@DenverWater: Slow down Climax Molybdenum

Climax Mine

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Freeport-McMoRan subsidiary Climax Molybdenum has asked the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to relax the water quality limit for molybdenum in streams used for domestic water statewide to 9,000 parts per million from 210 ppm. It also wants the limits for waterways tapped for agricultural irrigation raised to 1,000 ppm from 160 ppm.

The change could cut water-treatment costs at the company’s open-pit Climax Mine above Leadville, where the company produced about 16 million pounds of molybdenum in 2016, down from 23 million pounds in 2015…

“The standard proposed by Climax based on studies it completed on laboratory animals do not appear to adequately extrapolate to human health impacts,” said Tom Roode, the utility’s chief of operations and maintenance. “While the increased discharge may save costs at the mine, it has the potential to increase treatment costs at Denver Water’s treatment plants.”

Denver’s water treatment plants lack the capacity to remove molybdenum, which in trace amounts can be healthy. While data on human toxicity is limited, chronic ingestion of molybdenum can cause diarrhea, stunted growth, infertility, low birth weights and gout, and can also affect the lungs, kidneys and liver.

“Our position is that the molybdenum standard should be based on sound science quantifying human health impacts,” Roode said.

At the mine atop Fremont Pass, Climax discharges molybdenum into Tenmile Creek, which flows into Dillon Reservoir.

From The Sky-Hi News (Lance Maggart):

County Water Quality Specialist Katherine Morris and Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer delved into a proposal the county received from Climax Molybdenum, a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan and operators of the Henderson Mill and Mine complex, to change state regulations regarding allowable molybdenum concentrations in water. The decision to change the standard is under the purview of the state’s Water Quality Control Commission, not Grand County.

According to information provided by Morris and Moyer, the state commission is set to decide on the issue at a hearing on Dec. 12.

The standards for allowable molybdenum are set by the state and changes to those standards can impact both drinking water and agricultural water uses. Climax is proposing increasing the allowable standard for molybdenum concentrations in domestic drinking water from 210 micrograms per liter to 9,000 micrograms per liter. They are also seeking an increase in allowable molybdenum levels in agriculture water, from 160 micrograms to 1,000 micrograms.

County Commissioner Rich Cimino indicated he was not supportive of Climax’s proposed increases.

“The standard is the standard, and safety is safety, why would we relax it?” Cimino asked rhetorically.

County Commissioner Merrit Linke echoed Cimino’s comments.

“These are factors of what, 20, to change the standard?” Linke asked. “I don’t think we are going there. If it was a little bit, if it was going from say 210 to 300 maybe that is justifiable, but factors of 40, I don’t think so. No, would be the answer for me.”

No reason for the proposed increase was discussed during the meeting.

WINDY GAP RESERVIOR BYPASS PROJECT COST SET AT OVER $15 MILLION

A review of the Windy Gap Reservoir modification and connectivity channel was also on the agenda Tuesday.

Moyer highlighted that the application for an amended decree and bypass water rights has been submitted to the appropriate water court by Northern Water and the Colorado River District.

Value engineering has been performed on the project, which helped lower the anticipated infrastructure costs of the bypass by roughly $1 million. After adding in approximately $1.4 million for NEPA permitting, monitoring and administration, the total cost of the bypass project is set at $15.6 million.

Moyer informed commissioners that funding for the project is still about $5 million short.

“We have ongoing efforts for fundraising,” Moyer said, highlighting several tours conducted in the last month with prospective foundations, such as the Walton Family Foundation, which toured the project site in late September. Moyer will attend a funding meeting for the project at Denver Water facilities this week and has more follow-up meetings next week.

Moyer also provided a brief update on the ongoing Learning By Doing adaptive management process of which Grand County is a party.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

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