Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder Mine uranium tainted water threatens Ralston Creek/Ralston Reservoir

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Groundwater near the Schwartzwalder Mine contains uranium levels that are 1,000 times higher than the human health standards, according to an Associated Press article. The contaminated groundwater is near Ralston Creek, which flows into Ralston Resevoir. The resevoir supplies water to Denver and Arvada.

John Hamrick, Cotter’s vice president of milling, said the company had been working with the Department of Reclamation and Mining Safety to address the issue. “We have a plan that is due to them Monday about different remedial alternatives,” Hamrick said. The mine is located north and west of Golden. Hamrick said it started operations in the 1950s and was closed in 2000.

He said there were three parts to the mine when it was in operation: the underground mine, an ore sorter and a water treatment plant for water used in the mining operation. The company has a license through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the ore sorter and water treatment plant. “We’re in the final process of terminating that license,” he said…

Hamrick said the groundwater flow from the creek goes through waste rock from the mine and that is probably where it is picking up uranium. While the mine itself has water in it, that water level is steady. “We do not think that the mine water is getting into the creek,” he said.

Here’s some history for the mine from Wikipedia:

In 1949 janitor and weekend prospector Fred Schwartzwalder discovered uranium at an abandoned copper prospect in Jefferson County about ten miles northeast of Central City and eight miles north of Golden. The deposit consists of Tertiary hydrothermal veins filling fracture zones oriented predominantly NNW-SSE in gneiss, schist, and quartzite of the Precambrian Idaho Springs Formation. The chief ore mineral is pitchblende, which occurs with adularia and ankerite. Schwartzwalder could interest no one in his discovery, so he drove the first adit of the Schwartzwalder mine by himself, made the first ore shipment in 1953, and sold the mine in 1955. The Schwartzwalder mine was the source of more than 99% of the uranium produced from the Front Range province. The mine operated until 1995, producing 17 million pounds (7700 metric tons) of uranium oxide. The mine is owned by General Atomics subsidiary the Cotter Corporation, which estimates that there are an additional 16 million pounds (7300 metric tons) of uranium oxide resource remaining in the mine.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Uranium concentrations in groundwater 30 feet beneath the brim of the Schwartzwalder Mine exceed the human health standard for uranium by more than 1,000 times, according to state records reviewed Thursday. Unhealthy concentrations also were detected in Ralston Creek, which eventually enters Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to Denver and Arvada.

Denver Water managers say no uranium contamination has entered the drinking-water supply…

Neither Cotter nor the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for water quality, notified Denver Water. “It would have been nice to know,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s manager of operations and maintenance. Denver Water now will increase testing for uranium, Good said, calling on Cotter to clean it up. Because Denver’s Moffat water- treatment plant is closed for maintenance, no Ralston Reservoir water currently enters Denver’s drinking-water system, Good said. “Our water is safe,” he said, “but it’s a little bit troubling that (uranium) is coming into our reservoir in those concentrations.”[…]

Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety “does not believe conditions requiring an emergency response currently exist. If they should arise, (the state) can require Cotter to pump and treat mine water to bring down levels and ensure groundwater is not jeopardized,” state spokesman Theo Stein said.

From the Associated Press via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Cotter vice president John Hamrick says they’re considering several methods to deal with the contamination, including creating a wetland.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Craig: Water treatment plant upgrades detailed

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From the Craig Daily Press (Brian Smith):

…what [Craig Water and Wastewater Director Mark Sollenberger] is most proud of is not so much the advanced technology the plant uses to turn Yampa River water in to drinking water, but that he and his staff of four operators, one maintenance technician and Craig Public Works Director Bill Earley brainstormed and designed the upgrades they wanted. “We picked the technology ourselves because we knew how much funding we had,” Sollenberger said. “We came up with what we felt would be the best design and then we went to the engineers and said, ‘Here is what we think. Can you do it for us?’”[…]

The top upgrades the plant received include a new dissolved air flotation pretreatment system, an ultraviolet ray supplemental treatment process and increased water storage capacity. With the new upgrades, the water plant meets or exceeds all state standards and guidelines for necessary water capacity and sanitation. All told, the new upgrades have made the plant’s water much safer and faster in processing water, Sollenberger said. A gallon of water from the Yampa River once took up to eight hours to be processed. Now the plant can treat the same gallon in less than two hours. And the water hitting sinks in Craig is cleaner and safer than most bottled water, Sollenberger said…

…the new dissolved air floatation pretreatment system is the only one of its kind on the Western Slope and one of four in the state.

Sollenberger and his staff chose the system because of the unique nature of the water in the Yampa River. It works by introducing chemicals, which, when combined with the water, electrically charge and bond with dirt particles. Microbubbles of air then are pushed through the water and the particles float to the top of the tank and are slowly scraped away. The new air flotation system is an improvement from the old system, which relied on dirt particles sinking to the bottom of the tank because the water in the Yampa River is cold most of the year making it harder for particles to sink. The new upgrades also increased water storage capacities from six million gallons per day to 12 million gallons per day. The “extremely high powered” ultraviolet treatment serves as a supplemental treatment process and has a “higher kill rate” on parasites such as giardia. It also cuts down on some of the chlorine used to treat the water, which helps with the end taste, while still meeting state and federal sanitary guidelines.

More water treatment coverage here.

Snowpack news: Runoff starting early?

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

For the second year in a row, heavy winds out of the south and west have coated the mountains – the source of Colorado Springs’ water – with a layer of reddish-brown dust from the deserts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The dust absorbs heat from sunlight and melts the snow more quickly.

Snowpack in the Arkansas River Basin, 107 percent of average three weeks ago, was at 87 percent Friday. The Upper Colorado River Basin dropped from 78 to 73 percent of average in the same period. At the same time, river levels are rising. The flow of the Arkansas River near the mouth of the Royal Gorge doubled in the past week, from 400 cubic feet per second to 800. In southwest Colorado, melting snow combined with a fresh storm caused flooding fears for this weekend.

“The combination of the dust being on the surface (of the snow) and the warm air temperatures, we’re getting a pretty good surge,” said Kimberly Buck, assistant to the director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton…

[Colorado Springs] Utilities has reservoir space available to capture the runoff, he said. Utilities’ storage was at 79 percent of capacity at the end of March…

…there was good news in the forecast. A spring snowstorm Friday was expected to drop up to a foot in southwest Colorado and a few inches in the central mountains, enough to cover the dust.

Animas-La Plata Project: Colorado lawmakers give initial approval for state to buy project water

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The $36 million idea would give the state up to 10,460 acre-feet in the reservoir, which it could then sell or lease to other water districts. The state could also keep the water as a hedge against a future legal demand from downstream states, said Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee unanimously accepted the idea as an amendment to House Bill 1250, the annual bill that authorizes water projects. The amendment gives the CWCB the power to buy into Animas-La Plata if it decides the move would make sense. “We want to make sure we have legitimate reasons before buying the water,” Gimbel said…

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which built the dam, is willing to sell the water to the state in return for a share of the construction costs. The price works out to less than $3,400 an acre-foot. The Legislature has authorized projects for six times the cost per acre-foot, Whitehead said.

The CWCB is waiting on the results of a market study to see what it could do with the water. “What it’s worth is probably a lot more than what it costs,” Gimbel said.

From the Associated Press via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Lawmakers gave intial approval to a plan for the state to buy up to 10,460 acre feet of water for $36 million from the Animas-La Plata project. The plan given the intial approval Thursday now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities names some contractors

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

ASI Constructors of Pueblo West has been chosen as the primary contractor for the North Outlet Works connection to Pueblo Dam as part of the Southern Delivery System. The contract will be for roughly $6 million, but negotiations are still continuing, according to Colorado Springs Utilities. Other area subcontractors were also chosen, including High Country Pipeline of Fremont County, Transit Mix of Pueblo and Springs Fabrication and Rocky Mountain Crane Service of Colorado Springs…

Construction cannot begin until the Bureau of Reclamation approves a contract to use the dam for SDS. Pueblo Dam was constructed in the early 1970s as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and Colorado Springs must get approval to hook up to the dam and build a pumping station on federal property. Contracts also are needed for conveyance and exchange for Lake Pueblo in order for SDS construction to begin…

Once Colorado Springs obtains contracts, it would take about one year to complete the dam connection. [Lee Schermerhorn, vice president of ASI Constructors] said the first step in the project would be to use a crane on a barge and divers to install a bulkhead upstream of Pueblo Dam on the river outlet. Water would be diverted through another outlet on the face of the dam during construction. “That will provide extra safety to the workers in the tunnel during construction,” Schermerhorn said.

After that, a 30-foot cube of concrete would be installed upstream of the dam, where releases over the past 35 years have cut a deep pool by the face of the dam. Finally, a manifold that could direct flows to the river, the SDS pumping station and a future cross-connection to the joint use manifold would be built. “It’s a neat job,” Schermerhorn said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Brighton: The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District briefs residents about plans for new regional wastewater treatment plant

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From the Brighton Standard Blade (Gene Sears):

The public meeting, hosted by representatives from the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, was a dissemination of plans for the facility, slated for construction near the intersection of U.S. Highway 85 and Weld County Road 2. Representatives answered questions for the 100 or so attendees who wandered in and out of the recreation center. A crew of Metro Wastewater staffers and public relations contractors displayed placards detailing plant construction, location, environmental impacts and the service area for the plant, scheduled to open in 2015…

In a project overview published last month, Metro Wastewater District noted that communities in the northern metropolitan area need updated and expanded water treatment, as existing facilities are pushing capacity limits. The district claims the new $220 million facility is more cost effective and efficient than upgrading current facilities and will benefit area communities by eliminating seven neighborhood lift stations. In preparation for the upgrade, the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District sold $250 million in sewer improvement bonds in August in New York. The bond issue included $63 million in tax-exempt bonds and $187 million in taxable Build America Bonds, which are available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A portion of the bonds will directly finance the new plant.

The road to building the plant has been a long and bumpy one, beginning with talks more than a decade ago. It nearly failed when plans assembled under the original 2005 partnership – known as the Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Authority and consisting of three members from each Brighton, South Adams County Water and Sanitation District and the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District – dissolved in disagreement. Brighton subsquently signed on with MWRD as a member entity. The new plant will effectively treat 22 to 26 million gallons of water per day at full operating capacity. Brighton’s current wastewater facility treats 2.3 million gallons per day.

Rather than face large capital expenditures for a new Brighton-owned plant, the city will simply pay tap fees like every other municipality in the district. Tap fees are the charge for hooking homes and businesses up to a water and sewer system and are typically paid by developers, who in turn roll them into the cost of the home or business.

More wastewater coverage here.

Fort Lupton: Water line replacement

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From the Fort Lupton Press:

Construction is expected to begin next week on a waterline replacement project on Fourth Street between Grand and McKinley avenues. Chris Zadel, of Fort Lupton’s Northern Colorado Constructors, said the firm expects to begin work on or around April 19. The project will include the installation of a new 8-inch waterline, milling of existing asphalt and overlay with new asphalt on Fourth Street from Grand Avenue east to McKinley Avenue. Northern Colorado Constructors was awarded the project through the citybidding process.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado River District board meeting April 20, CRWAS public review period extended to July 21, 2010

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From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

Second Regular Quarterly Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Hotel Colorado, 526 Pine Street, Glenwood Springs, CO

Here’s the link to the website. I couldn’t find the agenda posted there.

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

The Colorado River Water Availability Study (CRWAS) Phase 1 Draft Report public review period has been extended an additional 30 days for a total of 120 days. The new comment period end date is July 21, 2010.

The Colorado River Water Availability Study (CRWAS) is available for public review on the CWCB website. We value your input; please send your comments to Ray Alvarado (

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

CWCB: Board meeting May 18-19

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) will be held on Tuesday, May 18, 2010, commencing at 8:00 a.m. and continuing through Wednesday, May 19, 2010. This meeting will be held at 1580 Logan Street, Suite 610, Denver, CO 80203…

Complete information about these activities can be found on CWCB’s Website:

More CWCB coverage here.