Community Open House & Reception: Edwards wastewater facility improvements, September 26, 2017

Edwards Wastewater Treatment Facility photo credit Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

Click here to view the Eagle River Water & Sanitation event page and to register:

Join us for a reception and tour of the $25 million Edwards wastewater treatment facility solids handling improvement project. Now that the landscaping is done, we’re ready for visitors!

Please register so we can plan enough food for all participants.

  • 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Open house, facility tours, and complimentary food.
  • Noon to 1 p.m. – Welcome, acknowledgements, speakers, and short tour.
  • […]

    Improvements include:

  • Preliminary treatment enhancements.
  • Expansion of the solids digestion process.
  • Rehabilitation of solids dewatering.
  • Landscaping and aesthetic updates.
  • New odor control systems.
  • The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

    Eagle Mine

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

    New Developments on the Horizon for the Eagle Mine

    Long-time residents of the Eagle Valley remember a time nearly 30 years ago when the Eagle River ran orange. Linda Jones, who worked at Battle Mountain High School, would pass by the river and its orange-stained rocks on her way to work, football games, and ski practices. Joe Macy and his colleagues at Vail Resorts (then Vail Associates) dealt with blowing orange snow on Beaver Creek’s ski slopes in the winter of 1989-90, as their snowmaking process pulls water straight from the Eagle. Those who weren’t around in the eighties might not realize that the scene at the Eagle River was not unlike the 2015 Gold King Mine spill on the Animas River. The leaching of hazardous heavy metals into the lifeblood of the Eagle Valley eventually caused the mining area to be declared a Superfund Site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1986.

    Gold and silver mining activity in the 235-acre area dates back to the 1870s, until lead and zinc mining took over in 1905. Ownership of the operation changed hands multiple times, until 1984, when the mine operator, Glenn Miller, went into bankruptcy and failed to pay the electricity bills. Without electricity, the water pumps in the mine stopped running and the mine workings began to flood. For the next five years, the water level in the mine continued to creep higher, until finally spilling over and flooding the river with lead, cadmium, copper, arsenic and zinc. Water quality began suffering long before the spill, however, as up until the Clean Water Act of 1972 was enacted, discharging contaminated water into the river was a perfectly legal and common practice.

    The State of Colorado and the EPA both filed separate lawsuits against the former and current mine operators resulting in the cleanup being governed by two settlement agreements. Today, the site is owned by Battle Mountain, but the successor of Gulf + Western—CBS Corporation—is still paying for the cleanup and will continue to in perpetuity.

    Over the past three decades, multiple agencies and partners have worked together to remediate, monitor, and improve the cleanup and the Eagle River. In many ways, the Superfund Site is an example of a very successful remediation in Colorado. Ore was originally processed through roasting and magnetic separation, resulting in metals-laden roaster waste. The tailings from the milling process also contained high concentrations of metals and were slurried through a pipeline away from the mine area. The deposited waste led to acid mine drainage. To date, all of the roaster waste and tailings that threatened human health and water quality have been consolidated from the old tailings pile, capped with a protective cover and revegetated to prevent any further groundwater contamination. Contaminated groundwater is currently treated at a water treatment facility before entering the river. Institutional controls and monitoring were established around the waste rock piles to determine acid generation potential and the water quality impact from runoff. The EPA also created secondary cribbing walls beneath Belden as a safeguard from waste rock crumbling into the Eagle.

    Though extensive remediation has occurred on site, the primary remaining concern is water quality and the ecological risks to fish and the tiny aquatic insects they feed on. The Eagle River is currently being managed as a brown trout fishery under Colorado Parks and Wildlife. In 2008, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission set new standards for cadmium, copper, zinc, and arsenic levels. The change in standards required a new “feasibility study,” a Superfund process for the development and evaluation of new plans for cleanup. Today, the need for further cleanup is clear as the metal levels tend to exceed limits in March and April, as the snow is melting at the Eagle Mine site but the river hasn’t hit peak flow yet.

    It’s important to note while arsenic levels peak in the spring, they are still well below limits for safe consumption of fish. The highest arsenic level is about .31 micrograms per liter (ug/L), while the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sets the standard for safe fish consumption at 7.6 ug/L, and under the Safe Drinking Water Act the limit is 10 ug/L. At a recent panel discussion of the Eagle Mine, both project managers from the EPA and CDPHE said they would let their kids and pets play in the river, and eat a fish from it as well.

    The EPA broke the site into three manageable operable units (OUs): OU1 deals with site-wide water quality; OU2 is concerned with human health, primarily in the town of Gilman; and OU3 encompasses the North Property Redevelopment, or the Battle Mountain Project. The EPA and CDPHE have recently released Proposed Plans for Operable Units 1 and 3, which can be found online here and here or at the Minturn Town Hall. These new plans outline different alternatives for future remediation of the Superfund Site, to both bring metal concentrations into compliance in the spring as well as address land use changes in the future. Public comments on the plans will be accepted until September 10th of this year and can be submitted by email or mail—the addresses for each can be found within the plans. As these Plans are the first step in determining the next actions in the ongoing cleanup of the Superfund site, the Watershed Council encourages the community to read the plans and provide comments.

    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

    A look at Vail Valley water rights

    From The Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

    In drought years, holders of the most senior water rights can “call” on those with junior rights. That means junior rights holders have to stop diverting water.

    The town of Gypsum was in that situation not long ago.

    Town water manager Matt Franklin said senior rights holders taking their allocated water put a significant strain on the town’s ability to provide water to residents.

    “Nothing’s more stressful than trying to meet demand when there’s a call on the river and you can only put out a quarter of what you need,” Franklin said.

    Gypsum, over the past 20 years or so, has acquired some of the most senior water rights on Gypsum Creek. The most senior rights came from the former Albertson Ranch, now the moribund Brightwater development. Other senior rights came from Cotton Ranch closer to town.

    Still, Franklin said, there are some rights senior to the Albertson Ranch rights that can take precedence in April. That month in 2013 — a historic drought year — was tough to cover, Franklin said.

    In those dry years, the town has to pull water from farther downstream, and the quality isn’t as good. Treating that water requires more chemicals, more electricity, more manpower … more of just about everything, Franklin said.

    GOOD RIGHTS, GOOD SUPPLIES

    Still, that town is in good shape today regarding its water inventory. So is most of the rest of the Vail Valley.

    Front Range water attorney Glenn Porzac knows more than just about anyone about mountain water. He said local water providers have worked over the years to ensure steady water supplies.

    The town of Eagle is a good example, Porzak said. Town officials there “have been very aggressive,” Porzak said. “They approve annexations and developments only with all the water rights. Over time, they’ve really cornered that market.”

    Farther east, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, along with the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, has also put in a lot of effort to ensure steady, stable supplies of water.

    Those two entities have separate elected boards, but share staff and other resources. The district and the authority have an integrated system, Porzak said, which allows water to move as needed from roughly Edwards to East Vail.

    The third major player in the upper valley is Vail Resorts, which requires water for snowmaking between November and January.

    Most of that water supply comes from the Eagle River, but there are a few reservoirs that play crucial roles as streamflows drop between late summer and late winter.

    Aurora and Colorado Springs control most of the water from Homestake Reservoir roughly between Red Cliff and Camp Hale. From there, water is pumped to Turquoise Lake near Leadville. Then, water is pumped either into the Arkansas River for Colorado Springs or into the South Platte for Aurora.

    But there’s some local water sitting in Homestake, used to ensure streamflows in the Eagle River.

    MORE LOCAL SUPPLIES

    Near the Climax Mine atop Fremont Pass is the Eagle Park Reservoir, which is used by local providers for streamflows and some supply. Black Lakes, atop Vail Pass, is also used for local supply.

    Still, local streams can run almost dry. Porzak said he has 2013 pictures of Gore Creek running at just a trickle. Portions of Brush Creek near Eagle have run almost dry in other drought years.

    That’s why the water-pumping systems used by the upper valley water and sanitation district and water authority are crucial to ensuring adequate supplies for everyone.

    Another player in the mix of who controls local water is the Colorado River District, which oversees use of the Colorado River from its origin in Rocky Mountain National Park to the Colorado/Utah state line.

    Porzak said the river district has contracts to provide water to a number of small developments between Wolcott and Dotsero. The river district also provides some reservoir water to back up systems in Eagle and Gypsum.

    Then there’s the most-senior water right in the valley. That one, the only one in the valley that dates to the 1800s, came off the Nottingham Ranch at Avon and serves Beaver Creek.

    The Vail Valley’s water supplies are more stable than they were even a few years ago. Starting in about the middle of the 20th century, Front Range cities came to the mountains looking for water to feed their growing communities.

    Part of those efforts included buying ranches for their water. Park County — the Fairplay area — is among the most-affected high-mountain areas, since it’s on the eastern side of the Continental Divide.

    Denver Water, which bought thousands of acre-feet of mountain water over the years, also purchased water rights at 4 Eagle Ranch north of Wolcott and on the upper Eagle River. There was at one time talk of building a large reservoir near Wolcott.

    A few years ago, thanks to an agreement with local providers, Denver gave up those rights, stabilizing the water supplies for local providers.

    That cooperation is starting to show up in other parts of the mountains, Porzak said.

    “Denver Water and the Western Slope get along pretty well now,” he said. “You’re seeing more cooperation in Summit and Grand counties now.”

    Still, Porzak said, “Eagle County is fortunate.”

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

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

    An Ode to Water

    It’s easy to forget that fresh water is not a limitless resource. In fact, there isn’t much of it in the world. The precious supply we do have must be protected and preserved. That’s where Eagle River Watershed Council (ERWC) comes in.

    The group, comprised of three full-time staff members, a board, a team of about 1,000 volunteers and countless partners and overseers that range from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Town of Vail, considers itself “the watch dogs” of the Eagle River and the Vail Valley’s rare bounty of fresh waterways. The council works to preserve and restore the Eagle and Colorado Rivers, and all of the tributaries that run through Eagle County. It organizes mass trash pickups along the roads that line the waterways, tests water quality levels and makes sure the ecosystems of the rivers and streams are intact and also cleans up areas that have been compromised by pollution. Some of the organization’s bigger cleanup and restoration tasks include the portion of the Eagle River below Gilman that has been declared a Superfund site due to the area’s mining toxins leaking into the water. Another project involves storm and infrastructure work along Gore Creek to restore the diversity of the creek’s insect habitat, which then ensures that it maintains its status as Gold Medal fishing waters.

    Ask any member of the ERWC why the organization refers to the Eagle River as the “lifeblood” of the Vail Valley, and the explanations are staggering.

    “We call it the lifeblood because it affects every piece of life here in the valley, whether it’s recreation or the ski resorts,” says Brooke Ranney, ERWC’s projects and events coordinator. “We all depend on the river for drinking water, and we make sure we have a good quality water source. Then, there’s getting out on the river and its economic value.”

    According to the group, the fly-fishing industry alone is worth $4 billion, to say nothing of the valley’s most prized asset—the ski industry which relies on the Eagle River for snowmaking.

    “The Eagle River as well as the Upper Colorado draw a lot of people here, even if that means they came to ski or snowboard. People are using the mountains for skiing and snowboarding, not realizing that the manmade snow comes from water pulled from the river. As people stay here or come to visit in the summer and expand their visitation of Eagle County, the river plays a huge role in their decision to stay or come back again,” says Holly Loff, ERWC executive director.

    Lizzie Schoder, the group’s education and outreach coordinator, heads up Watershed Wednesdays, free interactive tours, workshops and presentations centered around the watershed. The group also travels to local schools, teaching students of all ages various components of the watershed, from vegetation, insects and wildlife that comprise the streams’ habitat to ways they can preserve and protect the water supply—being mindful not to litter, turn off water while brushing teeth, pick up after one’s dog and avoid overusing water for landscaping or washing cars.

    “We’re noticing people are unaware that storm drains flow directly to the river, so picking up after your dog is a huge one, not mowing lawns all the way to the river, letting native plants grow along it, being mindful of chemicals and pesticides used on the lawn,” Schoder says. “It’s something often forgotten … that we have so little true, fresh water in the world, so the way we allocate it and manage it is vital.”

    The council collaborates with numerous local, regional and national entities to protect and preserve the water that runs through Eagle County. Also crucial to keep in mind is that while the rivers are the lifeblood of everything in this valley—the drinking water, snowmaking source and cornerstone of the flyfishing, kayaking and rafting industries—it also trickles down … quite literally.

    “It’s important to note that we’re the headwaters of both the Colorado and the Eagle Rivers, so if we do anything to impact water quality here, everybody downstream suffers,” Loff points out. “If our rivers weren’t protected and there wasn’t vegetation there, it wouldn’t have the impact and draw that it does. Our economy would suffer quite a bit. It goes beyond people who are hardcore kayakers and recreationists. Water slows everyone down and reconnects you to nature and things that are really important in life. The EPA is always front and center in protecting clean water nationwide. Although drinking water is critical to all of us, people need to be more vigilant and stand up for clean water.”

    Needless to say, the Eagle River Watershed Council is doing its part for the Vail Valley and beyond.

    Eagle River Basin

    @EagleWatershed: History & Future of the Eagle Mine Panel Discussion on August 1st!

    Click here for all the inside skinny:

    History & Future of the Eagle Mine Panel Discussion on August 1st!

    Don’t miss out on our panel discussion with Vail Symposium!

    This panel will explore the history of the Eagle Mine and the collaborative cleanup efforts of the past two decades. The discussion will highlight the business, operational and regulatory perspectives, as well as those of our local community.

    August 1st | 6:30 PM | Edwards Interfaith Chapel, Edwards

    Buy your tickets here.

    This discussion will be moderated by Larissa Read, president of the board of directors for Eagle River Watershed Council and owner of Common Ground Environmental Consulting.

    Jamie Miller is a remedial project manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science, with a focus on Planning and Administration. She began her career in the environmental field with a private consulting firm and spent six years working with the EPA as a contractor on the Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team contract, providing technical assistance to the EPA Emergency Response and Removal Program.

    Wendy Naugle, P.E. is an engineer and groundwater hydrologist in the Superfund/Brownfields Unit at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and has been working on the Eagle Mine cleanup for the past 18 years. Naugle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from The Colorado College and a Master’s degree in Geological Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

    John Widerman is a member of the Minturn Town Council. He has lived in the Eagle Valley for nine years and in Minturn for six of those years. He is a local environmental steward, a Colorado Mountain College Alum and an employee of Eagle County Schools.

    @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.