Blue River Watershed: Upper Blue Sanitation District wastewater treatment plant employs sealed-pipe system to control odors


From the Summit Daily News (Caddie Nath):

The $32-million plant, which opened its pipes in March, is bringing expanded capacity and cutting-edge technology to the operation…

Equipped with the first water-treatment technology of its kind in the U.S. and a sealed-pipe system to control odors, the clean, spacious facility is the last big capacity-increase project the district ever plans to undertake…

The plant, which processes 2 million gallons per day on its own, is designed to target the key challenges in the business — smell and sanitation standards. Sealed pipes prevent wastewater from ever being exposed inside the plant, while a ventilation mechanism keeps air flowing into, rather than out of, the building, trapping any smell from the facility inside…

Chemical water-treatment technology imported from Europe, and never before used in the U.S., allows the plant to meet Summit County’s rigorous standards for nitrogen and phosphorous.

More wastewater coverage here.

Michigan State University professor helps devise method of removing phosphorous from wastewater


Here’s the release from Michigan State University:

A professor at Michigan State University is part of a team developing a new method of removing phosphorous from our wastewater – a problem seriously affecting lakes and streams across the country.

In addition, Steven Safferman, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, and colleagues at Columbus, Ohio, based-MetaMateria Technologies, are devising a cost-effective way of recovering the phosphorous, which then can be reused for fertilizer products.

Although its use is regulated in many states, including Michigan, in items such as detergents and fertilizer, phosphorous is part of all food and remains a critical problem as it is always present in human and animal wastes.

Discharge from human and industrial wastewater and runoff into lakes and streams can cause what is known as eutrophication – making the water unsuitable for recreational purposes and reducing fish populations – as well as causing the growth of toxic algae.

What MetaMateria Technologies and Safferman have figured out and tested over the past 10 years is how to produce a media, enhanced with nanoparticles composed of iron, that can more efficiently remove larger amounts of phosphorous from water.

“Phosphorous that is dissolved in wastewater, like sugar in water, is hard to remove,” Safferman said. “We found that a nano-media made with waste iron can efficiently absorb it, making it a solid that can be easily and efficiently removed and recovered for beneficial reuse.”

Safferman added there are indications that their method of phosphorous retrieval is much more cost effective than processing phosphate rock.

“Research suggests that it is significantly cheaper to recover phosphorous this way. So why would you mine phosphorous?” he asked. “And, at the same time, you’re helping to solve a serious environmental problem.”

The material should be commercially available for use within two years, said J. Richard Schorr, MetaMateria CEO.

“Phosphorous is a finite material,” Schorr said “Analyses show that the supply of phosphorous may become limited within the next 25 to 50 years. This is an economical way to harvest and recycle phosphorous.”

More water treatment coverage here.

South Platte River Basin: R.I.P. Joe Shoemaker


What sad news. I bike along the South Platte, Cherry Creek and Clear Creek often, so Mr. Shoemaker’s contributions are omnipresent in my life. Sorry to see you go Joe. Thanks for the vision and energy that turned dumps into a great trail system and urban environment.

Here’s an obituary from Jolon Clark via email from the Greenway Foundation:

As the Associate Director of The Greenway Foundation, it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Joe Shoemaker, the founder of The Greenway Foundation, passed away last night. Joe was a visionary who stood on the banks of the South Platte River (when there was not a single park or trail, when the river was so polluted that it was toxic to touch, when raw sewage was being pumped into the river, and when no one else thought the river had a chance of survival) and said, “we can do better.” Everything The Greenway Foundation is able to do today is possible because of his passion, vision, and dedication to a “lost cause” of a river. It is impossible for me today to even imagine Denver without the vibrancy of Confluence Park, the quiet tranquility of Grant Frontier Park, and the organized chaos of summer camp at Johnson Habitat Park. All of this was made possible by a one-of-a-kind man in Joe Shoemaker.

If you would like to reach out to the Shoemaker family, you can email Jeff at I will let you know when information about the services for Joe are available. Thank you for the outpouring of support that many of you have already shown. Many of you have asked about the possibility of remembering Joe through a donation to either The Greenway Foundation or The Foundation for Colorado State Parks. If you wish to do so, you may make a donation in Joe’s memory to either The Greenway Foundation here or the Foundation for Colorado State Parks here.

I would also encourage you to take a few minutes of your time to read the except from the very beginning of Joe’s book, Returning the Platte to the People, that I have pasted below. I thought this was a fitting way to remember the greatest hero of the South Platte River today, and I hope you will take a few moments to read it, marvel at how far Joe’s dream has come, and, for those of you who knew Joe, to revel in picturing him chasing down the truck, and for those of you who did not know Joe, to experience the unbridled passion that he had for our river as expressed in the final line of this excerpt.

Early one lovely Monday morning in June, I left home in southeast Denver to join several colleagues on an all day river trip in a ten-man inflatable raft. We were certain to get wet because we were headed for a great deal of white water, so I wore a pair of old sneakers, blue jean shorts and a tennis shirt. The Colorado Rockies, dominated by Long’s Peak, were beautiful in the morning sun as I drove to my destination. The mountains were brilliantly white, for their snowpack was deep this year. The rising temperatures of late spring were causing a heavy snow­melt, which increased the white water we would navigate during the day. It was to be an exciting, exhilarating trip. I was anxious to get onto the river.

The drive to our launching site took less than fifteen minutes, and I never left the city of Denver. Indeed, during the entire day’s boat ride we would remain in the city Limits. We would be floating down the South Platte River, embarking where it enters Denver from the south and following it through the city to where it flows off to the north at Franklin Street. Our voyage would cover some ten miles.

I stopped at Frontier Park, near the city line, and crossed the street to the river where several of my fellow sailors had already inflated our raft. One of them, Joan Mason, came forward to greet me.

“Have you seen this?” she asked, holding out a page clipped from the Rocky Mountain News. The piece titled, “The Greening of the Platte,” had been pub­lished while I was out of town, So I hadn’t read it. The author was Peter Warren, a professor at the University of Denver and member of Mayor William McNichol’s Commission on the Arts.

“Much has been said about what cannot be done about Denver,” the long article began. “Yet we have in our backyard one of the most remarkable examples of urban revitalization in the United States. In a brief space of five years, the Platte Greenway Project has transformed a blighted, degraded river-little more than an open sewer-into a major amenity for Denver.”

Joan and I were delighted with the piece. Both of us had worked hard at the transformation of the Platte, she as a member of the project’s three-person staff, I as Chairman of a nine-member citizens’ Committee appointed by Mayor McNichols in 1974 to bring about the river’s improvement. Also, knowledge of our experience could be valuable to dozens of communities where disreputable, repulsive rivers could be restored and returned to the people.

Now, I only had time to scan Warren’s piece, but I noticed that he had caught onto how our unusual Committee had worked: “…a fascinating prototype… operating outside the creaky city bureaucracy, without mandated powers or limits, the Committee has been able to act quickly and effectively.”

At the raft I was greeted by Kenneth R. Wright whose “water-oriented” engineer­ing firm, Wright-McLaughlin, was responsible for designing and supervising construc­tion of a great many of the projects that were turning the blighted Platte into an amenity. Ken was wearing a fabulous straw hat he had brought back from a busi­ness trip to southeast Asia. Behind him, on his knees fitting out the raft, was William C. Taggart, a young Wright-McLaughlin engineer. He had been the firm’s man most directly responsible for its work on the river.

“Three thousand c.f.s., ten times the normal flow,” said Ken, referring in engi­neering parlance to the cubic feet of water per second rushing down the Platte. I stepped out to the bank and saw a churning torrent of water.

“Hope you’re ready for a good ride, Joe,” said Bill, who would serve as our helmsman while the rest of us paddled to his commands. “I’ve checked a number of the roughest spots. We’ll have a few portages, but I think we’ll do okay.”

As I greeted the other passengers who were assembling, I was suddenly dis­tracted by a great white truck lumbering toward us. “Hey, hey, what do we have here?” I asked Ken, well aware that both of us knew the answer.

The vehicle was a large tank truck from Denver’s Waste Water Management Di­vision, and I assumed it was full of some potent liquid. Moreover, I guessed that the driver was hoping to discharge his load into the South Platte, probably at our launching site. The truck, as white as it was, made me see pure red. For a half decade we’d enjoyed a lot of success shutting off discharges of pollutants into our river, but still there were those who kept on seeing the Platte as Denver’s receptacle for anything they wanted out of sight, out of mind. Most disturbing, this philosophy was still prevalent where it should be found least of all, in certain city agencies. It was lodged there like the instincts of an animal: “If you have something to dump, down to the river it goes!”

The truck driver sensed my perturbation as I hailed him to stop. “What’s in there?” I asked.

“Water and ‘stuff’, vacuum pumped from the city’s storm sewers,” he explained. The man’s discomfort became most evident when I asked where the load was going, but instead of answering he drove on down the street. He stopped in about fifty yards and studied us in his rearview mirror.

“He’s waiting for our departure,” said Ken.

“Sure and then into the river it’ll go,” I added. “Let’s talk to him.”

The driver made a U-turn and crept back toward the city. I stopped him again and asked where his load was going. He admitted the river was in his mind.

“It’s just water,” he said. “Won’t hurt anything.”

“Then why don’t you dump it right there in Frontier Park?” I said. “The grass can always use water.”

“Well, no, it would smell,” the driver replied, then demanded to know who I was.

“You’ll find out when you hear about this from your boss,” I replied. The driver shoved his truck into gear, and it soon disappeared, as I memorized the number stenciled on its side.

Shaking my head I returned to our group of boaters. Our last three passengers had arrived. One was Pat McClearn, a new member of our Committee who is with the University of Colorado at Denver and well known for her work with “Trees for Today and Tomorrow,” an organization that distributes and plants trees throughout Denver. Finally, there were the other two of our three-member staff, Rick Lamoreaux and Robert Searns. Both young men are intensely committed to the improvement of the Platte.

As we were about to board the raft, I looked around to see Denver’s Manager of Safety, Elvin Caldwell, arrive in his car. He had officially closed the river through the city to boating because of the high water, but had issued a special per­mit for our trip, which was organized to check the impact of the currents on our various projects. Caldwell’s visit pleased me, for it seemed symbolic of an ongoing change in the feelings of politicians for the river. Not long ago many had treated the Platte virtually as abandoned territory.

In a few minutes the seven of us had bid Caldwell goodbye and were bobbing on the turbulent water in the large, bulbous raft. Everything that could suffer from getting wet, from wallets to cameras, had been stowed in waterproof pouches lashed to the raft’s inflated crossmembers. Bill Taggart was on the stern giving instructions to the rest of us sitting sidesaddle on the gunwales. He quickly defined the orders he would be calling out-to paddle, backpaddle or hold-and immedi­ately began issuing the commands that kept our craft on the course Bill was plotting from his intimate knowledge of the river.

“I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing,” I told Ken Wright sitting in front of me. “I really and truly love this!”

Governor Hickenlooper requests speedier reviews for Moffat Collection System and NISP



From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A letter to Obama seeks help spurring decisions on Denver Water’s diversion of 18,000 acre-feet of Colorado River Basin water from the west side of the Continental Divide to an expanded Gross Reservoir west of Boulder. A separate letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asks that the Northern Integrated Supply Project — which would siphon the Cache la Poudre River into new reservoirs storing 215,000 acre-feet of water — be given a high priority.

Colorado faces “a significant gap in our supplies to provide water for future growth — a gap that cannot be met by conservation and efficiencies alone,” Hickenlooper began in a June 5 letter sent to the White House and copied to cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs. “We urge you to exercise your authority to coordinate your agencies and bring an expeditious conclusion to the federal permitting processes for this essential project, in order that we can have certainty moving forward as a state,” he wrote.

Click here to read the letter to President Obama. Click here to read the Governor’s letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Twin Lakes and the Boustead Tunnel are key components



From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

As water use shifted from farms to cities, so did its use. As Colorado River water entered the Arkansas River basin, Twin Lakes was the key transfer point.

Farmers from Crowley County recognized the value of the lakes — formed by glacial advances and retreats — in the late 1800s, and built a dam to store water high in the mountains until it was needed in the fields. Initially, the lake was filled by exchange, diverting water into one reservoir, while releasing flows from another.

But by the 1930s, it was clear more water was needed to satisfy needs on the Colorado Canal, a ditch with relatively junior water rights in Crowley County. A tunnel was completed during the Great Depression to bring more water from the Colorado River near Independence Pass.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The tunnel is named for Charles H. Boustead, the first general manager of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, who died in 1966, shortly after work on the tunnel began. The tunnel is 10.5 feet high and 5.4 miles long, and is capable of bringing over 945 cubic feet (about 166 bathtubs full) per second of water through the mountains. Water from the north and south side collection systems flows into the tunnel on the west side of the mountains and travels by gravity into Turquoise Reservoir. There is rarely enough water to fill the tunnel’s capacity. Water comes in a rush as snowpack melts, usually from late May until July. The amount varies widely. There were record imports in 2011, followed by one of the lowest years ever in 2012.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“It was great for people other than in Lake County. We’re left with an economy devoid of any of the benefits promised by President Kennedy,” [Former Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen] said. The Fry-Ark Project projected large increases in visitor days to Turquoise and Twin Lakes as a result of enlargement. But Forest Service policies have restricted visitor use and eroded the local tax base, Olsen said. The Bureau of Reclamation’s operation fills and lowers reservoirs in a way that’s out-of-sync for tourism benefits, he said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Mount Elbert Power Plant generates peak power through two giant turbines that act as pumps, drawing down and refilling the Mount Elbert Forebay. During peak hours, summer days when air conditioners are running, the water flows by gravity from the forebay through the turbines. At night, when the lights go out, water is pumped back uphill through those same turbines…

The turbines can generate up to 200 megawatts of power, and since it began operating in 1981 has generated more than 350 million kilowatt hours of electricity — enough to power 44,000 homes, according to Reclamation.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Drought news: Dry lightning is sparking wildfires across the West


From the National Weather Service:

The Heat Wave and drought in the West have dried vegetation to the point where fires can rapidly spread out of control. A number of wildfires have been started this week in several states from the Desert Southwest to the Pacific Northwest. The main culprit is lightning strikes associated with thunderstorms that produce little rainfall.

Click here for today’s Red Flag Warnings from the NWS.

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Because of rapidly dropping water levels, Williams Fork Reservoir near Parshall is closing its boat ramp Thursday for the remainder of 2012. Beginning Friday, only hand-launched craft (canoes, kayaks and similarly small vessels) will have access to the reservoir. Boat ramps will no longer reach the water and no motorized craft will be allowed.

“This has been a challenging year for reservoir operators all across Colorado,” said Neil Sperandeo, manager of recreation for Denver Water. “We wish we were able to keep the boat ramp open longer, but unfortunately, the drought conditions have prevented that from happening.”
The Williams Fork River below the dam was flowing at about 275 cfs as of Tuesday, down from about 365 cfs the previous week.

The closure is the latest in a long string of ramp closures at reservoirs throughout the state, along with emergency fish salvages at Barr Lake State Park, Jumbo Reservoir in Julesburg and Crystal Lake near Ouray, where all bag and possession limits have been temporarily removed for licensed anglers because of receding water levels.