Wastewater: On Tuesday Salida held a groundbreaking ceremony for their new treatment plant


From The Mountain Mail (Calley McDermott):

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs contributed $1.3 million to the project. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a $2.1 million grant and a $12.1 million loan. Jan Schmidt, city finance director, said the balance will be paid from reserves.

Moltz Construction, Inc. of Salida received the $11.8 million construction bid…

Mayor Chuck Rose said wastewater service is core to any municipality, and the Salida plant will also serve Poncha Springs. Rose said, “We’re staying ahead of the game” by constructing the new plant before effluent affects the river.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

State officials huddle up to discuss strategies for lowering nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen in wastewater effluent discharge


From the Colorado News Agency (Debi Brazzale) via The Sterling Journal Advocate:

Steve Gunderson, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, told the legislative Water Resources Review Committee the potential magnitude of the problem. “Nutrients are more toxic than plutonium,” said Gunderson.

The committee took the testimony at a hearing Wednesday [September 12] in accordance with House Joint Resolution 11-1025. The resolution outlines criteria to be studied by the panel in anticipation of rules and regulations to be proposed in March by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission regarding the presence of surplus nutrients.

When combined, nitrogen and phosphorus fuel the production of algae, which is essential for plant and animal health — but too much of which can contaminate waterways, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An excess of algae upsets the ecological balance for other life forms and requires urgent action, the federal environmental agency maintains. The EPA says the proliferation of such contaminants is a growing concern in the United States, and EPA rulings have encouraged states to adopt measureable standards and to develop mitigation strategies to reduce nutrients.

Gaining ground in controlling nutrients will require mitigation efforts at wastewater-treatment plants, state officials say. One approach involves what’s called Biological Nutrient Removal, or BNR, using naturally occurring micro-organisms to remove the nutrients. BNR, however, cannot remove the nutrients to EPA-recommended levels, according to Gunderson…

[State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg] countered that adopting quantifiable standards might disproportionately affect rural communities where agriculture and the use of fertilizers — containing nitrogen — are integral to their livelihood. “Agriculture uses less fertilizer per acre than most homes do on lawns,” said Sonnenberg. “Do we really want to go down this road and force agriculture to find different ways to grow food that everyone depends on?” Sonnenberg asserts that the nutrients-in-water conversation has been around for years — and that the jury is still out on both the impacts and causes of nutrient proliferation.

“Now they’re talking numbers, and it will be impossible to meet those numbers,” Sonnenberg said. “Let’s not handcuff ourselves with rules and regulations that cannot be met.”

More wastewater coverage here.

Aspen: The city council is weighing three options for fluoride dosing in the water supply


From The Aspen Times (Chadwick Bowman):

Currently, the city of Aspen adds fluoride to the natural amount already in the water supply to achieve a level of 1 to 1.1 milligrams of fluoride per each liter of water. The debate was sparked by recent recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, federal agencies that want water districts to lower the amount of fluoride to .07 milligrams per liter…

Council members said that they need more time to discuss three possible options the city’s Environmental Health Department outlined. One option is to maintain the status quo; another is to completely stop adding fluoride to the water; the third alternative would be to reduce the amount of fluoride it adds to water to reach the EPA-recommended .07 level.

The council asked environmental health director Lee Cassin if she could return with more information about the issue. Council members asked how difficult and expensive it would be for individuals to filter out the fluoride on their own; how much money the city would save to end the program (the annual cost was an estimated $22,000); and why water plants in Europe have ended fluoridation.

More water treatment coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Sheep Mountain, et al., settle with Energy Fuels over water court application for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill


From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beudin):

[Sheep Mountain Alliance], a Telluride-based environmental non-profit, has opposed the planned mill — to be located in Paradox Valley, about 60 miles west of Telluride — at nearly every turn. But last week, Sheep Mountain and others agreed to withdraw their objections regarding water use in exchange for the mining company’s adherence to certain environmental and water supply provisions…

Not so fast, though, says Hilary White, SMA’s executive director. “The stipulation between Sheep Mountain Alliance/Living Rivers and Energy Fuels does not provide Energy Fuels with a water right,” she wrote in an email on Wednesday. “The agreement requires Energy Fuels to obtain all necessary conditions including water from McPhee Reservoir to mitigate impacts from withdrawing groundwater in the Paradox Valley. However, it remains to be seen whether or not Energy Fuels is able to purchase Dolores Project Water and satisfy conditions of [Colorado Water Conservation Board] — the remaining objector.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is hoping to recruit more student weather watchers


From the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Tyler Cashion):

“CoCoRaHS is a non-profit science network of people who relay their rain gauge levels to help local scientists all the way up to scientists on the national level,” said Noah Newman, education coordinator for CoCoRaHs

Lately, CoCoRaHS has been visiting grade schools across the state to encourage students to become volunteers.

“The notion is that we need more data, we need more rain gages, we need more pixels on our map, just like you would want more pixels on your camera,” Newman said. “My plan as the education coordinator is to recruit more schools to our network.

“Right now most of our members are retired senior citizens, so we’re trying to get a younger group to join, but we are open for anyone to become a volunteer.”

According to Newman, CoCoRaHS has invited every school in the state of Colorado to join the program. Newman has even offered to buy the rain gages for these schools.

“Any teacher that is interested is eligible for a free rain gage,” Newman said. “We have handed out around 15 rain gages in Fort Collins so far, and we have schools all over the state already starting to participate.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter ordered to build bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine


Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Mark Salley):

On Tuesday, the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment amended its June 1, 2010 notice of violation/cease and desist order, and required Cotter Corporation to build a bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County to minimize the discharge of uranium-laden water into Ralston Creek.

Schwartzwalder Mine is an underground uranium mine near Golden that opened in about 1953 and was acquired by Cotter in 1966. Cotter operated the mine from 1966 until 2000 when mining operations ceased.

The Water Quality Control Division learned in 2010 that discharge from the mine property contained elevated levels of uranium that exceed surface water standards under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.

Cotter completed the majority of the corrective actions required by the June order, but discharges of uranium and other mine-related pollutants to groundwater and surface water from the facility have continued.

Water sampling at the site from June 2010 through July 2011 show concentrations of uranium in the groundwater and surface water that continue to cause or contribute to an exceedance of the 30 micrograms per liter stream standard.

The amended order dated Sept. 27 requires Cotter to submit a plan to the department no later than Oct. 7 for the design and construction of the temporary structure (i.e., pipeline) that will divert Ralston Creek steam flows past the Schwartzwalder facility. Construction is to be substantially completed by Jan. 31, 2012.

The amendment to the June 1 order further requires Cotter to evaluate and enhance its groundwater capture and treatment system and to submit a plan and time schedule for the
aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources at the mine.

Steve Gunderson, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said the department has continued to work closely with the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to regulate the Schwartzwalder facility.

Gunderson said, “While Cotter implemented the majority of the corrective actions required in our June order, pollutants are continuing to reach the creek. This step is necessary to help protect groundwater and surface water.

“As the agency that regulates drinking water for the state, we also continue to work with public drinking water systems that rely on waters from Ralston Creek,” said Gunderson. “Those three providers (Denver Water, City of Arvada, and North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District) continue to serve drinking water to their customers that meets safe drinking water standards. Although drainage from Schwartzwalder has continued to reach the surface waters of Ralston Creek, the drinking water from those systems remains safe for consumption as a result of downstream attenuation at Ralston Reservoir and Blunn Reservoir, and treatment techniques utilized by the public water systems.”

More coverage from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Cotter Corp., which owns the defunct Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County, has until Oct. 7 to submit a design- and-construction plan for a bypass pipeline. That pipeline is to be “substantially completed” by Jan. 31. Additionally, Cotter is required to submit a plan and time schedule for the “aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources” at the mine…

On Wednesday, the state said the company had “completed the majority of corrective actions” but added the pipeline requirement after it became clear pollutants were still reaching the creek…

Cotter has had numerous problems with the state over the years. Most recently, the company filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Mined Lands Reclamation Board, accusing it of abusing its discretion when it ordered Cotter to pump out and treat the uranium-tainted water in its mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Wastewater: The Pueblo West Metro District approves $5.3 loan application for treatment plant upgrades


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker):

If approved, the district would pay $320,000 a year over the next 20 years to cover the loan [ed. from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority], but the improvements could also save the district enough money to soften the annual blow. Right now, the district pays about $360,000 a year to treat and dispose of the solids from the plant. The new improvements could save the district about $215,000 a year, making the annual payment about $115,000 a year. The improvements also will reduce the odor from the plant and protect against potential leaks into the groundwater.

Initial estimates are that, with about 5,000 homes on the district’s sewer lines, the annual payments could mean a $12 to $13 increase in sewer rates per year for those customers.

Meanwhile the district has received five applications for the vacant board seat, according to Jeff Tucker writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Five people have applied for the open seat on the Pueblo West Metropolitan District’s Board of Directors, vacated by Chuck Green… Metro District Manager Jack Johnston said the board won’t take any action until its next official meeting at the soonest. That meeting is Oct. 11

More wastewater coverage here and here.