Has the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill groundwater reached Pueblo Reservoir?

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas and Tracy Harmon):

Pueblo County Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen is calling for sediment testing along the Arkansas River and at the bottom of Lake Pueblo to see if there is possible contamination from the now-closed Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill in Fremont County.

McFadyen said Tuesday during a press conference that she is concerned about the impact the possible “growing uranium and molybdenum plumes could have on Pueblo County.”

However, state health officials say the concerns are unfounded. But McFadyen remains concerned.

“This has been going on for 40 years and we can see that the situation is not getting any better and it’s time for us downstream from Canon City to take a stand,” McFadyen said, referring to the ongoing battle over the Cotter Mill cleanup.

Jeri Fry, director of the Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste Inc., shared the history of the Cotter controversy and presented maps from a 1987-89 study sowing ground uranium and molybdenum plumes that stretch from the Cotter Superfund site toward the Arkansas River.

“It’s likely that the molybdenum and the uranium plumes have grown since then. We just want answers,” McFadyen said. “And if the Arkansas isn’t contaminated, then that’s a very positive finding . . . We don’t find what we don’t look for.”

However, the concerns are unfounded, according to Colorado Department of Public Health Public Information Officer Warren Smith and Cotter Corp. Mill Manager Steve Cohen. They agree that Arkansas River water is not impacted by contamination from the Cotter mill.

“The Arkansas River is sampled routinely and the results have been showing that the river water quality has not been impacted,” Smith said.

“We constantly collect samples and data every quarter and there is no evidence that Cotter has impacted the Arkansas River.”

Both state and federal health officials study the data and “nobody has ever found anything to suggest that,” said Cohen.

“I am personally disgusted that the Pueblo County commissioners would have a meeting about this and not invite us to speak on the topic,” Cohen said.

And Jennifer Opila, Colorado Department of Public Health site director, said:

“I understand that the sediment has not been sampled (since 2004), but without impact on the water quality, there is no information that would lead us to believe the sediment would be contaminated. There is no contamination of the Arkansas River near the Cotter site, so Pueblo Reservoir would not be impacted.”

“This issue and all other potential issues will be looked at as part of the remedial investigation as we work toward final cleanup,” she said.

McFadyen said she is aware of water testing, but is calling for sediment testing and if it is positive, “Cotter should pay to treat it.”

McFadyen said in 1986, the USGS suggested on behalf of the federal government that sediment and not only the water be tested in the Pueblo reservoir.

“With the plume growing toward the Arkansas River, it’s time. It’s time to take action,” McFadyen said.

She said the possible contamination also could affect Colorado Springs because of the Southern Delivery System, which pipes water from Lake Pueblo up to that community.

State health officials overseeing the Cotter Corp. mill have not felt the study of Minnequa and Pueblo reservoir water quality pertinent since 2004.

“A 2004 review of water quality of the (Minnequa and Pueblo) reservoirs as well as the Arkansas River and associated drainages concluded that they are not impacted by the mill contaminants,” Smith said.

Part of the reason that the downstream reservoirs have not been tested since 2004 is due to the absence of high levels of radium-226, thoium-230, molybdenum and nickel in bodies of water much closer to the mill.

“Sediment sampling in Sand Creek (just north of the mill site), the Arkansas River and the Fremont Ditch indicate that constituents of concern are similar to (natural) background data. These locations are closer to the mill than the Pueblo reservoir and the Minnequa Reservoir,” the state health review concluded.

While the legacy contamination is still present in Lincoln Park groundwater plume (though declining), remedial measures have been effective in preventing public exposure to the Lincoln Park plume. A 2008 water use survey concluded that only one Lincoln Park water well exceeded a drinking water standard for contamination.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry draft public health assessment in 2010, conducted at the request of Colorado Citizen’s Against Toxic Waste, found that Cotter contamination did not present a current threat to human health or the environment, according to state health documentation.

“We need to understand all of the materials and how they are moving through the groundwater and how after these 30-40 years they have reached the river and if they are moving on downstream,” Fry said.

“That is a terrible trick to play on our neighbors. When you see a barn burning, do you go tell the authorities or do you just turn your head? And I am telling the authorities. Let’s all band together and get this tested.”

More From KOAA.com (Lena Howland):

“This site is leaking into the neighboring community and it has contaminated the wells and it is a slow moving problem and because of that, people aren’t aware of it,” Fry said.

Fry is calling for more testing of water near the site and they’re looking for help from the community.

“Until we know where it is, we can’t realistically, effectively clean it up,” she said.

She fears the waste may have spread downstream through the Arkansas River and to the Pueblo Reservoir, which has caught the attention of Pueblo County Commissioner Buffie McFadyen.

“I do believe it’s time for Pueblo to get involved and work with the citizens of Fremont County to not only demand a remediation plan that’s realistic to cleanup the site, but also to demand testing along the Arkansas in the sediment and in Pueblo Reservoir,” she said.

McFadyen, now also demanding more testing of the sediment specifically.

And the possibility of tainted water is unsettling to some locals in Pueblo.

“This water comes from the same area, I imagine it passes through, so it’s picking up stuff definitely,” Patricia Hitchcock, a Pueblo resident said.

While others say, this isn’t anything to worry about just yet.

“I think there’s always a little bit of concern about stuff in the water, it wouldn’t keep me out unless it was really serious, but a little bit of concern. In 10 years, I haven’t gotten sick once from the water,” Daniel Rottinghaus, a Pueblo kayaker said.

Cotter officials tell News5 these claims of contamination in the Arkansas River are simply not true and that they routinely test the water and sediment.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Tuesday morning, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste gave a presentation to commissioners about their suspicions that the toxic substances have leaked into Pueblo Reservoir.

Why should we in Colorado Springs care? Because one source of water for Colorado Springs and Fountain is the Pueblo Reservoir, via the Fountain Valley Authority line and the Southern Delivery System pipeline.

Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen is, Pueblo County Commissioner is overseeing efforts to learn more about the situation.

Here’s a community newsletter about the issue.

And here’s a presentation made today by the citizen group.

#ColoradoRiver: Elkhead Reservoir, non-native predatory fish, endangered fish, sport-fishing #COriver

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program
Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

From The Craig Daily Press (Patrick Kelly):

…the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program’s latest high-priority objective — reducing or eliminating nonnative predators from Elkhead Reservoir — has local fisherman in an uproar.

Elkhead Reservoir, which averages 130,000 people visiting during recreation days per year, is home to nonnative northern pike and smallmouth bass, making it a popular fishery for anglers from across Colorado.

But the same nonnatives that attract anglers to the reservoir are a threat to the four fish the recovery program is trying to save — the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker…

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recover Program Director Tom Chart said right now, the program’s biggest obstacle is managing nonnative fish, which prey on endangered fish and prevent populations from thriving.

“The greatest threat that we are dealing with right now is these nonnative, predatory fish,” he said.

Chart said that after ramping up attempts to control nonnatives living in the river, it has been become increasingly clear that source populations must be dealt with.

Elkhead Reservoir
Elkhead Reservoir

“Elkhead, unfortunately, I understand is a prime fishing location for some of the locals out there, but the amount of escapement of smallmouth bass and northern pike (into the Yampa River) is just intolerable,” he said.

Longtime fisher and Craig resident Burt Clements said he understands that under federal law the fish need to be recovered, but he doesn’t think Elkhead is the problem and rather than eradicating nonnatives, other approaches should be the priority.

“Until they start a real stocking program in the upper Yampa with adult pike minnow, they probably will not recover them in the Yampa River,” he said.

In 2015, the program spent about $1 million on recovery projects in the Yampa River, according to recovery program deputy director Angela Kantola. Efforts did include shocking nonnative fish in the Yampa.

“That total certainly exceeds $1 million when support activities (outreach and program management) for Yampa Basin projects are included,” Kantola wrote in an email.

To address the root of the nonnative problem — Elkhead Reservoir — the recovery program is installing a net on the reservoir to help prevent spillage of predatory nonnatives into the Yampa where the endangered fish live and thrive.

The cost of installation, which is scheduled for this fall, is estimated at $1.2 million. The Colorado Water Conservation Board is contributing $500,000 and the rest of the funding comes from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on behalf of the recovery program.

The program also is recruiting civilians for assistance.

A nine-day fishing tournament offering prizes totaling about $6,000 is scheduled to recruit anglers for the purpose of purging the lake of pike and smallmouth.

The tournament begins Saturday and ends June 19. The boat ramp will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. but anglers are welcome to stay on the reservoir overnight. If a participant catches a tagged fish, they are entered in a drawing for the top prizes, including a brand-new boat.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Senior Aquatic Biologist Sherman Hebein said the initial plan was to lower water levels in the lake and poison the fish population with rotenone. However, that approach turned out to be unpopular and unfeasible.

“What we decided was to actually get the public to assist us with our efforts through a tournament,” he said. “I’m prepared to give away prizes, significant prizes, to get the public involved in this project.”

Despite the hefty prizes, local fishermen are boycotting the tournament.

Craig resident Steve Smith said he has been fishing Elkhead Reservoir since it was opened and he can’t support a “kill tournament.”

“It’s like the WildEarth Guardians and the coal mines,” he said. “This is us going against the government.”

Smith said reducing the fishery at Elkhead would have a negative economic impact on Craig.

“Craig will lose some revenue because fisherman won’t come from all over,” he said. “The lake, as it was for the last few years, has been a destiny lake where people come to fish.”

Allen Hischke, another Craig local, expressed concerns about what he sees as intrusive and unnecessary and government involvement. His thoughts are that Elkhead should be left alone.

The recovery program’s nonnative fish coordinator Kevin McAbee said providing Section 7 compliance is where most of the general population should recognize the importance of the program.

“The success of our program is the Endangered Species Act compliance mechanism for all of these water development projects,” said McAbee. “If we didn’t work together to recover these fish then every time that water development wanted to take place anywhere in the Colorado River Basin, it was going to be a fairly contentious endangered species act consultation,”

Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid said he supports the local fishermen and hopes for a reasonable compromise ensuring a successful recovery and the preservation of Elkhead’s fishery.

Water restrictions still in effect in Sterling — The South Platte Sentinel


From The South Platte Sentinel (Delinda Korrey):

As a reminder to residents, mandatory outdoor water restrictions are as follows:

“If your street address is an odd number, you may water on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

“If your street address is an even number, you may water on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

“On whatever watering day your neighborhood is designated, there are no restrictions on the time you may water.

“No one, however, is allowed to water on Mondays.

“Personal vehicles may be washed only on one’s watering day.

“Restaurants may serve water only upon request.

“Vehicle fleets and vehicles in auto dealerships may not be washed more than once a week.

“Golf courses utilizing City water shall not water roughs.

“Trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and vegetable gardens may be watered by hand, soaker hose or trickler system any day. Hand watering means holding a hose in the hand or with a watering can. It does not allow sprinkling.

“A warning will be given for the first violation. The second violation will carry a penalty of $50, third violation $150 and all subsequent violations $250, and the possibility of having a flow restrictor installed on the water line.”

It’s not fair for you to break the law when your neighbor isn’t. It’s been said the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and the best time to conserve our water is before the well runs dry.

#Snowpack #Runoff news: May Precipitation and High Elevation Snowpack Offers Encouraging Late Spring Conditions — NRCS

Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Brian Domokos):

May’s weather could not have suited Colorado’s water supply better. A steady pattern of cool wet weather systematically hit Colorado almost as if by plan, providing moisture to the watersheds that needed it most. The combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins fared the best this month receiving 154 percent of normal precipitation followed by the Rio Grande at 144 percent. The only watershed to miss the average precipitation mark ta the end May was the South Platte at 90 percent of normal precipitation. Even the Gunnison benefited at 123 percent of normal precipitation and with snowpack at 209 percent of normal, this basin is slightly better than the rest of Colorado.


“Remaining snowpack across the state is near 200 percent of normal and poised to provide adequate runoff into early summer” remarked Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor. The majority of remnant snowpack in Colorado exists in the northern mountains, predominantly above 10,000 feet in watersheds such as the South Platte and Upper Colorado. As of Friday morning Tower SNOTEL still had greater than 6 feet of snow depth remaining, down from nearly 10 feet in mid-May. Although more sparsely distributed, snowpack in the southern mountains of Colorado, such as in the San Juan Mountains above 11,000 feet, is greater than normal for this time of year.

Reservoir storage is down this month due to decreases in the Gunnison and Upper Rio Grande. With reductions of 20 and 12 percent respectively, these two basins were the only two watersheds in the state to experience decreases greater than 10 percent. However, at the beginning of June statewide reservoir storage is currently at 108 percent of normal down from 112 percent on May 1st.

Streamflow forecasts for the remainder of the runoff season deviate from current snowpack values and range from 52 percent of average for Muddy Creek below Paonia Reservoir to 130 percent of average for the South Platte River below Cheesman Lake.


For more detailed information about individual Colorado watersheds or supporting water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report or go to the Colorado Snow Survey website at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/co/snow/

Or contact Karl Wetlaufer, Colorado Snow Survey Assistant Supervisor at Karl.Wetlaufer@co.usda.gov or 720-544-2853.

More snowpack news from the Associated Press via TheDenverChannel.com:

A wet May boosted the snow across most of Colorado’s mountains, putting the state in good shape for the spring and summer runoff.

Water officials said Tuesday the snowpack in six of the state’s seven river basins is well above normal for this time of year. The deeper snows range from 150 percent of normal in the Yampa and White Basin in northwestern Colorado to 235 percent in the South Platte Basin in north-central Colorado.

The exception is southern Colorado’s Rio Grande Basin, which is 85 percent of normal.

Snowmelt flows into reservoirs and provides most of the state’s water. City officials and irrigators monitor the snowpack to predict how much water will be available through the dry summer months.

From The Aspen Daily News (Chad Abraham):

The Roaring Fork River was expected to peak at midnight Tuesday and continue its springtime surge for the next day or two, prompting warnings from officials about dangerous swift water…

“We’re at the point where the melt of the snowpack is creating very high and rough water,” said Jeff Lumsden, a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office patrol director who responded to that tragedy. He urged the public to be cautious around rivers.

After a cold and wet spring that locked in the snowpack, temperatures in the past few days have stayed in the 80s, and approached 90 even in the upper valley, quickly melting a lot of high-country snow that feeds local rivers.

Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District personnel in the past week have responded to at least three calls involving rafts stuck in strainers on the Fork, said Fire Chief Scott Thompson on Monday, referring to the dangerous feature that often contributes to accidents and drowning.

On a particularly hairy stretch of the Fork, about a mile downriver from Hooks Bridge below Basalt, he said crews responded to two calls Sunday. One raft was able to self-rescue, but crews from Basalt and the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District helped dislodge the other.

In the latter call, the three people on the raft, which was being used for fishing, were brought aboard the strainer so the boat could be freed and their trip could continue, Thompson said. But two of the three on the boat were not wearing life jackets, something he called unfathomable.

The rivers are “awfully cold and awfully fast this time of year,” he said.

That stretch of the Fork was “almost occluded” because of downed cottonwoods and other debris piling up, Thompson said. Rafting company crews typically take chainsaws to big trees blocking rivers, but that area is not especially popular for recreational trips, leading to a buildup of strainers…

Eagle County authorities, too, alerted the public Tuesday about the potential danger of local rivers currently. A press release says that all 64 counties in Colorado have been identified as at risk for flooding and that “playing along the shore of fast-moving water is especially dangerous for children and pets, as they can easily slip on wet, muddy banks and be swept away by fast-flowing icy water.”

The press release from Eagle County and the Eagle River Fire Protection District offers this advice:

• Turn around, don’t drown. Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream; it takes only 6 inches of fast-flowing water to sweep you off your feet.

• Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by the floodwaters. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only 2 feet deep can float away most automobiles.

• If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately. Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.

• Don’t allow children or pets to play near high water, storm drains, culverts or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water, and even adults can easily be sucked under and drown in the strong currents near culverts.

• Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.

• Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Colorado’s average snowpack across the state shot up to 201 percent of normal during May thanks to cold, wet weather, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Tuesday.

The statewide snowpack sat at about 95 percent of last year’s level as of June 1, the agency reported.

The Colorado River Basin, which includes the Roaring Fork River watershed, was at 204 percent of normal and 99 percent of last year’s snowpack as of June 1, according to the conservation service.

A lot of that snow will come melting down quickly in high temperatures. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s forecast for the Roaring Fork River shows peak levels were predicted overnight Tuesday. Levels are expected to remain high until midnight Friday.

The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department conducted rescue training over the weekend and has another training session scheduled later this week.

Most of the snowpack in the northern part of the state exists above 10,000 feet in elevation, the conservation service reported. The remaining snow is above 11,000 feet in the southern part of the state.

Ruedi Reservoir was 79 percent full as of Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reported. The agency’s website showed the inflow from the Upper Fryingpan River was at 980 cubic feet per second. The reclamation bureau issued a news released on Monday that said the releases from Ruedi dam would be ramped up to 700 cfs Tuesday. That level will be maintained “until further notice,” the agency said.

The high amount of water released from Ruedi also affects the Roaring Fork River below the confluence in Basalt.

From The Denver Post (Kieran Nicholson):

The combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins fared the best in May, receiving 154 percent of normal precipitation followed by the Rio Grande at 144 percent, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture media release.

The South Platte watershed was the only slacker in the state, still, it was 90 percent of normal precipitation at the end of the month, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado State Office.

The Gunnison wrapped up at 123 percent of normal precipitation, with a snowpack at 209 percent of normal, making it the state leader at the close of May…

Snowpack in the southern Colorado Rockies, such as the San Juan range, is greater than normal this time of year.

At the start of June, according to the release, statewide reservoir storage is currently at 108 percent of normal, down from 112 percent on May 1.

From The Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonacci):

Longmont’s Ralph Price Reservoir above Button Rock Dam will completely fill up this week and residents may notice increased water flows in the St. Vrain River.

Longmont staff said that the Left Hand Creek channel has been restored post September 2013 flood and the St. Vrain channel has been repaired to the point it should be able to carry the heavy runoffs.

Ken Huson, Longmont’s water resources manager, said as the snow in the mountains melts, there will be a high flow of water coming down the North St. Vrain Creek and completely filling Ralph Price Reservoir and spilling into the spillway.

Huson said Tuesday afternoon, the flows were up to 356 cubic feet per second and will likely get up to 400 and 500 CFS through Longmont today.

“Usually the peak for snow melt in the St. Vrain Creek will be between June 7 and June 10,” Huson said. “This year, it’s a little bit later because the cooler weather in late May kept that snowpack up in the mountains. Really in the next one to two weeks, people will see a pretty good amount of stream flow coming through Longmont.”

Longmont spokeswoman Jennifer Loper said that this flow through the city is normal and seasonal.

Longmont pedestrians and cyclists might notice some of the greenway underpasses are flooded and closed, Loper said, adding that they’re working just as they’re designed.

“That’s what they’re created for,” Loper said. “In addition to allowing people to enjoy that space on lower-flow days, water also passes there in higher-flow days.”


The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office typically will ban tubing on the river and creeks in the summer when the water flow is too dangerous. That hasn’t happened yet, Huson said, but people should be cautious around the flowing water anyway.

“It’s certainly high enough where people should watch their kids around water and it’s best not to play in it,” Huson said.

Rivers web cameras and real-time flow data is available at http://longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-n-z/public-information/flood-information/status-and-monitoring.

2016 #coleg: #Colorado water catchment — The Mountain Ear

Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.
Governor Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel at the HB16-1005 bill signing ceremony. Photo via @jessica_goad and Twitter.

From The Mountain Ear (Janet Perry):

New legislation passed last month in Colorado will allow homeowners to catch water runoff from their rooftops via gutter downspouts flowing into one or two aboveground barrels with lids. The volume of the barrels must not exceed 110 gallons. That water must be used for outdoor irrigation on the property where it is collected. If not the homeowner, a renter must get approval from the owner. If multiple unit buildings, there can be no more than four units. The legislation, HB 16-05 will become law on August 10th of this year.

One of the bill’s House sponsors, CO Representative Daneya Esgar, told The Mountain-Ear, “This common sense bill, simply allows Coloradoans the ability to catch some rain that falls on their roof, and use it to water their gardens. This year we worked hard with the Colorado Farm Bureau, agricultural organizations and others who were nervous about the similar bill last year, to be sure this law would not infringe on anyone’s water rights.”


The State Engineer must report to the Legislature in 2019 about whether the allowance for this collection of rainwater has “caused any discernible injury to downstream water rights”. It was this language that allayed the concerns of Colorado farmers and helped pave the way for the bill’s passage in April.

Rebecca Martinez, Associate Director of Communications for the Colorado Farm Bureau, told The Mountain-Ear that the “Colorado Farm Bureau is supportive of HB16-1005 because of specific protections that have been added to the bill that haven’t been a part of previously proposed legislation. Last year, HB16-1005’s predecessor bill lacked adequate protection of individuals’ water rights. “Over the course of many discussions, we’ve made it clear that this bill must contain language protecting water right owners and it is imperative that this bill recognize the state’s prior appropriation doctrine,” president of Colorado Farm Bureau, Don Shawcroft, said. “As the language currently stands, the state’s water court system is fully considered and will allow the State Engineer to address injuries to other water rights should they occur in the future.”

Theresa Conley of Conservation Colorado told The Mountain-Ear, “This bill would help citizens better connect to their outdoor water use by seeing how much water they are using, how much water lawns or plants consume, and how much rain we receive. It also increases folks understanding of our prior appropriation system of water law in terms of why we have it and that it can be a flexible, adaptive water rights system that works.”

Conley further explained, “Colorado faces water challenges (drought, damaged rivers, water security), and an informed public is a necessity for any solution to those challenges. Allowing residential use of rain barrels will build a conservation ethic in the populace, foster a deeper connection to water in the state, and will not impact other water users.”

Residents of Nederland could especially reap the benefits of the bill’s aim at water conservation, as the incorporation of barrels for outdoor irrigation would offset the extremely high cost of water within the town.