The news might not rank up there with the ThunderWolves’ victory over the Bears, but Pueblo came out on top in a head-to-head matchup against Denver on Tuesday.
However, the city is just No. 2 in the state when it comes to water quality. Pueblo’s water placed second in an annual taste test conducted by the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association. The group met this week in Keystone. The contest, judged by a panel of journalists, engineers and public health officials, was staged among 11 municipalities from throughout the state.
Erie, a city of 21,000 in Boulder County, won the competition. Denver Water placed third.
When you ask Don Colalancia, Pueblo’s water quality and treatment manager, about it, he’ll start rattling off chemicals such as powder-activated carbon, potassium permanganate and chloramine as the secret ingredients to Pueblo’s water.
But there’s a simpler explanation: “The big thing is that we have some really good operators at the plant,” Colalancia said. “Any water plant can have taste and odor issues 24 hours a day. We’re constantly testing to catch things on the fly and adjust the chemicals if needed.”
Pueblo’s annual water quality testing shows that the water meets all federal water quality guidelines as well.
There was some grumbling among other contestants after the results were announced. “Fort Collins says they will bring a growler of Fat Tire next year, as it is an example of their ‘finished water,’ ” one observer joked.
More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal:
I had the honor to be a taste-testing judge at the association’s annual conference in Denver in June, and learned a lot about water taste tests — namely that while it’s fun to sample water, and that water officials are pretty competitive, it’s also a pretty serious aspect of the water-supply business. “It’s the way that people judge the safety of their water,” Pinar Omur-Ozbek told me in June.
She’s an assistant professor at Colorado State University’s department of civil and environmental engineering in Fort Collins — and one of three professional taste testers on the national judging panel. (And she’s far more of an expert than me.) “If it doesn’t smell or taste the way people expect, then they think there’s something wrong,” she said.
Because the water treatment plant cannot meet current water-quality regulations, the city of Salida will need to spend $2-3 million on a project to improve the plant. City staff presented details about proposed improvements during a recent city council work session.
The city has three supplies for water: the water treatment plant on CR 120, the galleries system off the South Arkansas River and the seasonal Pasquale Springs, across the Arkansas River from Marvin Park.
Water filtration only occurs at the treatment plant, City Administrator Dara MacDonald told council members. Water from the galleries and Pasquale Springs is chlorinated and sent into the system, she said.
The city constructed the current water treatment plant in 1959. MacDonald said the plant cannot meet water-quality regulations and also produce the 4 million gallons per day (MGD) of water it is designed to produce. She said the filter media and underdrains, which collect the water intake into the plant, are both at the end of their useful lives.
Currently, the plant is permitted to produce 4 MGD but is only utilized for up to 1 MGD, according to MacDonald. She said peak summer demand on the water system is about 2.7 to 2.8 MGD and is generally balanced among the city’s three water sources. “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has required either significant upgrades or a new backwash system to eliminate what they see as potential cross-contamination of the potable water entering the system,” MacDonald said. “We live with the potable water and wastewater treatment plants in an increasing world of regulations. Even though the system has worked well for the last 60 years, new inspections breed new suspicion (and) things that need to be changed,” she said.
The project would replace the more than 20-year-old filter media and media troughs in the plant and the more than 50-year-old underdrain system, according to MacDonald. Other upgrades include replacing the flocculation and sedimentation equipment, enclosing the flocculation basin and clarifier, providing an “air scour” backwash system and upgrading the existing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) computer. “The basic system of how we treat and filter the water that we use today would largely remain in place, and we would reuse a lot of the existing plant,” MacDonald said. “We have been working on the design and engineering for the project, and as we’ve gotten further into this, we’ve determined that the only way to accomplish it is to break it into two phases.”
Phase 1 would include work on the filter media, underdrains and air scour to be completed by May. Phase 2 would include work on flocculation and the SCADA system to be constructed by March 2015.
MacDonald said the city plans to begin prepurchasing equipment in October, because the Phase 1 equipment will take between 16 and 18 weeks to arrive.
The total projected cost of the Phase 1 improvements is $1,099,000. Phase 2 estimates range from $1,113,000 to $2,087,000, depending on the capacity and building type that council chooses for the project.
City staff presented three options for Phase 2, depending on how much money council chooses to spend and how much production capacity it wants to secure for the plant.
The first option calls for using the existing flocculation basin to house the new equipment, which MacDonald said would save significant expense. The project would include enclosing the flocculation basin and, if needed, the clarifier to eliminate the freezing, algae and wear the areas currently experience, MacDonald said.
The second option calls for using the clarifier to house the new equipment and planning for a 2 MGD production rate, but with the option of expanding to 4 MGD in the future, if needed.
The third option calls for using the clarifier to house the new equipment and planning for a 4 MGD production rate.
MacDonald said if Phase 2 costs are kept in the range of $1.2 million, the city can complete the project without incurring any debt or increasing rates. With a $4.7 million debt in the water fund and 25 percent of the fund’s revenue obligated to annual debt service, MacDonald said the city is unable to take on additional debt at this time to finance any of the improvements.
The city was awarded a Department of Local Affairs grant for the project, totaling $969,900. “Without the DOLA grant, we probably wouldn’t even be thinking about doing Phase 2 for several years,” MacDonald said. She said with the addition of the $1 million DOLA grant, staff thinks it’s possible to pursue the full project at this time.
MacDonald said the planned project would fully address the needs of the water treatment plant, and improvements wouldn’t be needed for many years to come.
Council gave direction to staff that they liked the second option, which would allow them to expand production at a later date if they felt it is needed. MacDonald said she would bring back revised estimates on the options after talking with the engineers.
• Phase 1 total cost = $1,099,000 (project cost estimate = $950,000, design costs = $74,000 and bidding/management = $75,000)
• Phase 2 estimates range from $1,113,000 to $2,087,000, depending on the capacity and building type that council chooses for the project.
Three options for Phase 2:
1) 2 MGD production – use existing flocculation basin.
2) 2 MGD production, expandable to 4 MGD – use clarifier.
3) 4 MGD production – use clarifyer.
The city received a grant of $969,900 from DOLA, which would cover the majority of Phase 1 of the project, which has a projected cost of $1,099,000. Phase 2, depending on which option council decides upon, could cost an additional $1 million to $2 million.
City Administrator Dara MacDonald told council members they still have substantial reserves built up in the sewer fund, due to delays in the timing of the sewer plant, which would cover the cost of the proposed improvements.
MacDonald told council members at their Sept. 3 work session that financing the project would “pretty much eliminate the reserves that we’ve been building up over the last few years in the water fund to accomplish this project.”
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Montrose County officials took heart in Energy Fuels Inc.‘s plans to proceed with permitting its proposed Naturita mill, which it acknowledged to investors won’t go forward until the market improves. “There was no way at the current market price that they could possibly consider” building the $150 million mill, Dianna Reams of Naturita said. “It would be foolhardy at best.”
Energy Fuels leaders told investors last week that construction of the mill would depend on an increase in the price of uranium oxide, currently languishing at $34 a pound. “We are continuing to move the Piñon Ridge Mill forward in permitting,” Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore said. “However, we do not intend to build it until market conditions warrant, and the price of uranium recovers.”
The question on prices “is ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ ” Moore said.
The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, which has opposed Energy Fuels in court, said it’s clear that Energy Fuels has no intention of building the mill. “It is time for elected officials and community leaders to work towards real and achievable economic opportunities for the West End communities,” Sheep Mountain Alliance Director Hilary Cooper said. “These could include the development of clean, renewable energy, small-scale agriculture and cultural and recreational opportunities which would all provide long-term growth benefits.”
Energy Fuels has been telling county officials for the last six months that building the mill was untenable at current prices. “It’s all economics,” White said, noting that the price of uranium still could rise. “What we have to remember is that the U.S. does import 94 percent of the uranium it uses” and a breakdown in the foreign supply could force prices back up, White said.
Global uranium prices have been hit with the double-whammy of the rise of natural gas and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Montrose County is considering helping to fund an economic development office for what is known as the West End of the county, including the towns of Naturita, Norwood and Nucla, White said. West End residents are familiar with the market constraints on Energy Fuels, White said. “Mining has been a part of their heritage for 100 years and so they know the ups and downs of the mining industry,” White said.
Energy Fuels has submitted construction plans for the mill, which would occupy an 800-acre site near Naturita, said Reams, whose family is involved in construction and mining. “It does clear way for construction as soon as they are ready to go.”