Southern Delivery System: Update for contract negotiations between Reclamation and Colorado Springs Utilities

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

“There’s a couple of points they’re trying to work out and get clarified with the bureau,” Mayor Lionel Rivera said Friday. The mayor declined to elaborate on those sticking points because of ongoing discussions.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: State Representative Jerry Sonnenburg talks water in Sterling

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Callie Jones):

“Over the last two years, we have allowed over 500,000 acre feet of water leave this state over and above our compact obligations on the South Platte,” Sonnenberg said. “That`s enough to fill Jackson Reservoir, North Sterling Reservoir and Jumbo Reservoir three times.” He wants to do what he can to make sure there is water available with loans and grants for water projects. “Small water projects, water quality projects, water storage projects, those type of things,” Sonnenberg said.

One option they`re looking at for water storage is expanding existing water facilities. “Unfortunately, the problem is, is there is so much negative pressure of people not wanting storage,” he said. “We`re looking at that and trying to get that to happen and those are projects that I will try to move to the top of the list for funding for grants and loan proposals.”

Sonnenberg said if something isn`t done about water storage, it puts this area at risk of losing it to larger cities. “If we don`t find a way to store water, keep water here in northeastern Colorado for us to use, we`re going to have that big red target and cities will come here to get that water,” he said.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Gunnison River basin: CPDHE orders U.S. Energy Corp. to clean up water from the Mt. Emmons mine

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment “compliance advisory” orders site owner U.S. Energy Corp. to clean up the contamination at the Mount Emmons mine near Crested Butte.
But a watchdog group says mining regulators have not collected required bond money from the company to guarantee a cleanup if U.S. Energy can’t do the job.

“We’re doing everything in our power to comply with all regulations. We certainly want to do everything we can to keep the drinking water as safe as we can,” U.S. Energy chief executive Keith Larsen said. “We’re addressing the issues. It’s not our obligation to get it out of the creek. It is our obligation to treat water as it comes out of the mine.”

The contamination documented by state water-quality inspectors complicates a case where state mining regulators already have granted U.S. Energy a prospecting permit to work one of the world’s largest and purest known deposits of molybdenum.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

‘Managing Custer County’s Water’ conference January 15

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

The free conference sponsored by the Custer County Conservation District and Natural Resources and Conservation Service offices, as well as the Custer County commissioners, will be held Saturday, Jan. 15, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Hope Lutheran Church’s fellowship hall…

Guest speakers will include Steve Witte and Steve Kastner from the Division Two State Water Engineers office in Pueblo, and Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board president Glenn Everett among many others. Topics will include a review of Custer County’s water resources, management of that water, water uses, state water law, water augmentation, and a history of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.

More Custer County coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Continuous groundwater monitoring around hydraulic fracturing sites?

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

Legislation aimed at developing a high-tech method for continuous water quality monitoring around natural gas frac’ing operations is among the bills state Rep.-elect Roger Wilson plans to introduce when he takes the House District 61 seat in the Colorado Legislature next week. The focus of the ground-water monitoring bill will be to create a demonstration project in cooperation with the state’s universities to do ongoing, real-time monitoring using electronic sensor networks around well sites, the Glenwood Springs Democrat said this week as he prepares to be sworn into office on Jan. 12. “Rather than having individuals conducting infrequent sampling, the idea is to use inexpensive, widely deployed sensor networks to do the monitoring on an ongoing basis,” Wilson said.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here. More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Is spring flooding in the forecast?

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From The Denver Post (Tom McGhee):

Snow in some basins, particularly those in northern Colorado, was almost double last year’s readings on Jan. 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey office. Statewide snowpack is 159 percent of last year’s Jan. 1 readings and 136 percent of the 30-year average, according to the snow survey office.
State officials say it is too early to predict the runoff levels that typically crest in late May and early June. “It depends on how the weather patterns are entering the spring. We don’t see (major) flooding in most years, but it is not uncommon to see some minor flooding,” said Mike Gillespie, snow-survey supervisor of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NRCS…

If the snowpack remains high into February, officials of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will reach out to local emergency managers in vulnerable areas, said Kevin Houck, engineer with the board’s flood mitigation section.
“We may work with them as the season goes on, if appropriate,” he said. “You can’t stop flooding from coming; the only thing you can do is be as prepared as you can.”

Meanwhile, you can download the NRCS’ January 11, 2010 Colorado Basin Outlook Report here. So far runoff looks good due to the great early season snowpack. Reservoir storage is at last year’s levels or better most everywhere.

Energy policy — nuclear: First new uranium mill in the U.S. in 25 years gets the go ahead from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The progress of the mill has been followed with fervid interest here since the early stages of its application, and Wednesday’s news evoked a mix of elation — from supporters who see in it the promise of jobs — and grim disappointment — from opponents who believe a uranium mill will bring devastation to the environment and health of the region.

But in the offices of Energy Fuels Inc., the Canadian company that proposes to build the mill, the mood was one of joy. “We’re extremely pleased and we feel like the decision substantiates the case we’ve worked so hard to make for the last couple of years,” said Gary Steele, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Energy Fuels. “We look forward to moving our project ahead.” Steele said the company still needs to secure investments and tie up a few loose ends. But if all goes well, Energy Fuels hopes to have the mill up and running in the first half of 2012, he said.

The license, which was granted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, permits Energy Fuels to construct a uranium/vanadium mill roughly 12 miles west of Naturita in Paradox Valley — a lonely and wind-scoured valley where redrock walls rise to the sky and the Dolores River flows. The mill, which would sit on a site that is roughly 17 acres, could process up to 500 tons of materials per day. As planned, the facility would run 24 hours a day, almost every day of the year, with up to 85 employees, Energy Fuels has said…

On Wednesday, Hilary White, SMA’s executive director, said the state ignored crucial information and overlooked holes in the applicant’s application. “We’re of course extremely disappointed,” she said. “We feel this was a rushed decision, and we feel that the state chose to ignore hundreds of pages of comments submitted by scientific and technical experts expressing concerns about the impacts…” Sheep Mountain funded a position on its staff to research the mill and fight the application. White said Energy Fuels lacks adequate plans to address an emergency and its plan to contain radioactive waste doesn’t meet state standards. And while the decision comes with conditions, White called them insufficient. A report commissioned by SMA also argued that the mill will actually do further damage to the region’s already hobbled economy…

Historically, the west ends of Montrose and San Miguel counties boomed with mining activity. Ore from the area went toward the Manhattan Project, and the culture of mining is deeply imbedded in the communities. Naturita’s Tammy Sutherland, who watched her family make a living off of the mining companies during a childhood in the West End, said the news felt like victory. “We’re more than thrilled,” she said. “It’s something this country needs, this area needs … We’re all pretty excited.”

From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

In 2009, Montrose County commissioners approved a special-use permit that allows the mill to be sited in an area zoned for general agriculture.

More Pinon Ridge Mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Boulder County completes the cleanup of the Argo Mine

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From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

The onetime gold and fluorspar mine is about 1.5 miles northwest of Jamestown. It’s on a 13.7-acre parcel the county acquired for $70,000 in December 2000 to preserve as open space and to prevent future mining or development on the property. While a county historical survey indicated that the Argo Mine was originally developed in 1875, there’s not known to have been any active mining there since the late 1950s or early 1960s. However, waterborne contaminants from the mine and its piles of waste rock have been found to be loading copper, iron, lead, zinc and magnesium into Little James Creek…

Little James Creek converges with James Creek, with their waters eventually flowing into Lefthand Creek. Lefthand Creek, in turn, is one of the sources of water the Left Hand Water District provides to about 18,000 residents and agricultural producers in unincorporated Boulder County, including drinking water for areas such as Niwot. But Left Hand Water District general manager Kathy Peterson and Glenn Patterson, watershed coordinator for the Lefthand Watershed Oversight Group, both said in interviews that the Argo Mine pollutants weren’t an immediate threat to the safety of the drinking water that’s treated and distributed downstream…

A more important reason for the Argo Mine cleanup, Patterson said, was to help improve Little James Creek’s own stream health and its ability to support aquatic life…

[Barry Shook, the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department’s coordinator of the project] and EPA officials said the cleanup work took the mine’s waste rock, mixed it with fly ash, cement and water, and stowed that paste mixture inside the old mine’s central cavern, or “stope.” The next step, Shook said, was reclaiming the sites where the waste rock had come from. One of the rock piles was graded and capped with 18 inches of topsoil, officials said. Shook said that elsewhere, about 8 inches of topsoil was spread over areas that were disturbed when waste rock was removed. The topsoil areas were then seeded and mulched, and Shook said that “we’re waiting for a good winter of snow so that the seeds out there germinate.”[…]

Shook and EPA officials said removal of the waste rock and the closing of the cavernous stope will make the property itself safer if Boulder County opens the property to hikers or other public uses. EPA officials said removal of the piles of mine tailings means they’ll no longer be in direct contact with water or exposed to surface water runoffs and drainage. Also, entombing the mine tailings in concrete reduces their exposure to groundwater.

More restoration coverage here.

Wastewater: Treated Biosolids Safe for Agricultural Uses

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Here’s the release from the University of Arizona (Jeff Harrison):

A newly published report from a University of Arizona research group says biosolids, properly treated, pose little if any health risk to the public. The study, “Pathogens in Biosolids: Are They Safe?,” is online in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

Ian L. Pepper, director of the NSF Water and Environmental Technology Center and a professor of soil, water and environmental science, or SWES, at the UA, led the study, a 19-year analysis tracking pathogens in biosolids from the wastewater stream in Tucson, Ariz. The study also included current data from 18 other wastewater treatment plants across the country.

The study’s co-authors include another SWES professor, Charles P. Gerba, as well as researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Loma Linda University and Drexel University. The study is the first of its kind since current federal regulations, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency’s Part 503 Rule, for wastewater treatment began in 1993.

The Part 503 Rule governs how wastewater is treated in order to maintain public and environmental safety.

Most people in the U.S. live in communities where raw sewage is treated at wastewater facilities. Biosolids, the end product of the treatment process, have a broad range of uses in agriculture, from fertilizing agricultural fields and woodlands to lawns and gardens. Biosolids fall into two categories, Class A and Class B. Both use a combination of processes to kill pathogens including heating, composting, anaerobic digestion or changing pH levels.

Class A biosolids are those that have been treated to the point where pathogens are undetectable and there are no restrictions on their use as fertilizer. Standards for Class B biosolids are less stringent and have small but measurable levels of bacteria and come with restrictions on how they can be used on crop plants, grazing livestock and human exposure.

Pepper said one big question has been what kind and how many human pathogens are found in Class B biosolids. He said the study analyzed data prior to and after 1993, when the Part 503 rule took effect in order to determine the impact of regulations.

The study, Pepper said, showed that concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria and viruses are actually lower than 1993 levels. It also showed that between 94 and 99 percent of pathogens are eliminated by wastewater treatment, crediting treatment in reducing pathogen loads.

“Further, the fact that pathogen levels are lower now than in the 1980s shows that the Part 503 Rule has been effective in reducing public exposure to pathogens relative to 25 years ago,” he said.

The study suggests that levels of some enteric viruses, the bacteria Salmonella and Ascaris ova, or roundworm eggs, in the U.S. are low in Class B biosolids that are treated by anaerobic digestion. Pepper and his colleagues also found no Campylobacter or E. coli bacteria in their tests.

Other studies suggest that Class B biosolids also are treated further simply by exposure to sunlight, wind, heat and soil microbes as they are distributed as fertilizer. Using biosolids as fertilizer also is a more ecologically sound approach to their disposal than either taking up space in landfills or polluting air and water through incineration.

The UA Water and Environmental Technology Center has gained a nationwide reputation for research on biosolids by providing data on human exposure to microbial pathogens, allowing for risk assessments on potential adverse effects of pathogens on human health and welfare.

Thanks to Science Daily for the link.

More wastewater coverage here and here.