San Juan Basin: “Compliance with [federal salinity discharge standards] is impossible” — Ron Rosen

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From the Farmington Daily Times (Dan Schwartz):

A city contractor says Farmington is seeking an exemption from a federal law regulating San Juan River salinity levels.

Compliance with the law — which the city is violating — is impossible, said Ron Rosen, project director for CH2M Hill, an agency contracted to operate the city’s water and sewage treatment plants.

“We’ve been really aggressive. We’ve done everything (the Environmental Protection Agency has) told us to do,” Rosen said.

The main cause of the pollution, he said, is domestic water softeners. They discharge salt into the city’s sewer system, which the Wastewater Treatment Plant then discharges into the San Juan River.

The city is currently testing whether softening water at its treatment plants could reduce its drinking water’s hardness, allowing residents to shut off their water softeners.

In 2005, the EPA began regulating the levels of salt that industries and cities discharge into the Colorado River Basin. The largest river in the basin, the Colorado River, winds about 1,400 miles from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. The San Juan River is one of its major tributaries.

The regulations date back to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty and were amended many times before they became law in 1974, when Congress enacted the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act.

Now, for Farmington to consistently comply with the law, it would have to spend $60 million to $70 million — an engineering firm’s estimate — and the city can’t afford to do that, Rosen said. The EPA could fine the city $27,500 a day for the violation, but it hasn’t yet, he said.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.

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