Nutrient pollution is becoming a primary water quality concern, wastewater treatment plants are a major source


From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Colorado has nutrient standards for only a few problem bodies of water – among them Cherry Creek Reservoir in the Denver area and Fruit Growers Reservoir near Grand Junction – but no statewide standards. Only 17 states do, but none with standards that apply to all streams and lakes as Colorado is proposing.

The [Colorado Nutrient Coalition] is about 40 entities – stormwater dischargers, water-conservation districts, homebuilders and wastewater dischargers – that would fall under nutrient guidelines.

Kane’s briefing was in anticipation of the Oct. 17 release of requirements for water-treatment plant upgrades and nitrogen and phosphorus levels by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Division of Water Quality Control. The state Water Quality Control Commission has scheduled a hearing on the issues in March.

Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division, said Friday that the nutrients issue has been his biggest challenge. “I’ve been at this for 10 years,” Gunderson said. “Nutrients is a challenge that hasn’t been dealt with, so we’re trying to figure a way to make progress in the next 10 to 20 years.”

Critics who say the regulations are too stringent abound, Gunderson said. But there are those who like them and environmentalists who say they’re not tough enough.

“You can quibble over science,” Gunderson said. “Our challenge is to find consensus among widely divergent opinions.”[…]

The initial cost of upgrading wastewater treatment plants would cost $3 billion statewide, $74 million in Southwest Colorado. Future upgrades to meet phased-in standards could cost from $5.8 billion to $23.2 billion. Even with upgrades, some plants could fall short…

Nancy Keller, a regulatory compliance officer in the city of Pueblo Wastewater Department, said science supporting the proposed criteria has not undergone peer review. She coordinates the coalition’s work. “Nutrients are very complex, and wastewater plants aren’t their only source,” Keller said. “Temperature, canopy cover, the amount of dissolved oxygen, the pH and sediment can affect algae growth in addition to nutrient levels.”

More wastewater coverage here.

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