs are at the sewer plant, where a total of $26.5 million is needed to bring it up to date, Michael said. “We’ve broken it down into five or six pieces,” he said. “We’re not increasing the capacity of the plant at all with that $26.5 million. Actually, what we’re doing is maintaining the current capacity.” The city is planning to go to bid in January on a dewatering system that will lower groundwater levels around the sewer plant, which sits on Stockyard Road near the Arkansas River. At the same time, it will look at improvements at the airport industrial park lift station electrical system, Michael said. The biggest part of the project will be an ammonia removal system, which is needed to meet stricter water quality standards. It will be divided into two steps…

The final part of the project will be the UV system, which could go out to bid in April or May.

More wastewater coverage here.

Cloud seeding update

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Here’s a look at cloud seeding efforts worldwide from the Associated Press via The New York Times. From the article:

Faced with water shortages, growing populations and the threat that climate change could make matters worse, governments around the globe have increasingly turned to cloud seeding in an attempt to wring more rain and snow from the sky. But the efforts are threatened by budget cuts in states struggling to begin an economic recovery and by critics who insist the technique is unproven and might pose a threat to the environment. ”When there is a drought in a particular country, they start looking at alternative sources of freshwater, and cloudy air is one source,” said Duncan Axisa, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who supports expanding cloud-seeding research.

Government agencies and utilities from California to North Dakota spend an estimated $15 million a year on cloud seeding, and the number of projects has jumped by nearly a third in the last decade. But spending in the United States is far lower than in many other countries. China spends an estimated $100 million a year on cloud-seeding efforts that include using anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to blast the sky with silver iodide. ”What’s going on in the U.S. is tiny,” said Arlen Huggins, an associate research scientist at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev. ”There’s more being done outside the U.S. than here.” Other countries conducting cloud-seeding research include Australia, France, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Venezuela.

In the U.S., utilities that run hydroelectric dams are among the most active cloud seeders. They say it is a cost-effective way to increase limited water supplies by 10 percent or more. Cloud seeding is also used in Texas and the Midwest to make hail smaller, reducing crop damage…

Colorado has doubled its state and local spending on cloud seeding over the last 10 years to about $700,000 a year. In 2005, Wyoming lawmakers committed nearly $9 million to a five-year project to determine whether the technology works. Cloud-seeding supporters say federal research funding would not only validate the system but lead to improvements in techniques. ”We want to chip away at changes in climate change now and do a good job at augmenting our precipitation now,” said Joe Busto, who sits on the North American Interstate Weather Modification Council, a group of regulators from 10 states organized to promote cloud seeding.

More cloud seeding coverage here and here.

ASARCO parent Grupo Mexico ponies up $1.79 billion for mining cleanup

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From the Environmental News Service:

ASARCO LLC is a mining, smelting, and refining company based in Tucson, Arizona that mines and processes primarily copper. Parent corporation Grupo Mexico is providing the $1.79 billion to resolve the ASARCO’s environmental liabilities from operations that contaminated land, water and wildlife resources on federal, state, tribal and private land in 19 states. “Through this historic settlement, the American public is compensated for the damage and loss of natural resources resulting from ASARCO’s past mining, smelting and refining operations,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Were it not for this agreement, these injured resources would either remain impaired for future generations or require taxpayer expenditures to achieve environmental restoration.” The money from environmental settlements in the bankruptcy will be used to pay for past and future costs incurred by federal and state agencies at the more than 80 sites contaminated by mining operations in 19 states, said federal officials…

The contaminated Superfund sites are in Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

More superfund coverage here.