@EPA and the State of #Colorado release proposed plans for environmental cleanup at the Eagle Mine Superfund site

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Jennifer Chergo):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) today released two Proposed Plans for environmental remediation at the Eagle Mine Superfund Site. Both Proposed Plans focus on further reducing heavy metal contamination created by nearly one hundred years of mining activity at the site.

“The cleanup proposals represent both EPA and CDPHE’s commitment to protect human health and the environment at the Eagle Mine Superfund Site,” said Acting Regional Administrator Deb Thomas. “These plans also highlight EPA’s commitment to bringing contaminated lands back to health and reuse.”

The Eagle Mine Superfund Site is located in Eagle County, Colorado. The site is defined as the area impacted by past mining activity along and including the Eagle River between the towns of Red Cliff and Minturn. Mining activities at the Eagle Mine began in 1879 and continued until 1984. EPA listed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL), commonly known as the list of Superfund Sites, in 1986 because of the mine metals discharge, uncontrolled mine waste piles and the close proximity of the population to the mine and associated features. To better manage the site, EPA divided it into operable units (OUs). OU1 focuses on protecting surface water by reducing metals loading from the site to the Eagle River. OU2 focuses on potential human health risks from contaminated soils in the abandoned company town of Gilman. OU3 focuses on soil remediation necessary to protect human health due to planned future development by the current landowner.

EPA issued a final Record of Decision (ROD) for OU1 in 1993 and a final ROD for OU2 in 1998. Over the years, all required environmental cleanup work has occurred at the Eagle Mine Superfund Site under a number of state and federal directives. Response actions at the site addressed the major sources of metals contamination to the Eagle River, including the old and new tailings pile, rex flats and various roaster waste piles near Belden. In 2001, EPA declared all cleanup construction activities complete at the Eagle Mine Superfund Site, except for ongoing operation and maintenance of remedial features like the water treatment plant. Remediation conducted to-date resulted in significant improvement in water quality and reduction in risk to human health and the environment. Continued operation of the existing remedy, including drawdown from the mine pool and treatment at the water treatment plant, is required to maintain this condition. Contaminant concentrations in surface water and groundwater have decreased, and the aquatic ecosystem continues to show signs of recovery.

In 2009, water quality standards established by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission specifically for the Eagle Mine site became effective. Water quality monitoring in the Eagle River revealed that the water quality standards for cadmium, copper and zinc are not attained in March and April of most years. In response, the Proposed Plan released today for OU1 describes a number of alternatives designed to further reduce metals loading to the Eagle River. The preferred OU1 alternative includes the collection and treatment of groundwater from Belden and at the mouth of Rock Creek.

The Proposed Plan for OU3 presents cleanup alternatives focusing on soil remediation necessary to protect human health should future development occur. EPA created OU3, after a developer purchased a large portion of the Eagle Mine Superfund Site in 2004 with plans to develop the property into a private, residential community. The preferred alternative includes a combination of the following elements for areas at OU3 proposed for development: placing a soil exposure barrier; grading the site; placing institutional controls and conducting monitoring; and/or demolishing structures.

The Eagle River Watershed Council scores $90,000 from @USBR

Eagle River Basin

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation:

Bureau of Reclamation Acting Commissioner Alan Mikkelsen announced that Reclamation has awarded $664,754 to seven entities to implement watershed management projects. The funding will be used for projects that enhance water conservation, improve water quality and ecological resilience, reduce water conflicts, and advance goals related to water quality and quantity.

“Cooperative watershed groups bring together diverse partners to address water management needs in their local communities,” Mikkelsen said. “The projects announced today will help restore watersheds and reduce water conflicts that were collaboratively developed within their communities.”

These are the first projects selected under Phase II of the Cooperative Watershed Management Program…

  • Eagle River Watershed Council, Inc., will receive $90,000 for a total project cost of $1,363,500 to improve instream flows in Abrams Creek, southwest of Eagle, Colorado. This project is being completed in conjunction with Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Buckhorn Valley Metropolitan District.
  • GoPro Mountain Games recap

    Vail Colorado via Colorado Department of Tourism

    From The Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

    Dave Dresman, the Vail Valley Foundation’s event director for the games, has worked on the events since the foundation acquired the event in 2008. Dresman said in those few years, attendance has more than doubled and sponsorships have increased nearly fivefold. With that kind of growth, it’s no surprise that planning the event has become a full-time job.

    “It really doesn’t stop now,” Dresman said.

    While those plans will take some time to jell, there’s already a tentative window for the 2018 edition of the games: June 7-10.

    As planning for 2018 continues, a lot of information from this year’s games will inform what next year will look like.

    Much of that planning will be well-defined, from the number of volunteers to expanding bus service to finding better ways for people to navigate the events. But there’s always a wild card: weather.

    This year’s games were held in virtually perfect conditions, with good, but not overwhelming, streamflows and warm, sunny weather…

    This year’s games were the best-attended ever. The 2016 Mountain Games drew an estimated 67,000 people. Dresman said he expects the final tally for 2017 to approach 80,000.

    What is known is this year’s games set records for registered competitors — about 3,300 — as well as more than 145 vendor tents.

    A number of those sponsors set up shop in and near Adventure Town in Lionshead Village. This was the second year there have been Mountain Games events in Lionshead, with more events and action in this location in 2017 than there were for the 2016 games.

    #Runoff news: “Go outdoors!” — @VailCOwater

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder):

    [The Arkansas River] was flowing at 3,770 cubic feet per second late Friday afternoon at Parkdale, just west of Royal Gorge, according to the United States Geological Survey. Colorado Parks and Wildlife issues a high water advisory and recommends not rafting when flows reach 3,200 cubic feet per second level in the gorge, known for its whitewater rapids.

    The high river flow wasn’t unexpected and isn’t out of the ordinary, said Bill Banks with USGS.

    “A great deal of water is moving downstream right now because we’ve had a pretty abundant snowfall,” Banks said. “This is just the normal cycle.”

    Colorado has seen a relatively slow, steady snowmelt this year, he said.

    “That’s what we like – a long, controlled runoff,” Banks said. “That’s the best for the environment, best for stakeholders in the region. It’s best all around.”

    #Runoff news: Streamflow will peak soon


    From The Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

    A cool month of May suppressed local runoff and streamflows. But recent warm weather, with more sunshine in the forecast, may bring streams to peak runoff in the next several days.

    The runoff picture is good news for the GoPro Mountain Games, set to begin today with the Steep Creek Championship on Homestake Creek…

    While runoff will be good for the games’ boating events, this year’s so-so snowpack ensures there’s little danger of flooding. That also means boating events will almost certainly go on as scheduled…

    Keeping safe on local streams is an all-the-time thing. Current conditions should soon turn more friendly for casual float trips.

    Boyd, a valley native, said he looks every day from his home in Avon up to Game Creek Bowl on Vail Mountain. The bit of snow remaining on that slope means there should be a little more room for higher streamflows, he said.

    Pete Wadden is the town of Vail’s water quality education specialist. Unsurprisingly, Wadden is also a boating enthusiast. Wadden has only lived in the valley for a few years, but looking at this year’s snowpack — bolstered by a large May snowfall — as well as the weather forecast for the next several days, he believes local streamflows should peak soon.

    Boyd said he thinks streams will peak during the weekend. Wadden thinks the peak will come within the next 10 days or so.

    The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

    Spring Creek Ditch

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    New Bill Clarifies Water Uses for Eagle County

    Colorado water law received some needed clarification in the 2017 session of the Colorado Legislature.

    The legislature, this session, passed a bill in response to the 2015 Colorado Supreme Court decision in the case of St. Jude’s Co. v. Roaring Fork Club LLC. That decision held that direct diversions of water from a river to a private ditch for “aesthetic, recreational and piscatorial” purposes are not “beneficial uses” under state water law.

    “Beneficial use” is a much-used term in state water law and originally encompassed primarily to agricultural and municipal uses. That definition has been evolving throughout the years — through both court decisions and legislation — to protect recreational uses, too, and the new legislation makes that clearer.

    THE DEBATE CONTINUES

    According to a summary on the legislature’s website, “The bill provides that the decision in the St. Jude’s Co. case interpreting section 37-92-103 (4) does not apply to previously decreed absolute and conditional water rights or claims pending as of July 15, 2015.”

    What this means is that those who hold water rights from a stream can legally divert that water for purposes other than agriculture or municipal use.

    The bill was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Democrat K.C. Becker and co-sponsored in the Senate by Republican Jerry Sonnenberg. In a statement after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill, Becker said the law “provides the needed certainty for water rights holders in Colorado.”

    Eagle River Watershed Council Executive Director Holly Loff agreed. In an email, Loff wrote that the group is celebrating the bill’s passage.

    “It protects the tools that local governments have at their disposal to protect flows — both recreational and environmental — which were threatened by the broad language in the (Supreme Court) case. Recreational and piscatorial uses are most definitely beneficial and we are happy to see those protected.”

    The latest “The Current” is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

    Top 10 sources of plastic pollution in our oceans.

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Plastic Rivers

    Driving along I-70 in the springtime as the snow melts, various types of trash can be seen scattered along the grass median. This isn’t uncommon for a major highway running through a populated area, but unlike other communities, our roadways run parallel to our water source–the Eagle River and its tributaries.

    Wind can obviously blow lightweight litter to the streams, but snow and rainfall also picks up plastic bags, motor oil, chemicals, fertilizers, cigarettes, and dog waste left on or near our roads and carries it directly into the river or into our storm drains, which aren’t filtered before emptying out into our streams. Our roadways have historically been built along the path of least resistance, following our valley floors, and as a result, everything flows downhill to the nearby rivers. Urbanization and an increase in impervious surfaces (parking lots, roads, rooftops, and other materials that aren’t absorbent) have been identified as the one of biggest threats to water quality in not just Gore Creek, but also the Eagle River and its tributaries.

    In fact, this past year in Vail, dry cement mix, paint, window cleaner, cooking grease, and 120 hot dogs were dumped down storm drains, according to Pete Wadden, the Town of Vail’s Watershed Education Coordinator. Our storm drains are different than our sanitary sewers, and dumping anything down a storm drain is equivalent to dumping it directly into a creek. But this awareness isn’t fully present in our valley yet, and people that love our rivers are polluting them unintentionally from improper disposal.

    The effects of trash in our rivers extends beyond the reaches of our community, too. The Ocean Conservancy found 2,117,931 cigarettes, and over one million plastic bags and plastic bottles each in our oceans in 2016. By now, plastic-covered beaches around the world have been covered widely in the news. The statistic from World Economic Forum that by 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish has hit home with many. It is commonly known that water bottles and to-go containers create problems, but the lesser known forms of pollution are microplastics—either microbeads from beauty products, microfibers from our clothing, or the breakdown of bigger pieces of plastic from the sun. When these microplastics break down, the chemicals they contain such as PCBs, PETs, DEHPs, antimicrobials, and bioretardants, are released and consumed by the food chain.

    “Recently a huge fact came to light, that in U.S. and Indonesian fish markets, a quarter of the fish contain microplastics, and a third of shellfish contain microplastics. And ultimately, where do those microplastics and contaminants end up? With the top predator,” explains Dr. Maria Campbell, a marine biologist with Plymouth University in the film, Plastico.

    And since our rivers all flow to our oceans, it’s essential that we as a river-side community not contribute to the plastic pollution epidemic.

    How can you help? Most importantly, reduce your use of disposable plastics such as to-go containers, plastic bags, straws, etc. before they make their way into our rivers, and recycle plastics whenever possible. Choose beauty products without microbeads such as natural face washes. Aside from these preventative measures, we also welcome you to join us in picking up the trash that has blown out of vehicles traveling our roadways. Each spring, following ski season and just as the trash emerges from underneath the layers of snow, the Watershed Council hosts the Community Pride Highway Cleanup with more than 950 volunteers. You can come out and help to clear trash from more than 138 miles of Eagle County roadways (I-70, Highways 6, 24, and 131) on May 6th. In the Watershed Council’s 17-year history of coordinating the event, the amount of trash cleared has decreased significantly from 45 tons collected per year to 10 tons. With greater public awareness, more recycling, and greater care for where our trash goes, hopefully this number will continue to decrease. The Watershed Council is always looking for more volunteers for this great community event. To get registered for the event, please call the office at (970) 827-5406 or email ranney@erwc.org.

    Lizzie Schoder is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit http://www.erwc.org.