From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):
Customers within the Little Thompson Water District, including three local schools, have been notified of elevated levels of lead discovered during recent water testing.
The water district tested 16 taps from its customers in September, and one of those revealed enough lead that the district notified all customers of the result and precautions they can take to be safe. The levels were not high enough to violate drinking water standards or require additional action.
“The risk is on a house by house basis depending upon how much lead they have in their plumbing system,” explained Ken Lambrecht, operations manager for the district.
“It happens when the water sits in the home plumbing.”
Both the Little Thompson and the Central Weld Water Districts receive their water from the Carter Lake Filter Plant, so they test their samples together.
The districts submitted 33 total samples in September, 16 from Little Thompson and 17 from Weld. Of those, one Little Thompson site and 5 Weld sites tested above 15 micrograms per liter of lead, requiring them to notify all customers and offer education about lead. The Little Thompson reading was 21.7 micrograms per liter, while the highest in Weld was 31.9.
To lower lead levels, the districts have implemented a new procedure whereby a substance named poly-orthophosphate is added to the water, Lambrecht said. This coats the pipes so any lead within them cannot leach into the water and affect customers, he said…
Steps to reduce lead
The Little Thompson Water District offers the following advice for reducing the risk of lead exposure in water:
Flush out the system by running the cold water until it is noticeably colder if you haven’t had the water running for several hours. Save the water for plants or cleaning. Always use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. (Note: Boiling water does not reduce lead.) Periodically remove and clean the faucet’s strainer and aerator and run water to remove debris. Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Consider installing a water treatment device. Have a licensed electrician check your home’s wiring because, if grounding wires are attached to pipes, the risk of corrosion may increase.
From American Rivers (Sinjin Eberle):
- We know that the boat is definitely pointed in the right direction. We look forward to participating in the plan’s implementation so future water decisions continue to reflect the values and priorities outlined in the plan.
- We are pleased to see the plan include many of the points Coloradoans have expressed overwhelmingly—through more than 30,000 public comments submitted to the state—including a strong statewide urban conservation goal and proposed funding for healthy rivers and streams across our state.
- Over the next year, we urge the CWCB and the Hickenlooper administration to maintain this positive momentum to ensure there will be inclusive implementation, specific, stringent criteria for project selection and adequate funding to protect our rivers, outdoor recreation industry, agricultural heritage, and thriving cities.
From US Senator Michael Bennet:
Bill Reforms 1872 Mining Law to Help Prevent Future Disasters like Gold King Mine Blowout
Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill to reform the nation’s antiquated hardrock mining laws. The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 will ensure mining companies pay royalties for the privilege of extracting mineral resources from public lands.
The bill helps ensure that taxpayers aren’t on the hook for cleaning up abandoned mines, many of which are continuously leaking toxic chemicals into rivers and streams and have the potential for catastrophic disasters like the recent Gold King Mine blowout. The Gold King Mine accident spilled 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers, and communities in New Mexico and Colorado are still struggling to recover from the impact to businesses, farms, and local governments.
Current mining law dates back to 1872 and allows companies to take gold, silver, copper, uranium and other minerals from public land without paying any royalties. The lawmakers’ bill would impose a commonsense royalty – similar to that paid by oil and gas and coal companies for decades – to help pay for abandoned mine cleanup and prevent future disasters. There are up to 500,000 abandoned mines across the West, and cleanup is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars.
In Colorado alone, there are an estimated 7,100 abandoned mines, including 200 that are leaking thousands of gallons of acid mine drainage per minute, which is equal to at least one Gold King disaster every two days. More than 1,600 miles of the San Juan, Big Thompson, Rio Grande, Mancos, and Arkansas River drainages are affected by untreated mines.
“Three months ago, the Gold King Mine spill provided a sudden and devastating reminder of the dangers that abandoned mines pose in Colorado and across the West,” Bennet said. “Mining has been intrinsically linked to our history, economy, development and culture, but it’s also left scars across Colorado and other states. More than 200 mines in Colorado are leaking acid mine drainage that is polluting headwaters and affecting water quality for communities downstream. Our bill will help clean up these mines and prevent the possibility of future tragedies like the Gold King Mine.”
“Hardrock mining companies have enjoyed a sweetheart deal for nearly 150 years, leaving taxpayers on the hook to clean up hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines leaking toxins and threatening communities across the West,” said Udall, who has pushed for mining reform since he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998 and passed a unanimous amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 budget resolution calling on Congress to enact a royalty for mining on public lands. “The Gold King Mine blowout proves that the status quo just isn’t working, and New Mexico and Navajo Nation communities are suffering the consequences. Gold and silver on public lands are a natural resource, just like oil and gas. Taxpayers deserve their fair share of the profit – and communities across the West need that money to clean up abandoned mines.”
“Disastrous spills like the Gold King Mine blowout are easy to see. But the unnoticed toxins leaking out of thousands of abandoned gold, silver, copper, and uranium mines are doing enormous damage to our watersheds every day,” said Heinrich, who recently toured uranium legacy sites in the Navajo Nation. “We must come together and pass commonsense reforms to our outdated and ineffective federal policy on abandoned mines and hardrock mining.”
Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) is a cosponsor of H.R. 963, a similar bill that has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Bennet, Udall, Heinrich, Luján, and members of the Colorado delegation also joined together to introduce the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act in the House and Senate to ensure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compensates those who were impacted by the accident.
The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 will:
Set a 2 to 5 percent royalty rate for new mining operations, based on gross income on production. Use royalty revenue and a separate fee of 0.6 to 2 percent to pay for abandoned mine cleanup. Allow states and tribes to receive funding for hardrock reclamation programs, and establish a grant program for other organizations that want to carry out restoration projects. Require permits for non-casual exploration and mining on federal land, and outline requirements for a permit like avoiding acid mine drainage. Require annual rental payments for claimed public land, thereby permanently eliminating patenting and characterizing mine operators as other public land users. Give the Secretary of the Interior the authority to grant royalty relief if economic factors require it. Permit states and tribes to petition the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw lands from mining, and require an expedited review of certain lands to determine whether they are appropriate for future mining.
A summary of the legislation can be found HERE.
From The Durango Herald (Philip Graham):
“After you see something like this spill into the Animas River, a policy of sitting on our hands and doing nothing is just unacceptable,” Bennet said during the call.
The new legislation, known as the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015, will make mining companies pay for royalties for extracting resources from public lands. The money would be used to help clean up abandoned mines that are continuing to leak waste into waterways, and ensure that future spills like the Gold King Mine disaster are not rectified at the expense of taxpayers.
“In the Southwest, water is simply our most precious resource, so you can imagine what kind of impact the Gold King mine spill had on our community,” Heinrich said…
Bennet and his colleagues agreed that it was time for the hardrock mining industry to pay its fair share. They pointed out that the royalty fees on the mining industry would be a fraction of the coal, oil and gas industry’s rate of 12½ percent.
“Every other extractive industry pays royalties,” Bennet said. “Hardrock mining companies should pay as well.”
Bennet added that Colorado has already spent $12 million over the last few years to clean up some of the more serious leaks. The EPA estimates that 230 mines in Colorado are currently leaking toxic chemicals into the state’s waterways, and that it would cost tens of billions of dollars to effectively clean up all mines in the west.
The proposed bill would serve as the first major change to The General Mining Act of 1872 since it first became law. The Mining Act, passed 143 years ago, continues to govern mining operations on public lands and allows companies to extract minerals from these grounds royalty-free.
Luján is the cosponsor of a similar mining reform bill that’s already been introduced in the House.
From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
Western senators weighed in on the toxic mines problem Thursday, launching legislation to reform the nation’s 1872 Mining Law and require companies to pay fees to create a cleanup fund for abandoned inactive mines.
The legislation introduced by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall would apply to existing and new mining operations. It aims to raise at least $100 million a year.
The idea is to create a new path — beyond “superfund” responses to environmental disasters — to begin to clean up tens of thousands of inactive mines in western states that continue to taint headwaters of the nation’s rivers. These include an estimated 230 sites in Colorado where state officials have documented bit-by-bit degradation of waterways.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently said that cleaning up abandoned inactive mines just in Colorado would cost billions of dollars.
Congress has been giving greater attention to the problem after the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine disaster in southwestern Colorado above Silverton, where an EPA crew triggered a deluge of 3 million gallons of mustard-yellow liquid that worsened contamination of the Animas River.
From the Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced legislation Thursday that would impose a federal minerals royalty, establish a reclamation fund for the cleanup of abandoned mines and require a review of lands to determine if those areas are available for future mining.
The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2015 comes three months after the Gold King Mine spill released more than 3 million gallons of heavy metals-laden wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers.
The bill proposes authorizing the U.S. Department of the Interior secretary to determine royalty rates for new mining operations.
The rate for new mining would be based on the market value of the mineral being extracted and set a 2 to 5 percent rate based on the gross income of production on federal land.
The bill would also set a separate fee of 0.6 to 2 percent to pay for an abandoned mine cleanup.
Collected revenues would be deposited into the proposed Hardrock Minerals Reclamation Fund, which would be administered by the Interior Department, for distribution to federal agencies, states and tribes as long as they have a federally approved reclamation plan.
The bill also establishes a grant program the Interior Department could use to provide funds to organizations for cleanup activities…
Luján is a cosponsor of a similar measure that has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The Gold King Mine is part of a much larger problem,” Udall said. “The accident should be a wake-up call to Congress about the dangers we face.”
Among the dangers is the level of toxins released by abandoned mines that end up in watersheds and rivers that supply communities throughout the West, Udall said.
Under current law, mining companies — aside from coal, oil and gas — do not pay for the damages they cause, and taxpayers carry the burden, he added.
“Mining companies have enjoyed a sweetheart deal for far too long,” Udall said.
Heinrich said there are estimates that 40 percent of watersheds in the West are polluted by toxic mining waste, and reclamation could cost more than $1 billion.
This reform is a way to address that issue, he said.
Days after the spill, federal lawmakers visited the impacted areas, including Aztec, Farmington and the Navajo Nation.
“I think we all share the anger and frustration that was seen in the faces of our constituents,” Heinrich said.
In terms of the Navajo Nation, Heinrich said he and Udall have been talking to tribal officials about the bill.
“Those talks are ongoing, and, as you can imagine, they’re very interested in this proposal,” Heinrich said.
Bennet said the mining activities under the 1872 law have left the West with scars. In Colorado, there are an estimated 7,100 abandoned mines with more than 200 of them leaking acid mine drainage, Bennet said.
The state has spent $12 million over the last six years to clean up abandoned mines, but only three to four projects are addressed each year, he added.
This is not the first attempt at reforming the nation’s mining law. The most recent attempt came in 2007, and it was passed by the House but never passed by the Senate.
Udall said the group hopes all stakeholders will be open to examining the bill and working on its passage, but so far the legislation does not have support from Republicans.
“We are willing and able and working hard on building bipartisan support on this bill,” Udall said.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Pueblo officials are encouraged that Colorado Springs voters overwhelmingly passed a sales tax Tuesday to improve roads, saying it should keep the city to the north on track to fulfill its obligation to control stormwater on Fountain Creek.
“I’m glad it passed, but the proof is in the pudding,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Colorado Springs is doing the right thing, and a lot of the credit goes to (Mayor) John Suthers.”
The Lower Ark teed up a federal lawsuit over violation of the Clean Water Act following years of foot-dragging on the stormwater issue. Prior to Suthers’ election in May, the former Mayor Steve Bach resisted efforts to find a permanent source for stormwater control funding. Bach campaigned against creating a regional drainage district that failed in a vote last year.
Shortly after taking office, Suthers and Colorado Springs City Council President Merv Bennett gave assurances to Pueblo City Council that $19 million annually would be funneled into stormwater control. Opponents of the street tax suggested that the money targeted for stormwater could be used for streets instead.
Voters disagreed, passing the sales tax by a 65-35 margin. The 0.62 percent tax is expected to generate $260 million over the next five years for Colorado Springs streets.
“I never had any doubt they would do everything they could to get it passed,” said Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki, praising the leadership of Suthers and Bennett. “This gives me a lot of confidence. We plan to meet with (Colorado Springs City Council) more often as we pursue this in the future.”
“I’m very pleased voters passed the roads tax measure,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said. “It takes care of one of their two major infrastructure problems and frees up money for stormwater.”
All were inspired in different ways by the Colorado Springs vote.
For Winner, it could mean better reception for partnerships between the Lower Ark district and Colorado Springs. While they have worked together on Fountain Creek issues, the Lower Ark has also pushed for agreements on things such as Super Ditch and conservation easements.
“I think once the leadership within Colorado Springs Utilities has stabilized, we will be able to again have productive discussions,” Winner said. Hart said it paves the way for clearer negotiations over the remaining issues in the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System.
“It makes it easier because traditionally streets have been a competing need with stormwater. This pays for that competing need,” Hart said.
For Nawrocki, it’s more of a call to look inward, and attempt to pass a tax similar to Colorado Springs to address infrastructure needs, including streets, in Pueblo.
“As president of City Council, I am interested in finding a funding source to do those sorts of things here in Pueblo,” Nawrocki said.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
A series of storm systems swept across the lower 48 States, generating wet weather that soaked many portions of the contiguous U.S., including a second round of heavy rains that provided drought improvement and relief to the southern Great Plains and Mississippi Delta. Unfortunately, the rains were accompanied by severe weather and flash flooding in Texas, including a record daily total of 14.99 inches at Austin (5.76 inches in one hour) on October 30, and an EF2 tornado in Floresville that damaged the high school. Additional dryness or drought relief from moderate to heavy rains (more than 2 inches) also occurred across most of the Southeast, west-central Corn Belt and western Great Lakes region, Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, much of the Atlantic Coast States, and the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, and Sierra Nevada. Heavy precipitation also fell on interior and northeastern Puerto Rico and along the southeastern Alaskan Panhandle. Weekly temperatures generally averaged above to much-above normal in the lower 48 States, with near to below-normal readings limited from the Southwest northeastward into the middle Mississippi Valley, and in interior New England…
California and Great Basin
An early-season, moisture-laden Pacific storm system brought beneficial precipitation (including snows to higher elevations) to extreme northwestern and central California, including 2-3.5 inches of precipitation to the Sierra Nevada and northeastward across west-central and northeastern Nevada. The precipitation (and snow) was an early bonus to the 2015-16 Water Year in the Sierras, but with 4 consecutive years of drought, this precipitation was just a start to moisten the soils for hopefully more (frozen preferred) precipitation this winter, thus no changes were made in the Sierras. However, according to the NRCS Snotel sites, it was refreshing to see the Sierra average basins WYTD (since Oct. 1) precipitation and snow water content at 152-170% of normal and 608-1150% of normal, respectively, as of Nov. 3, but one must remember that normal are quite small early in the Water Year, so huge percentages can occur with a wet start (but better wet than dry). Additionally, the Impact Lines were redrawn to reflect where recent wetness has occurred (L only) versus where much-below normal short-term precipitation was recorded (SL).
In contrast, the past 6 months have been unusually wet in parts of the semi-arid Great Basin (200-300% of normal precipitation, surpluses of 4-8 inches), especially in extreme eastern California (east of Sierra range) and western Nevada. This has led to minimal fall wild fires, decent pasture and range conditions, and adequate soil moisture. Although the Nevada statewide reservoir levels were still dismal (Oct. 1: at 5% capacity, normal=35%) and will require ample mountain snowpack this winter, the past 6 months wetness (from all tools) in a semi-arid environment is significant and a good start to the 2015-16 Water Year. Therefore, D4 was improved to D3 in western Nevada (southwest Pershing, northwest and southern Churchill, southern Lyon, and western Mineral counties) and eastern California (northern Mono county) to reflect this recent moisture. In addition, some D3 to D2 improvement was made farther south along the CA-NV border (southern Nye and east-central Inyo counties) where the past 3-6 months have NOT been arid…
Mississippi Delta and Southern Plains
Extreme precipitation events seem to be the norm in this region as a sudden (1-2 weeks) end to the 3-month flash drought neared reality. Two swaths of copious rains (more than 8 inches), one between San Antonio and Austin, TX, and another from Houston, TX, to north of Alexandria, LA, produced flash and river flooding, with at least 5 fatalities in Texas. Needless to say, after the previous week’s rainfall, these amounts were more than enough to eliminate the remaining D1 and D0 across south-central and southeastern Texas and the southern two-thirds of Louisiana. In addition to these incredible totals, widespread moderate to heavy rains (2-6 inches) were measured across the eastern two-thirds of the state, south-central Oklahoma, central Arkansas, nearly all of Louisiana and the southern two-thirds of Mississippi. A widespread 1- to occasionally 2-category improvement was made in these areas as all D2 was removed. According to the Texas Water Development Board, statewide reservoirs stood at 82.1% full as of Nov. 4, continuing to climb after falling from 85% to 77% full during the flash drought. In addition, the Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon estimated that October 2015 statewide precipitation stood at 6.51 inches (previous Oct. record 6.26 inches in 1919), making 2015 the third year with at least two monthly records (May and October). The other two years were 2004 (June and November) and 2007 (March and July). Short to very short topsoil moisture dropped to 16, 19, 5, and 16% in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, respectively, as of Nov. 1, down from 32, 48, 39, and 58% the previous week, according to NASS/USDA. Residual areas of D1 and D0 remained where 2-week precipitation totals were lower and larger 90-day deficiencies remained, however, the numerous reports of drought impacts a few weeks ago have instead turned to excessive moisture problems…
Northern and Central Plains
Weekly totals were much lower across the northern and central Plains as compared to areas to the south and east; however, in North Dakota, timely rains (0.2-0.7 inches) helped improve the condition of the winter wheat while farmers utilized the dry weather to continue harvesting corn and sunflower seeds which were done well ahead of normal. Even though little or no rain fell on South Dakota, 90-day surpluses, lower temperatures, and minimal evapotranspiration have kept the D0(S) from worsening. In southern Nebraska and eastern Kansas, light to moderate (0.3-0.9 inches) rains generally kept conditions stable, although a reassessment of short-term tools led to a slight redraw of the D1 areas in Kansas and D0 in southwestern Nebraska. In [southeastern] Colorado and southwestern Kansas, 0.6-1.5 inches of rain, locally to 2.5 inches, plus heavy rains from last week, were enough to eliminate the D0 in Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Prowers counties (Colorado), and Greeley and Hamilton counties (Kansas)…
Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies
A constant barrage of Pacific moisture and storm systems brought daily precipitation, quite heavy during mid-week, to coastal Washington, northwestern Oregon, the northern Cascades, and northern Rockies. For the week, totals ranged between 6-15 inches in the first three areas, and 2-6 inches in the latter region. With this week’s copious amounts and wet weather during the past 3-4 months, 1-category improvements were made to areas with the greatest amounts, namely western Washington and northwestern Oregon (D2 to D1), central coastal Oregon (D3 to D2), western side of Cascades (D3 to D2), northeastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana (D3 to D2), and north-central Montana (D0 to D2 1-cat improvements; Glacier, Pondera, Teton, and Toole counties), the latter which was wet out to 180-days. Similarly, some D0 was removed from eastern Montana as the short-term indices were either normal or wet. Just like many basins in the West, this early Water Year (since Oct. 1) precipitation is welcome to moisten the soils, but it will take ample winter precipitation in the form of mountain snows to truly replenish the depleted reservoirs next spring, especially in Oregon. In contrast, short-term dryness (past 3 months) in central sections of Wyoming expanded the D0(S) in this state…
Although precipitation was generally light (about 0.5 inches) across Arizona and New Mexico, slight adjustments were made based upon numerous indices (especially the station SPIs) out to 12-months that depicted wetness across the D1 areas of northern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico in order to better match the conditions in neighboring states (southern Utah and Colorado). This is similar to the changes made in the Great Basin (Nevada). As a result, D1 was improved to D0 across northern and central Arizona and a bit in northwestern New Mexico (Cibola County). In addition, some D1 was returned to southern Yavapai County, AZ, to better reflect long-term deficits. Based upon the Oct. 1 USDA/NRCS statewide reservoir storage data, however, Arizona and New Mexico were still below normal (35% and 28% capacity versus normal of 49% and 42%, respectively), so ample winter precipitation (decent mountain snowpack) is still needed to offset the long-term hydrologic (reservoir) shortages…
For the upcoming 5-day period (November 5-9), moderate to heavy (1-3 inches) precipitation is expected from the southern Great Plains northeastward into the eastern Ohio Valley. Light to moderate precipitation (0.5-1.5 inches) is forecast from Louisiana eastward to the North Carolina Outer Banks, southern Florida, the central Great Lakes region, parts of the Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. Little or no precipitation should occur in most of California and the Great Basin, the High Plains, and the Northeast. Temperatures should average below-normal in the western third of the Nation, and above normal in the northern half of the Plains and eastern third of the U.S.
For the ensuing 5 days (November 10-14), the odds favor above median precipitation in the Pacific Northwest, central Rockies, north-central and southern Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes region, New England and mid-Atlantic, and most of Alaska except sub-median chances in the southwest. Below median odds are likely from central California northeastward into western North Dakota. Below-normal temperatures are favored in the West and Alaska, and above-normal readings in the eastern half of the Nation.
Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of US Drought Monitor maps for early November since 2010.