Erie population growth is driving wastewater plant expansion

Erie Town Hall. By Bahooka – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

From The Longmont Times-Call (Anthony Hahn):

Trustees earlier this month approved the foundation for such change, an expansion master plan for the site that could run the town nearly $25 million in construction costs over the next few years, and an additional $2 million for consultants to steer the early stages.

Several factors — ranging from the predictable to the esoteric — are driving the need for the facility’s expansion, according to Adam Parmenter of HDR, Inc., the firm charged with shepherding the town through the project.

According to Colorado Department of Health regulations, towns must begin to make expansion plans when their facilities reach 80% capacity; at 95%, construction must begin. Delays could get state regulators to slap communities with growth restrictions.

In 2017, Erie’s North Water site hit about 81% capacity, processing roughly 1.58 million gallons of wastewater per day. By 2020, that number is expected to hit 95% of the facility’s processing capacity, equivalent to 4 ½ Olympic swimming pools…

If Erie’s projected growth keeps pace (and with current trends, there’s no reason to expect otherwise), Parmenter said the facility’s liquid capacity would be exceeded by 2021.

Consultants are recommending a plan out to 2028, expanding the plant into a 3.03 million gallons per day system, a 50% capacity increase from what the existing facility does now.

The expansion will take place in steps, however, over the next decade, according to Erie Public Works Director Todd Fessenden.

“We will be in design over the course of the next year for the expansion of the plant” he said, “then we’ll be in construction late next year or early 2021.

“The master plan is really just laying out the next 20 years so we can have a schedule to look at,” he added, “whether that be regulatory milestones or looking at certain capacity stages, a lot of those things you have to be planning ahead for before those things hit.”

Another of the drivers, and perhaps a more pressing matter, is the plant’s solid operations. Whereas the plant’s liquid-stream processing is more of a straightforward capacity issue, dealing with the deluge of solids on a daily basis is often rooted in the quality of the science.

In order to get the solids that come through the plant to the designation of “Class A Biosolids” — a standard that meets EPA guidelines “for land application with no restrictions,” meaning reclaiming it to a point where it can legally be used as fertilizer or compost — the plant’s technology needs to perform a specific set of tasks.

As it stands now, the North Water site is essentially at capacity for processing solid waste, Parmenter said, and the “system isn’t running the way it was originally designed to create Class A Biosolids.”

Without changes, the system’s current process — which includes trucks having to move solids off-site — would cost the town roughly $1 million per year in hauling costs.

According to officials, the costs of the expansion project will be footed by the town’s growth through its existing tap fees.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the San Juan National Forest, and Trout Unlimited are partnering to repopulate Wolf Creek with San Juan Cutthroat trout

Courtesy Photo This trout is one of a new pure genetic strain of cutthroat trout (San Juan cutthroat) found recently by Colorado Parks and wildlife biologists. This photo was taken at CPW’s Durango fish hatchery via the South Fork Tines.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (John Finefrock):

The San Juan cutthroat trout, a fish native to the San Juan Wa- tershed and once thought to be extinct, will be reintroduced to the area in a project administered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW ) and the San Juan National Forest…

In 1874, naturalist Charles E. Aiken collected and preserved samples of the San Juan cutthroat in Pagosa Springs, one of which has been stored in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., since the late 1800s.

The San Juan cutthroat was believed to have gone extinct about 100 years ago.

About 10 years ago, samples of a cutthroat were collected, but scien- tists didn’t, or couldn’t, prove that it was the same genetically pure San Juan cutthroat that originated in the San Juan Watershed and was collected in 1874.

“There were a couple populations identified around 10 years ago,” Hanks said. “People started looking at ‘em and saying, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with these, there might be something special about these. But, the consensus was that they were just some sort of hybrid.”

Last year, modern genetic test- ing was done on the fish samples collected 10 years ago that prove a genetic match between the recent samples and the Smithsonian samples from the late 1800s. “Now we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that those fish we’ve always wondered about are indeed the San Juan lineage cutthroat trout. They are not a hybrid, they are native to the San Juan Basin,” said Hanks.

Now, CPW, the San Juan National Forest and Trout Unlimited are partnering to breed and reintroduce the San Juan cutthroat, in abundance, to the area around Pagosa Springs…

The project, currently under- way, will breed the San Juan cut- throats in the Durango hatchery and ultimately release them into Wolf Creek, near Wolf Creek Pass…

Hanks explained that Wolf Creek was chosen as the site of the proj- ect because “it’s a very productive fishery.”

The San Juan cutthroat bred in Durango will be released into Wolf Creek around the summer of 2022.

“In our view, #biodiversity loss and #climatechange must be addressed as one interconnected problem with linked solutions” — Greg Asner #ActOnClimate

From The Conversation (Greg Asner). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Today nature is suffering accelerating losses so great that many scientists say a sixth mass extinction is underway. Unlike past mass extinctions, this event is driven by human actions that are dismantling and disrupting natural ecosystems and changing Earth’s climate.

My research focuses on ecosystems and climate change from regional to global scales. In a new study titled “A Global Deal for Nature,” led by conservation biologist and strategist Eric Dinerstein, 17 colleagues and I lay out a road map for simultaneously averting a sixth mass extinction and reducing climate change.

We chart a course for immediately protecting at least 30% of Earth’s surface to put the brakes on rapid biodiversity loss, and then add another 20% comprising ecosystems that can suck disproportionately large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. In our view, biodiversity loss and climate change must be addressed as one interconnected problem with linked solutions.

Sasata – Own work
Sampling of fungi collected from summer, 2008 foray in Northern Saskatchewan mixed woods, near LaRonge In this photo, there are a few leaf lichens, probably Icelandmoss (Cetraria Icelandia), a couple of mosses or liverworts… (Bryophytes), peatland moss, (Sphagnum) as well as mushrooms. Online references in regards to lichens… CalPhotos: Cetraria islandica; Iceland Moss Cetraria (Iceland Moss) GETTING TO KNOW YOUR PRAIRIE LICHENS GETTING TO KNOW YOUR BOREAL LICHENS Medicinal Lichens”, by Robert Rogers Identifying North American Lichens–A Guide to the Literature

Early warning for wildland fires? There could be an app for that —

Infrared images from the weather satellite GOES show the Camp Fire spreading during the four hours after ignition on Nov. 8, 2018, during which time it burned through the town of Paradise. Such images, downloaded quickly, could be used to alert fire, police and residents of developing wildland fires. (Image courtesy of Jeff Chambers)

From UC Berkeley (Robert Sanders):

While state and federal officials are looking ahead and worrying about the coming fire season and how to more quickly get in front of fast-moving blazes, a University of California, Berkeley, professor argues that the tools for rapid detection are already here.

A weather satellite, GOES 17 (GOES West), sits above California taking photos every five minutes that can show hot spots throughout the West. If visible light and infrared data from this geostationary satellite are downloaded quickly enough, a computer program could easily be written to search for hot spots and alert emergency responders within as little as 15 to 30 minutes.

Wildfire early warnings could even be delivered via a mobile phone app, just as apps today deliver weather alerts and, someday soon, earthquake early warnings.

“You could build today a fire warning app that would wake you up in the event of a nearby fire and help you decide if you need to flee,” said Jeff Chambers, a UC Berkeley professor of geography. “You could create an algorithm that would bring in all the data, detect the fire, calculate the direction it is moving and project what the fire is burning toward, maybe 30 minutes or an hour or two out. There is nothing to inhibit us from building that now.”

Chambers and a group of graduate students downloaded GOES 17 data days after the Camp Fire devastated the town of Paradise on Nov. 8, 2018, and were able to reconstruct the fire’s advance every five minutes for four hours after ignition. The images are low-resolution — each pixel is 2 kilometers square — but they could be used to quickly spot and track the spread of a large blaze almost in real time.

A close-up view of the residential and commercial structures in Paradise that were engulfed in flames as of 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 8. (Landsat data analysis and Google Earth overlay courtesy of Jeff Chambers)

Another Earth-orbiting satellite, Landsat 8, takes photos of the Western United States every 16 days and just happened to snap a photo of the Camp Fire four hours after ignition, which by that time had burned halfway through Paradise. Chambers later downloaded those images, as well, and, with the help of Google Earth Engine and the algorithms he wrote, he could clearly identify the buildings that had already burned and see the rapidly leapfrogging flames.

“At the time of the Camp Fire, we hadn’t yet built the tools to quickly synthesize all these data streams into a single application, but we’re there now,” he said.

Today’s wildfires move quickly — at one point, the leading edge of the Camp Fire was advancing over an area of 200 football fields every minute — so a 15- to 30-minute delay in accessing and analyzing satellite data would be too long to forewarn those near the fire front. But 30 minutes of advance warning could jump-start fire and police response and allow those downwind of the fire to evacuate much earlier, Chambers said.

Even better, he says, would be a geosynchronous land observation satellite dedicated to wildland fire detection, ideally with higher resolution than GOES. A dedicated fire satellite would not only enhance wildfire detection and monitoring, but could also track drought impacts, contribute to agricultural optimization efforts and assist with observation of land use and biomass change for carbon accounting, he said. Such a platform could help reduce impacts to the built environment and communities, while expanding the technology available to address today’s complex ecological and environmental challenges.

A UC Berkeley team proposed just such a satellite five years ago, dubbing it FUEGO (Fire Urgency Estimator on Geosynchronous Orbit). That group, led by astrophysicist Carl Pennypacker, estimated a cost of more than $200 million, high enough to require state and/or federal assistance or private investment.

The Camp Fire at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, four hours after it broke out, likely at the easternmost edge of the burn (right). (Landsat data analysis and overlay courtesy of Jeff Chambers)

Chambers’ analysis of the Landsat 8 and GOES satellite data from the Camp Fire clearly showed a fast-moving wildland fire, but not a forest fire, he said. Many trees survived the fire and looked green and healthy in satellite images taken weeks later, whereas chaparral and grasslands were completely consumed by the fire.

“This fire was moving so fast through the city that, in many cases, it burned right through the understory, and there wasn’t enough contact to get the flames up into the crowns of trees,” he said.

Any home or business surrounded by dry vegetation or downed or dead trees or that had gutters full of dry pine needles or leaves was vulnerable to catching fire, however. More than 10,000 structures burned in the Camp Fire.

In an article posted online today and submitted to PeerJ, Chambers described the sources of data that he employed to study the Camp Fire and that could assist in detecting future fires, now that the data analysis tools are available.

“Just months ago, this was not possible,” he said. “These tools are enabling science we couldn’t have done before, making fire information an important part of the news cycle. Part of our goal as scientists is to provide useful information to the public using available data streams and analysis tools.”