#AnimasRiver: @EPA wants to continue operations at [Cement Creek] water-treatment plant — The Durango Herald

The EPA's wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 -- photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio
The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it would prefer to continue operations at the temporary water-treatment plant that handles discharges out of the Gold King Mine while the agency continues to evaluate long-term options.

Before the EPA makes that decision final, a public comment period that began Monday will run to Dec. 14.

“As EPA understands more about the hydrology of the area, and how various sources of contamination are affecting water quality, the Agency will consider any number of options, including potential expansion of the IWTP, to address the contamination,” Chris Wardell, of U.S. EPA Region 8, said in a news release.

The second option considered in the report released Monday was to mothball the $1.5 million water-treatment plant, which was built two months after an EPA contracted crew on Aug. 5, 2015, breached the portal of the Gold King Mine, releasing 3 million gallons of mine waste down the Animas River.

The treatment plant’s high cost of operation, as well as the need to deal with the lime-heavy metal sludge by-product, led officials tasked with improving water quality in the Animas River watershed to find other options.

As of last week, the average flow rate into the treatment plant was 712 gallons per minute, and it costs about $16,000 per week to operate.

If EPA, after reviewing public comments, formally decides to continue operations, the agency will move the plant from “emergency removal action” funding to “Non-Time Critical Removal Action,” which falls under the proper Superfund process.

This fall, the EPA officially declared 48-mining sites around Silverton as the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site.

Cement Creek aerial photo -- Jonathan Thompson via Twitter
Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

#Drought news: “If you have a low #snowpack year, you’re not replenishing the reservoirs as much” — Becky Bollinger

West Drought Monitor November 8, 2016.
West Drought Monitor November 8, 2016.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder):

Most of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought, but it’s the worst in a swath of the state along the Front Range extending to the state’s northern, southern and eastern borders, including Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. That’s the area where there’s “moderate drought,” according to a U.S. Drought Monitor update on Nov. 8. The levels of drought intensity range from abnormally dry to moderate drought, severe drought, extreme drought and exceptional drought.

The last time El Paso County was this dry was in 2014, when the area was coming out of a drought that peaked in 2013.

Right now, the snowpack is suffering, but “we don’t have cause for concern yet because it’s still early in the season,” said Becky Bolinger, a Colorado Climate Center drought specialist.

Western Colorado has only 6 to 20 percent of its normal snowpack, and the Upper Colorado River Basin “has seen very little snowfall,” with sub-basins that have less than 40 percent of normal snowpack, according to the Colorado Climate Center.

Snowpack can impact future water supply: “It really gives us an indication of what’s coming down the line,” Bolinger said.

“If you have a low snowpack year, you’re not replenishing the reservoirs as much.”

But cities shouldn’t be worried yet, she said. The agricultural sector is experiencing most concern right now – dry soils and a lack of precipitation are impacting the winter wheat.

“Here at the Colorado Climate Center, we’re definitely keeping a very close watch on conditions,” Bolinger said.

In Colorado Springs, September was the seventh-warmest and tied as the 16th-driest, and October was the second-warmest and tied as the driest, according to Mark Wankowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

“The last two months have really dried us out,” Wankowski said.

So far in November, each day has seen above-average temperatures, and there has been almost no precipitation, according to the weather service. And there’s a fire-weather watch in place Wednesday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. for parts of Colorado including El Paso County. The watch warns of gusty winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels: “Extreme fire behavior with rapid rates of fire growth and spread will be possible with any fire starts.”

Westwide SNOTEL November 13, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL November 13, 2016 via the NRCS.

CCWCD closes on two projects

Geisert Reservoir photo via the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Geisert Reservoir photo via the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Here’s the release from the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District (Randy Ray or Kathy Parker):

““CCWCD is pleased to announce the acquisition Geisert Reservoir. Every opportunity CCWCD can, we partner with good people such as Weld County – it’s proven to be a win-win for the two agencies. The support of the Weld County Commissioners regarding irrigated agriculture is so impressive, the residents of Weld County have to be proud.” –Randy W. Ray – CCWCD Executive Director

“CCWCD staff and Board of Directors constantly evaluate projects which provide the best benefit for our constituents as economical as possible. The CCWCD Board was successful in siting a diversion point on the South Platte River for the Bijou Hill Recharge Project – will provide a supply of water to the South Platte River when operational that will last for years.” — Randy W. Ray – CCWCD Executive Director

Central Colorado Water Conservancy District and Weld County Commissioners formally executed a closing on Geisert Reservoir November 8th. This water storage project takes advantage of a mined-out gravel pit on the north bank of the Cache La Poudre River, near 11th avenue, in north Greeley. Geisert Reservoir has a perimeter slurry wall that limits interaction of groundwater, the slurry wall liner was tested and approved by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The reservoir capacity is 1,257 acre-feet and should be full by the end of November. The water being used to fill Geisert Reservoir during the months of November and December originates from a lease with the City of Thornton and other water supplies owned by CCWCD upstream of Greeley. The water will be held in storage for a short time period and released in approximately January of 2017 for augmentation of Central’s 1,000-member agricultural irrigation wells. The CCWCD agricultural members are located in parts of Adams, Morgan and Weld Counties.

A second closing was held on November 10th for CCWCD’s Bijou Hill Recharge Project in western Morgan County near the town of Orchard, Colorado. This land near the South Platte River will become a new point of water diversion in which water will be pumped south of the river several miles to recharge projects. These recharge projects include ponds which will be constructed as shallow infiltration basins with the intent of rapid seepage into the underlying groundwater aquifer. The water after delivered to the groundwater aquifer becomes as water supply to be used for augmentation of agricultural wells in CCWCD’s plans of augmentation which include roughly 1,000 wells in parts of Adams, Morgan and Weld Counties. The groundwater recharge project will be a tremendous benefit to the CCWCD augmentation plans operated by the CCWCD Sub-Districts – the Groundwater Management Subdistrict and the Well Augmentation Subdistrict.

Augmentation plans are Water Court decreed legal agreements which allow irrigation wells to pump out of priority while preventing injury to more senior water rights using projects such as Geisert Reservoir and Bijou Hill Recharge.

Bijou Hill Recharge and Geisert Reservoir will not only help farmers and livestock producers with their needed water supplies, but also offer an added benefit of creating new wildlife habitat and water quality improvements.

CCWCD – Where the Future Flows

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Randy Ray or Kathy Parker at 970-330-4540 or email at rray@ccwcd.org

South Platte River alluvial aquifer
South Platte River alluvial aquifer