Colorado adopts new standards for phosphorus and nitrogen in wastewater treatment plant releases ahead of anticipated EPA rules

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From NBCNews11.com (Andie Adams):

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has given preliminary approval to regulations that would limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in bodies of water statewide.

“When you get too many nutrients in a water body, then it can make algae bloom more, then when that dies, it robs the stream of oxygen. So you can have problems for fish and aquatic organisms,” said Hannah Holm, coordinator of CMU’s Water Center…

“Some people are making the argument that it’s not clear that nutrients are really a major environmental and water quality problem here in the Grand Valley,” said [Hannah Holm, coordinator of CMU’s Water Center].

But water director Jennifer Bock with the High country citizen’s alliance said for this area, the regulations would be preventative. “We’ve seen bad algae on the Front Range and we want to protect the west slope so this is just a good first step to get ahead of the problem,” said Bock.

The rules are broken down into two sets. The first would require large wastewater treatment plants, like Grand Junction’s Persigo plant, to control their nitrogen and phosphorus levels. “Those guys will be affected in the next couple of years. Their permits will come up and they’ll work with the state to see what they need to do to come in with compliance,” said Bock.

The second set would require that all bodies of water comply with the nutrient amounts by 2024. That includes drainage authorities and districts. “We have to monitor this and make sure the quality is what these regulations require it’s going to cost a lot of money to do that,” said Kevin Williams, manager for the Grand Valley Drainage District.

He said he is worried that these regulations will become an unfunded mandate. “A benefit analysis that was done is that right now in this first phase, this is going to encumber the people of the state of Colorado almost $2.5 billion, and it’s unfunded. In other words, the state isn’t helping us out,” Williams.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby) via Google Groups:

After nearly three days of public testimony and several more hours of deliberation, the nine-member commission gave its initial approval late Wednesday of more than 600 pages of new regulations that are designed to limit how much nitrogen and phosphorus can be in the state’s rivers and streams.

The final regulations will be reviewed again in May, with the new regulations going into effect June 30, said Steve Gunderson, executive director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. “The commission gave preliminary approval to much of the water control division’s final proposal regarding nutrients management,” Gunderson said. “The only major substantive difference is relaxation of the total inorganic limitation for existing facilities from 10 milligrams a liter to 15 milligrams.”

He said the new rules will impact only the largest wastewater treatment plants in the state, which account for 10 percent of all plants. Those 44 plants include the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant in Grand Junction. Wastewater treatment plant officials statewide, who opposed the new regulations, said it could cost them up to $2 billion in new equipment, saying those costs will be borne by ratepayers. Persigo officials estimated their new costs at upwards to $24 million.

Gunderson, who calls high nutrient levels one of the biggest water-quality challenges facing the nation, said the limits are designed to protect the state’s waterways from too much algae. High algae levels can create oxygen-dead zones that can kill plants and aquatic life.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

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