Watershed: It’s not a building for storing water – News on TAP

Denver Water celebrates Arbor Day with a tribute to Mother Nature’s own water filtration process.

Source: Watershed: It’s not a building for storing water – News on TAP

#AnimasRiver: The @EPA hopes to improve aquatic life in four reaches

Silverton, Colo., lies an at elevation of 9,300 feet in San Juan County, and the Gold King Mine is more than 1,000 feet higher in the valley at the left side of the photo. Photo/Allen Best

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

The Environmental Protection Agency has named four areas in the Animas River basin where it plans to focus on improving water quality for aquatic life.

The EPA recently released a study assessing risks in aquatic habitats, a result of years of sampling and testing water quality in the Animas River basin around Silverton.

Andrew Todd, an aquatic toxicologist for the EPA, said the study confirmed many suspicions throughout the watershed: In areas where water had low pH and elevated metals, fish and other aquatic life populations were highly impaired or non-existent.

But the study also helped inform the EPA about what areas the agency could focus on with cleanup projects, he said, where marked benefits, such as restoring aquatic populations, could be achievable.

The areas include:

  • The Animas River just below the confluence of Elk Creek, about 5 miles downstream of Silverton.
  • The upper Animas River from Howardsville to just above the confluence with Cement Creek.
  • The south fork of Mineral Creek.
  • Upper Mineral Creek from Mill Creek to just above the confluence with the middle fork of Mineral Creek.
  • […]

    Christina Progress, Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site manager, said a final decision on the EPA’s quick-action plan that seeks to address 26 mining sites over the next five years or so should be announced in the next month or two.

    Progress said the cleanup projects in the proposed plan are in line with the EPA’s four identified priority areas.

    Weather permitting, Progress told The Durango Herald, the EPA plans to conduct four or five projects this summer. The low water year in 2017-18 and the high water year in 2018-19 are also allowing the EPA to get a better idea of the hydrology of the mountains.

    Because Cement Creek has never been known to support aquatic life, it was not considered in this part of the EPA’s process, Progress said. The mines draining into upper Cement Creek are considered some of the worst loaders of heavy metals in the basin.

    “We need a lot more understanding of the groundwater system to understand how best to address those (mine) sources,” she said. “We know it’s a significant area of contamination and prohibitive to our overall success.”

    Progress said the EPA’s human health risk assessment should also be released in the next month or so. A terrestrial health risk assessment is expected this fall, she said.

    #Snowpack/#Runoff news: Nice timing for a widespread precipitation event, SWE is dropping across #Colorado

    Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

    From The Colorado Sun (Dan England):

    Colorado’s snowpack is reaching historic proportions this spring, and that leaves fans of whitewater excited — and a bit nervous. Last year’s slim snowpack threatened to run river rafting companies out of business, especially in southern Colorado, where rafters were left scrounging for trickles of water. This year, enthusiasts see opportunity, as all rivers look ready to run wild. In fact, it’s hard to pick where to go first…

    All over Colorado, river forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are seeing snowpacks of up to 200 percent of average in…southern Colorado, with those same snowpacks in the top three of the past 30 years. Snowpacks over the rest of Colorado are still great but more moderate, more like 120 percent of median statewide as of Friday, ranks that put them in the top 10 of the past 30 years. That still leaves room for excitement.

    “The snowpack is just … huge,” said Lee Crowley, a senior hydro meteorologist and water supply forecaster for the Arkansas-Red River Basin for the NOAA, which handles the Arkansas River. “But everyone there knows that.”

    […]

    Fast melt turns rivers dangerous

    If summer does get in a hurry, especially several days in a row, much of the snow can melt, sending a rush of water downstream. If those huge piles of snow still haven’t melted until then, the rush of water could turn fun rivers into angry, frothing rides of terror.

    People die when that happens, and Colorado leads the nation in river deaths since 1975. There were 77 people killed in Colorado whitewater from 1975-2005 and 78 killed since then, a rise attributed to the rise in popularity of kayaking, as well as family rafting trips, according to American Whitewater. More than 80 percent were people rafting on their own, not under the watch of an outfitter.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 29, 2019 via the NRCS.

    Clean River Design Challenge — The Greenway Foundation

    From The Greenway Foundation:

    The Water Connection is serving as a lead voice for The Greenway Foundation (TGF) on the issue of urban waterway trash. Despite the significant evolution in the health of the South Platte River, the reality of trash and other forms of pollution continue to be an ongoing challenge to the River. In response to this reality, TGF is engaging higher education students in developing designs for urban waterway trash removal devices.

    The third iteration of this competition will host student teams from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado School of Mines, and University of Denver. Other project partners include the Flood Control District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, and representatives of Denver’s professional engineering sector.

    For the 2018-2019 competition, student teams focused on the section of the South Platte River, just upstream of the confluence with the Cherry Creek. Five teams spent the first semester developing a preliminary design, which was presented to a panel of judges in early December and the top three designs were selected.

    Round 1: Design Phase
    First Place: Team Trash Trouts from Colorado School of Mines
    Second Place: River Guardians from Colorado School of Mines
    Third Place: Team Black-Crowned Night Herons from Metropolitan State University of Denver

    Four teams continued onto Round 2, to build a scaled model of their design and test it in a specialized flume at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The top three designs were selected based on a variety of criteria: design, impact on the river corridor, amount of trash collected, cost, etc.

    Round 2: Design Phase

    It was another great year of innovation– Thank you to everyone who participated in this competition!
    Click here to watch the story on the competition from Channel 4 CBS Denver.

    Acid mine drainage turns the #BlueRiver orangish at Breckenridge

    From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

    The Blue River turned orange in Breckenridge on Saturday afternoon. The river’s water went from its natural blue-green hue to a bright, burnt orange within a few hours, with emergency officials believing the discoloration to be runoff from an area above Illinois Gulch known to cause similar discoloration in the past.

    After investigating, fire officials determined that the runoff came from a mine located on private property at the corner of Boreas Pass Road and Bright Hope Circle. The water runoff at the source appeared as a thick, muddy orange stream with no obvious unique odor or taste. Fire officials said that the location has been the source of orange mine runoffs in the past…

    Red, White and Blue Fire District issued a press release Saturday evening stating that first responders were alerted about discolored water in the Blue River at 3:15 p.m. Multiple fire companies and a specialty HAZMAT unit responded. The fire district determined that the source of the orange water was a known release point on Boreas Pass Road. Initial testing done by fire district personnel found the water to not be an immediate danger to human health. The fire district also said there is no immediate corrective action possible from first responders. Typically, this kind of orange mine runoff lasts about 24 hours.

    “Given the rainfall that occurred last night, it is not surprising that we are seeing this type of activity today,” said RWB batallion chief and incident commander Drew Hoehn. “We realize the optics of the run-off are in stark contrast to what folks are normally used to seeing in the Blue River, but we are confident in the assessment and assurance of the public’s welfare in this particular situation.”

    Summit County’s director of environmental health, Dan Hendershott, also sought to downplay concerns about the health impact of the orange water.

    “Based on previous similar releases that have occurred, we don’t have reason to believe this event poses a risk to the public’s health,” Hendershott said. “However, out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that people and pets avoid contact with this water. Untreated surface water should never be consumed, and that would certainly be the case here, too.”

    Authorities are still investigating the incident and all local water districts have been notified. The Blue River is one of the primary sources for the Dillon Reservoir, which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people on the Front Range.

    Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson