Sand Creek: Benzene laden flows from the Suncor refinery are still discharging into the surface water

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data — from samples taken by Suncor — showed benzene concentrations at 720 parts per billion on Jan. 9 at the point where Sand Creek meets the South Platte, up from 190 on Jan. 6, and 144 times higher than the 5 ppb national drinking-water standard. Benzene is a chemical found in crude oil that is classified as cancer-causing, especially affecting blood. Downriver on the South Platte, the data show benzene at 240 ppb on Jan. 9, a decrease from 590 on Jan. 6 but still 48 times higher than the standard…

Spilled contaminants from decades of refinery operations at the site have seeped underground, “and it is snaking through. The pressures change. It finds the path of least resistance, and that’s apparently what has happened: It has found the path of least resistance to get into Sand Creek,” Colorado health department environmental-programs director Martha Rudolph said in an interview last week…

Suncor officials Friday said blood tests were done on 675 employees and contractors. Suncor cannot comment on results, spokeswoman Lisha Burnett said. “Any retesting that may be required is handled between the individual and a doctor.” Refinery crews are excavating water pipelines and have not found any breaks or cracks, Burnett said. “One theory that we’re investigating is the permeation of hydrocarbons through plastic pipe.”

Suncor will build a large slurry wall made of claylike material along Sand Creek and collector trenches to protect waterways — as well as a trench system and wall on Suncor’s property to prevent the spread of hydrocarbons, she said.

More Sand Creek coverage here.

Pueblo Dam: The proposal for a hydroelectric generation facility at the north outlet works is moving through the bureaucracy

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Bureau of Reclamation in December accepted a lease of power privilege proposal by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “This is a big deal that will give us broader options for power in the Arkansas River basin,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern District.

The next step is for the partners to sign an agreement and gain approval from Reclamation for its plan to build hydropower at Pueblo Dam. The generation facilities would be built in the next 10 years, Broderick said. The cost estimates and timeline for the agreement are slated to be discussed by the Southeastern board in February.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Southeastern Board Meeting recap: Reclamation stands to get $3 million for Arkansas Valley Conduit EIS

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Bureau of Reclamation is working on an environmental impact statement for the conduit that will identify the preferred option for the conduit. It will be allocated nearly $3 million to complete the study in the next year, said Christine Arbogast, a lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

In the 2013 fiscal year, relatively little funding would be needed as the EIS is completed, but in the following year the district will have to push for federal funds to begin building the conduit.

More coverage from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado has accrued 44,000 acre-feet of credits under an accounting system of deliveries of Arkansas River water to Kansas. There are two reasons for the surplus, Witte explained:

– The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association has been delivering about 8,000 acre-feet annually for six years from the Kessee Ditch below John Martin Reservoir.

– The state has been using a presumptive depletion factor of 39 percent, rather than 30 percent as required by the compact lawsuit.

The Division of Water Resources will re-evaluate the depletion factor in June, and it likely will be lowered to some midpoint between the two extremes, Witte said. That means well owners would be required to replace less water on an annual basis, but the change would not go into effect until April 2013 at the earliest.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is overseeing this pilot program [for the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] as well as the Lower district,” Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. “We’re trying to be as transparent as we can.”

Winner and engineer Heath Kuntz reviewed Super Ditch plans at the board’s monthly meeting. The information was the same as longer presentations to a group of about 200 people earlier this month in Rocky Ford. That meeting was held at the suggestion of State Engineer Dick Wolfe to give those who could be affected by Super Ditch the opportunity to look at the potential impacts of a pilot program. The Rocky Ford meeting led to a technical meeting in Colorado Springs Thursday to work out issues raised at the first meeting. The Lower Ark district will file its substitute water supply plan for the pilot program after attempting to settle those issues, Winner said.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.