Energy policy — oil and gas: EPA releases Pavillion water well test data

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Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Rich Mylott):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the latest data from sampling conducted at Pavillion-area water wells yesterday at a public meeting at the Pavillion Recreation Center. Sample results indicate that the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds in groundwater represents a drinking water concern. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has analyzed EPA’s data and recommends that affected well owners take several precautionary steps, including using alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking. EPA has not made any conclusions about the sources of chemical compounds found in drinking water wells.

“EPA will work as long as necessary to ensure that Pavillion residents have safe water,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “While our investigation continues, EPA has secured commitments from our partners to identify alternate sources of water for affected homes and to evaluate long-term solutions.“

EPA’s sampling detected several petroleum hydrocarbons, including benzene and methane, in wells and in groundwater. EPA found low levels of petroleum compounds in 17 of 19 drinking water wells sampled. Sample results also confirm that nearby shallow groundwater is contaminated with high levels of petroleum compounds. There is uncertainty regarding the potential for this contaminated shallow groundwater to migrate to the drinking water aquifer.

EPA also found a number of inorganic constituents such as sodium and sulfates in drinking and groundwater wells. Concentrations of these compounds and metals were generally within ranges identified in previous studies.

Over the past week, officials from EPA and ATSDR met privately with individual residents to provide health information and recommendations based on well-specific sampling results. ATSDR has analyzed EPA’s data and recommends that affected well owners take several precautionary health measures including using alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking, and, for homes affected by methane gas in wells, ventilating rooms while showering. Additional ATSDR recommendations can be found in the consultation document. ATSDR’s analysis of sample results did not find health concerns related to inhalation exposure to chemicals while showering or using evaporative coolers.

EPA is working closely with various government partners and EnCana, the primary gas producer in the area, to ensure that affected residents receive water and to address potential sources. This includes securing access to alternate water sources, as well as the evaluation of potential long-term solutions such as water treatment systems and infrastructure. EPA and partners will work on the details of agreements over the next several weeks and will consult with the community to ensure actions taken to secure safe water meet local needs.
EPA’s Analytical Results Report and additional information are available at the website below.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

How to restore the Colorado River

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Jonathan Waterman author of Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea Down the Colorado River sat down recently with Brad Udall and Osvel Hinojosa to talk about fixing the Colorado River.

Udall is the director of the Western Water Assessment. From Grist:

Osvel Hinojosa works as director of the water and wetlands program from the Mexican environmental group Pronatura.

Grist is also linking to this cool map of the Colorado River Basin. Click through for a treat.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here are Henry Reges’ notes from Tuesday’s webinar:

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Colorado River Basin: Trout Unlimited hires new Upper Colorado River coordinator

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Here’s the release from Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project today announced the hiring of Rob Firth as project coordinator for the Upper Colorado River Basin in Grand and Summit Counties.

Firth, a longtime resident of Hot Sulphur Springs, retired in 2008 after a distinguished 25-year career with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. For most of his career, he served as a district and area wildlife manager in Grand, Summit and parts of Routt and Eagle Counties in northwest Colorado. More recently, he served as the DOW’s statewide chief of law enforcement. Over the years, his varied duties included enforcement of game laws, protection of land and water resources, wildlife and fisheries management, and public education.

“We are excited to put Rob Firth’s experience and skills to work protecting fish and wildlife habitat in the Upper Colorado River Basin,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project, which works to improve stream flows and coldwater fisheries in the state. “Rob is a trusted local voice on resource issues. And he knows how to bring people together to find solutions. That makes him a perfect choice to coordinate projects on behalf of TU in the Upper Colorado.”

For many years, the health of the Upper Colorado River Basin, including the Fraser and Williams Fork Rivers and other important tributaries, has suffered as a result of large-scale diversions of water to Colorado’s Front Range, with low stream flows degrading coldwater fish habitat. Along with Colorado Water Project counsel Mely Whiting, Firth will work to assure that the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project and Moffat Tunnel Firming Project do not further damage an already over-tapped river system.

Firth will also plan and implement on-the-ground projects that improve coldwater habitat in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Among other duties, he will work closely with water users, private land owners and agency staff to identify opportunities to restore streams and implement cooperative agreements with irrigators that benefit agricultural operations and fish habitat simultaneously.

“I have always respected Trout Unlimited as an outstanding grassroots sportsmen’s conservation group,” said Firth. “I’m eager to work with local partners to find ways to protect and enhance our fisheries here on the West Slope.”

In 2005, Grand County presented Firth with an outstanding Citizen award. In 2007, he was named the Colorado Trapper’s Association Wildlife Professional of the Year.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Crowley County: Tour of revegetation sites September 8

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From the La Junta Tribune:

For those who are interested in seeing the revegetation work done in Crowley County there will be an upcoming tour on Wednesday, Sept. 8. The tour will begin with registration at 10 a.m. in the Crowley County Administration Building, 603 Main St., Ordway. The tour is sponsored by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Crowley County Board of Commissioners, and West Otero Timpas Conservation District.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: The Public Works department is showing the PBS documentary ‘Liquid Assets’ Sundays and Mondays in September

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From Steamboat Today:

The city of Steamboat Springs Public Works Depart ment is airing “Liquid Assets,” a 90-minute PBS documentary about water and wastewater infrastructure, at 10 a.m. Sundays and 5:30 p.m. Mondays through September on Channel 6. The documentary details the challenges and necessities of water infrastructure renovations occurring across the country. Steamboat Springs is preparing for massive water and wastewater improvements in coming months, potentially meaning substantial rate increases for residential and commercial users beginning Jan. 1. Contact Laura Frolich, of the public works department, with questions at 970-871-7073 or

More infrastructure coverage here.

Mesa County: $2.93 million for the second phase of wastewater project for Whitewater approved by county commissioners

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

The first phase of the project, which is several months ahead of schedule, features three miles of sewer line from the entrance to the Western Colorado Dragway, just north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and 32 Road, to the intersection of 32 and C 1/2 roads. Senior Engineer Julie Constan said the first phase should be completed “within weeks.”

In the second phase, workers will connect the north end of the line to the Clifton Sanitation District plant and build a pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River that will carry the sewer line. Bridge work will begin Sept. 1, Constan said.

The third and final phase, which the county will bid out late this year, will run the sewer line from the lift station off Coffman Road in Whitewater to the drag strip entrance.

The entire project should be done in June.

More wastewater coverage here.

Brush: $13 million wastewater treatment plant expansion to begin this fall

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

After the state issues its annual bonds, the loan can be issued, he said. That means the expansion to the west of the existing wastewater plant and updates could begin as soon as the end of October and probably no later than mid-November, he said.

Much of the equipment in the existing facility is worn and corroded, said Barbara Gorrell, planning administrator for the county. The original sewage treatment plant was built in 1956, and the current facility used some of the original equipment when it was built in 1965, Colerick said. It`s getting exciting to anticipate seeing the new expansion and equipment built, he said, because some aspects of the plan have been going on for 13 years.

More wastewater coverage here.

Colorado Farm Bureau releases South Platte Task Force report

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From The Pulse – of Colorado Farm Bureau (Shawn Martini):

The South Platte Task Force was charged with the following:

to recommend and report to the CFB Board of Directors what can be done from a public policy perspective to increase water usage in the South Platte River Basin given the real and current parameters set forth by current Colorado water law including the 1969 law, the 1974 augmentation requirements and Colorado Supreme Court Decisions.

Several presentations were made to the board by individuals and organizations involved in the issues associated with both surface and ground water usage. Based upon these presentations and personal knowledge, several recommendations were made that would enhance the use of the water resources in the South Platte River Basin.

Click here to download a copy of the report.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

At 4 p.m. [September 1], we will curtail our releases from Green Mountain Reservoir to the Lower Blue River. We have seen inflows to the reservoir drop off over the last few days. By this evening, the Lower Blue will be running at about 650 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Dissecting Dan Maes’ statement, ‘If it starts in Colorado its our water.’

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Gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is receiving some criticism in certain circles for his statement last week at the Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Summer Meeting where he was quoted as saying, of water, “If it starts in Colorado its our water.” Water watchers know that in most of the west the right to divert water is governed by the Prior Appropriation Doctrine where the most senior appropriations of water put to beneficial use trump later appropriations. There are also numerous agreements or compacts with downstream states that partially determine the disposition of the water that flows in Colorado’s streams.

In his column in today’s Denver Post Ed Quillen looks at Maes’ statement and gives readers the facts (and a bit of humor). He writes:

Does that mean he’s ignorant about our laws and obligations? Not really. Since he says “it’s our water” and we should keep it here, it appears that he understands the saying, “I’d rather be upstream with a shovel than downstream with a water right.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.