Say hello to the EPA “PFAS Analytics” website

Screenshot of EPA PFAS Analytics website interactive map for Region 8 January 11, 2023.

Click the link to access the EPA website:

This page contains location-specific information related to PFAS manufacture, release, and occurrence in the environment as well as facilities potentially handling PFAS:

EPA Requires Reporting on Releases and Other Waste Management for Nine Additional #PFAS

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the release on the EPA website:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the automatic addition of nine per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) list. 

TRI data are reported to EPA annually by facilities in certain industry sectors and federal facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use TRI-listed chemicals above certain quantities. The data include quantities of such chemicals that were released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. Information collected through TRI allows communities to learn how facilities in their area are managing listed chemicals. The data collected also helps to support informed decision-making by companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public. 

The addition of these PFAS supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to address the impacts of these forever chemicals, and advances EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS. 

“Communities have a right to know how and where PFAS are being managed, released, or recycled,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “EPA continues to work to fill critical data gaps for these chemicals and ensure this data is publicly available.”

These nine PFAS were added to the TRI list pursuant to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which provides the framework for the automatic addition of PFAS to TRI each year in response to certain EPA activities involving such PFAS. For TRI Reporting Year 2023 (reporting forms due by July 1, 2024), reporting is required for nine additional PFAS, bringing the total PFAS subject to TRI reporting to 189.

Addition of four PFAS no longer claimed as confidential business information

Under NDAA section 7321(e), EPA must review confidential business information (CBI) claims before adding a PFAS to the TRI list if the chemical identity is subject to a claim of protection from disclosure under 5 U.S.C. 552(a). EPA previously identified four PFAS for addition to the TRI list based on the NDAA’s provision to include certain PFAS upon the NDAA’s enactment. However, due to CBI claims related to their identities, these PFAS were not added to the TRI list at that time. The identities of these PFAS were subsequently declassified in an update to the TSCA Inventory in February 2022 because at least one manufacturer did not claim them as confidential during prior CDR reporting. Because they were no longer confidential, pursuant to the NDAA, the four chemicals were added to the TRI list:

  • Alcohols, C8-16, γ-ω-perfluoro, reaction products with 1,6-diisocyanatohexane, glycidol and stearyl alc. (2728655-42-1)
  • Acetamide, N-[3-(dimethylamino)propyl]-, 2-[(γ-ω-perfluoro-C4-20-alkyl)thio] derivs. (2738952-61-7)
  • Acetic acid, 2-[(γ-ω-perfluoro-C4-20-alkyl)thio] derivs., 2-hydroxypropyl esters (2744262-09-5)
  • Acetamide, N-(2-aminoethyl)-, 2-[(γ-ω-perfluoro-C4-20-alkyl)thio] derivs., polymers with N1,N1-dimethyl-1,3-propanediamine, epichlorohydrin and ethylenediamine, oxidized (2742694-36-4)

Addition of five PFAS with final toxicity values

The 2020 NDAA includes a provision that automatically adds PFAS to the TRI list upon the Agency’s finalization of a toxicity value. In December 2022, EPA finalized a toxicity value for Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), its anion, and its related salts. Pursuant to the NDAA, the following five chemicals have been added to the TRI: 

  • PFBA (375-22-4) 
  • Perfluorobutanoate (45048-62-2)
  • Ammonium perfluorobutanoate (10495-86-0) 
  • Potassium perfluorobutanoate (2966-54-3)
  • Sodium perfluorobutanoate (2218-54-4) 

As of January 1, 2023, facilities which are subject to reporting requirements for these chemicals should start tracking their activities involving these PFAS as required by Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. 

As part of EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the Agency also proposed a rule in December 2022 to enhance PFAS reporting to TRI by eliminating an exemption that allows facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals are used in small, or de minimis, concentrations. Because PFAS are used at low concentrations in many products, this rule would ensure that covered industry sectors and federal facilities that make or use TRI-listed PFAS will no longer be able to rely on the de minimis exemption to avoid disclosing their PFAS releases and other waste management quantities for these chemicals.

Learn more about the addition of these PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

EPA and Army Finalize Rule Establishing Definition of #WOTUS and Restoring Fundamental Water Protections

Colorado River headwaters tributary in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.

Click the link to read the release on the EPA website:

Today [December 30, 2022], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) announced a final rule establishing a durable definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to reduce uncertainty from changing regulatory definitions, protect people’s health, and support economic opportunity. The final rule restores essential water protections that were in place prior to 2015 under the Clean Water Act for traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, as well as upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters. As a result, this action will strengthen fundamental protections for waters that are sources of drinking water while supporting agriculture, local economies, and downstream communities.

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act 50 years ago, it recognized that protecting our waters is essential to ensuring healthy communities and a thriving economy,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Following extensive stakeholder engagement, and building on what we’ve learned from previous rules, EPA is working to deliver a durable definition of WOTUS that safeguards our nation’s waters, strengthens economic opportunity, and protects people’s health while providing greater certainty for farmers, ranchers, and landowners.”

“This final rule recognizes the essential role of the nation’s water resources in communities across the nation,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor. “The rule’s clear and supportable definition of waters of the United States will allow for more efficient and effective implementation and provide the clarity long desired by farmers, industry, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders.”

This rule establishes a durable definition of “waters of the United States” that is grounded in the authority provided by Congress in the Clean Water Act, the best available science, and extensive implementation experience stewarding the nation’s waters. The rule returns to a reasonable and familiar framework founded on the pre-2015 definition with updates to reflect existing Supreme Court decisions, the latest science, and the agencies’ technical expertise. It establishes limits that appropriately draw the boundary of waters subject to federal protection.

The final rule restores fundamental protections so that the nation will be closer to achieving Congress’ goal in the Clean Water Act that American waters be fishable and swimmable, and above all, protective of public health. It will also ensure that the nation’s waters support recreation, wildlife, and agricultural activity, which is fundamental to the American economy. The final rule will cover those waters that Congress fundamentally sought to protect in the Clean Water Act—traditional navigable waters, the territorial seas, interstate waters, as well as upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters.

More information, including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice and fact sheets, is available at EPA’s “Waters of the United States” website.

Accompanying the issuance of the final rule, the agencies are also releasing several resources to support clear and effective implementation in communities across America. Today, a summary of 10 regional roundtables was released that synthesizes key actions the agencies will take to enhance and improve implementation of “waters of the United States.” These actions were recommendations provided during the 10 regional roundtables where the agencies heard directly from communities on what is working well from an implementation perspective and where there are opportunities for improvement. The roundtables focused on the geographic similarities and differences across regions and provided site specific feedback about the way the scope of “waters of the United States” has been implemented by the agencies.

Today, the agencies are also taking action to improve federal coordination in the ongoing implementation of “waters of the United States.” First, EPA and Army are issuing a joint coordination memo to ensure the accuracy and consistency of jurisdictional determinations under this final rule. Second, the agencies are issuing a memo with U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide clarity on the agencies’ programs under the Clean Water Act and Food Security Act.

Background
On June 9, 2021, EPA and the Department of the Army announced their intent to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” to better protect our nation’s vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth. On Nov. 18, 2021, the agencies announced the signing of a proposed rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States.”

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source into “navigable waters” unless otherwise authorized under the Act. “Navigable waters” are defined in the Act as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” Thus, “waters of the United States” is a threshold term establishing the geographic scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The term “waters of the United States” is not defined by the Act but has been defined by the agencies in regulations since the 1970s and jointly implemented in the agencies’ respective programmatic activities

Preventing Algal Blooms with a “Pinch of Sugar” — Environmental Protection Agency

Algal blooms. Photo credit: EPA

Click the link to read the article on the Environmental Protection Agency website:

Have you ever walked or driven by a lake covered with a thick scum that looks like pea soup? This could be caused by blue-green algae, a cyanobacteria (“cyan” means “blue-green”) that is frequently found in freshwater ponds and lakes. Cyanobacteria are often confused with green algae because both can produce dense mats that may smell bad and hamper activities like swimming and fishing. However, unlike most green algae, blue-green algae can produce cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs). The highly potent toxins they make, called cyanotoxins, can harm people, animals, aquatic ecosystems, the economy, drinking water supplies, property values, and recreational activities. 

For over a century, copper-based algaecides have been a popular way to control and eradicate all kinds of algae. However, the copper can harm fish and other aquatic species. These algaecides can also cause the cyanobacteria algae cells to burst, creating even higher levels of cyanotoxins in the surrounding water.  

EPA researchers wanted to look at alternative ways to inhibit the development of cyanoHABs. CyanoHABs occur because of excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous compounds in water, which mainly come from fertilizers and other human activities. All microorganisms need nitrogen and phosphorous compounds to survive and grow. However, because cyanobacteria make their own food through photosynthesis, they can out-compete other microorganisms, like proteobacteria, for access to the nitrogen and phosphorous compounds. As a result, cyanobacteria numbers can increase rapidly, causing an algal bloom.   

The most common fresh-water cyanobacterium in U.S. waters are Microcystis, which produce the toxin microcystin. Therefore, the study focused on how to reduce Microcystis numbers and microcystin toxin levels. EPA researchers wanted to find out if adding a food source (glucose) would allow other bacteria to better compete with the cyanobacteria and prevent or reduce the development of cyanoHABs.  

After two weeks incubation. The flask on the left shows lake water with no glucose added (the control) and the flask on the right shows the water treated with glucose. Photo credit: EPA

It’s All in the Timing

EPA scientist Dr. Jingrang Lu’s research team had previously shown that Microcystis toxin genes and nutrient utilization genes could be measured before the microcystin toxin itself was detectable in the water. Dr. Lu explains, “These genes can provide a one-week advanced notice of a coming bloom, making it a key time for prophylactic, or preventive, action.”    

The researchers collected weekly water samples from an Ohio lake during the 2021 bloom season. Early in the summer they measured low levels of both cyanobacteria and proteobacteria in the lake water. Later in June, the warning signs indicated a coming cyanoHAB and researchers were prompted to begin the experiment. 

In the controlled environment of the laboratory, scientists filled two sets of flasks with lake water. Glucose was then added to some flasks while nothing was added to the control flasks. After two weeks of incubation, researchers measured the amount of microcystin toxin in each flask. The lake water treated with glucose had 80 to 90 percent less microcystin compared to the control flasks.  

Researchers also quantified the number of Microcystis cells in the glucose treated and control flasks. Almost no Microcystis cells were detected in the glucose treated flasks, while the number of proteobacteria increased.     

Next Steps 

Although the glucose inhibited the cyanoHABs development in the laboratory, scientists would like to test this approach in lakes. There are other considerations as well. For example, although proteobacteria and other bacteria are less toxic than cyanobacteria, their growth may potentially produce other problems. As EPA scientist Dr. Steve Vesper notes, “The long-term solution to cyanoHABs is to reduce the quantity of nitrogen and phosphorous compounds entering rivers and lakes. The use of glucose is only a stop-gap measure on the way to finding a permanent solution to the problem of cyanoHABs.” 

Learn More: 

What You Need to Know About Sackett v. EPA: The upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case is nothing less than a judgment on the Clean Water Act itself — The Natural Resources Defense Council #WOTUS

The area around the Sacketts’ property, located near Priest Lake in Idaho PacificLegalFoundation/flickr, CC BY 4.0

Click the link to read the release on the Natural Resources Defense Council (Jeff Turrentine):

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call it the most important water-related U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case to come along in a generation. Indeed, the outcome of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the first case to be heard in the court’s 2022–2023 term, will determine the future efficacy of the Clean Water Act by deciding whether wetlands are—or aren’t—deserving of federal protection.

Given the close relationship between wetlands and the larger system of streams, rivers, and tributaries to which they belong, the court’s ruling is certain to have a profound impact on the health and quality of all of America’s waterways. Here’s why.

The background of the Supreme Court’s clean water case

Michael and Chantell Sackett, who ran an excavation company, sought to develop property a few hundred feet from Priest Lake, a popular vacation site in the Idaho Panhandle, with plans to build a home there. To prepare the lot for construction, the Sacketts began to fill it with gravel. In 2007, the EPA halted the work after determining that the Sacketts’ lot contained a federally protected wetland. Under the authority granted to it by the Clean Water Act, the agency ordered the couple to remove the gravel and cease any further construction. The Sacketts sued in 2008, and the case wound its way through the federal court system for the next 14 years. Now, before the Supreme Court, their lawyers will argue, among other things, that the wetland the Sacketts filled is not, jurisdictionally speaking, a “water of the United States,” and thus not subject to EPA regulation. 

What are the “waters of the United States”?

Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has played an essential role in protecting the country’s diverse array of aquatic environments from pollution and keeping them safe for fishing, swimming, and wildlife (not to mention as sources of drinking water for millions of people). And for roughly that same amount of time, the act has also been the target of polluters and developers who would like to limit its regulatory scope. One way they’ve attempted to do so? By focusing on a particular—and pivotal—bit of language found in the law, five simple words that carry enormous legal weight: “waters of the United States” (or WOTUS, for short).

Aerial view of wetlands and tundra typical of the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska. Utilizing the Clean Water Act, the EPA is currently in the process of vetoing the Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which would pose a critical threat to the area’s wetlands. Photo credit: EPA

Numerous pollution control programs in the Clean Water Act apply only to WOTUS, and for most people, defining the term is a pretty straightforward matter: The phrase refers to—or at least seems like it would be referring to—the many different bodies of water to be found within the geographical borders of our nation. And according to Jon Devine, the director of NRDC’s federal water policy team, that’s pretty much the correct way to define it.

“Congress intended the phrase to be interpreted very broadly,” says Devine. When lawmakers were drafting the Clean Water Act half a century ago, he says, they envisioned its protections as extending to all the various bodies of water that make up a watershed, many of which people use for recreation, fishing, and drinking-water supply. And while those lawmakers may not have been hydrologists, they nevertheless understood the fundamental interrelatedness of these different bodies of water. “So the very earliest regulations set forth by the EPA were inclusive,” Devine notes. As a jurisdictional matter, WOTUS comprised “all the relevant parts of an aquatic ecosystem, including streams, wetlands, and small ponds—things that aren’t necessarily connected to the tributary system on the surface, but that still bear all kinds of ecological relationships to that system and to one another.”

Still, given the restrictions on how people could interact with these protected waters, interested parties were inclined to litigate the meaning of the term over the decades. “There were always fights about it,” Devine says. “A developer who wanted to bulldoze a wetland, or a polluter who was being prosecuted for dumping into a small stream, would question whether that particular feature should really be considered a water of the United States.” But, as Devine notes, “they largely lost.” And as a result, the more inclusive definition prevailed—or at least it did until the early 2000s, when cracks in that foundation began to develop.

SCOTUS on WOTUS

The most significant development on this front took the form of two separate opinions authored by Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy in a 2006 case, Rapanos v. United States. Like Sackett v. EPA, it also involved filling wetlands without a permit to do so. In their individual opinions, Scalia and Kennedy outlined two contrasting ways of identifying which waters merited protection under the Clean Water Act. For Scalia, those that qualified had to be either so-called navigable waters (think rivers, lakes, basically anything that can accommodate a boat), regularly flowing tributaries to those waters, or wetlands—so long as those wetlands had a continuous surface connection to a body of water that already enjoyed federal protection.

The Wood River Wetland in southern Oregon is home to an array of biodiverse vegetation and is a freshwater ecoregion. Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management

Kennedy saw things differently. He maintained that the connection between wetlands and other bodies of water didn’t necessarily have to be visible—i.e., continuous, and on the surface—but could be measured in other ways. For Kennedy, the far more important question was: Does a given wetland share a significant nexus with another protected body of water? Or (in somewhat plainer English), would polluting or destroying certain wetlands affect the physical, chemical, or biological health of the second body of water? If the answer was yes, Kennedy believed, then both deserved the same level of protection, regardless of whether a boat could easily journey between them.

Although the lower courts consistently ruled that wetlands satisfying Kennedy’s test must be protected (consistent with the views of both the Bush and Obama administrations), polluting industries kept arguing that Scalia’s view should govern. The Trump administration adopted a definition based on the Scalia approach, but it was quickly struck down in court. Which brings us to 2022, and to Sackett—and to the dangerous possibility of a Supreme Court ruling that will adopt a radically narrow view.

The stakes for our wetlands—and water

Wetlands are hugely important. In the words of the EPA, they “are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rainforests and coral reefs.” By regulating water flow, they can dramatically lessen the impact of both floods and droughts. They provide habitat for all manner of fish, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. And they do all of these things while storing massive amounts of carbon in their abundant vegetation—making safeguarding wetlands a valuable natural climate solution.

Colorado River headwaters tributary wetland in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.

In a better world, perhaps, those reasons would be enough to ensure that wetlands receive the maximum level of federal protection, but the main question before the Supreme Court right now is: When wetlands are intrinsically connected to other indisputably protected waters, does the Clean Water Act prevent their unregulated pollution and destruction? If not, then the Sacketts’ efforts to get rid of the one on their property wouldn’t need a federal permit, and developers and polluters can celebrate. But if wetlands that are intrinsically connected to other waters are protected, then destroying or polluting them is tantamount to destroying or polluting a lake or a river: an indisputable violation of the Clean Water Act.

For Devine, the answer is clear—so clear that he and his colleagues at NRDC and the Southern Environmental Law Center  felt compelled to file a friend-of-the-court brief on the matter, in support of the EPA, that was entered into the court’s docket earlier this year. In that document, Devine says, more than 100 conservation and community organizations argue that “based on the history of the Clean Water Act, and on prior Supreme Court cases, the law—at the very leastprotects the kinds of things found on the Sacketts’ property.” Not only is the wetland in question spitting distance from a huge lake that’s also a popular recreational spot, but this particular wetland is also part of a larger complex of wetlands through which water flows, underground, to the lake. And like nearly all other wetlands, it provides all kinds of water purification, water regulation, and wildlife habitat. “The law should protect these wetlands that, the science shows, have such an important effect on downstream waters,” Devine says.

Water flows in all sorts of ways: aboveground; belowground; rapidly, down rivers and streams; and also slowly, through the cleansing filters of the reeds, soils, and grasses that make up a wetland. “The notion that the law can’t protect a body of water, simply because there’s a road between it and another body of water that’s unquestionably protected, is absurd and unscientific,” says Devine. “And it would defeat the purpose of the Clean Water Act.”

Groundwater movement via the USGS

#PFAS from #Colorado military bases contribute to environmental injustice: Toxins from Peterson have contaminated the drinking #water of downstream communities — Colorado Newsline

FORT CARSON, Colo. – 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division receives first CH-47 Chinook helicopters at Butts Army Airfield on Fort Carson, Colo., Jan. 22, 2013. Crew members conduct their post flight checks. The Chinooks are the first CH-47s to arrive to the new combat aviation brigade. (Photo by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs NCOIC/Released)

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Newsline website (Jonathan Sharp):

For over a century, the U.S. Army has been plagued by the lasting consequences of its negligent use, storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals. As a result, countless troops and dependents residing on contaminated bases regularly came into contact with toxins known to trigger adverse health effects and deadly diseases.

In high-profile cases like North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, nearly 1 million service members and their families were exposed to deadly toxins for over 30 years (1953-1987), including health hazards like benzene, vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and per/polyfluoroalkyl substances — PFAS.

Also known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS are a group of over 12,000 artificial compounds that represent a distinct environmental concern due to their resilient molecular structure, which prevents natural decomposition, allowing them to easily permeate the soil and contaminate drinking water sources. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to testicular cancer, organ damage (liver, kidneys), high cholesterol, decreased vaccine efficiency in children, and impaired reproduction.

On Camp Lejeune and more than 700 army bases across the US, PFAS contamination is directly linked to aqueous film-forming foam used since the early 1970s to extinguish difficult fuel blazes. In 2016, the EPA established a health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS, the main PFAS compounds.

Although service members and their relatives are the most burdened, contamination originating from military sources plays a larger role in an insidious pattern of discrimination that affects marginalized minority communities.

Due to discriminatory redlining policies, land in minority neighborhoods was significantly undervalued and became a cost-efficient solution to situate army bases, industrial facilities, landfills, traffic routes, and other sources of toxic pollution. The higher toxic burden that vulnerable minority communities experience due to systemic prejudice is better known as “environmental racism.”

2021 report notes that Colorado has the highest PFAS footprint in the country, with approximately 21,000 sites suspected of using or storing such compounds. Although industrial activities are the primary driver of PFAS’ prevalence, frontline communities also have to contend with contamination from several military sources.

(Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.)

Nine army bases in Colorado are known to have been affected by PFAS due to aqueous film-forming foam, with the most contaminated including Schriever Air Force Base (870,000 ppt), Buckley Space Force Base (formerly Buckley Air Force Base, 205,000 ppt), Fort Carson (156,000 ppt), U.S. Air Force Academy (72,000 ppt) and Peterson Space Force Base (formerly Peterson Air Force Base, 15,000 ppt). Significantly, PFAS from Peterson has previously contaminated the drinking water sources of downstream communities, with a CDC study finding PFAS compounds in the blood of residents in one exposed community registering concentrations 1.8 to 8.1 times the national average.

While the Air Force and Department of Defense have been involved in some remediation efforts, from distributing bottled water to installing filters and building treatment plants, their contributions are considered limited by Coloradans, given the lack of actual PFAS cleanup projects. Unlike Camp Lejeune, none of the contaminated Colorado bases are listed as Superfund sites.

Frontline communities exposed to higher health risks due to environmental racism’s lingering effects rely on state and federal authorities to establish a legal framework that keeps polluters accountable and protects vulnerable citizens. Since 2020, Colorado has enacted some of the country’s most stringent PFAS laws and adopted a PFAS narrative policy that closely follows the EPA’s 2016 advisories.

Federally, the National Defense Authorization Act will see aqueous film-forming foam phased out by 2024 and finance PFAS cleanup projects on contaminated installations, while the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide impacted communities with crucial investments to address pollution and other causes of environmental injustice. The Honoring Our PACT Act will provide improved health benefits and compensation for veterans and military families exposed to toxins in highly contaminated locations like Camp Lejeune.

Despite these encouraging developments, the DoD has yet to commence cleanup on any of the most affected bases in the country per NDAA’s provisions, and diseases resulting from exposure to PFAS aren’t recognized as presumptive conditions under HOPA. Moreover, while Colorado adopted the EPA’s 2016 guidelines, it falls behind other states that employ even stricter standards.

Still, Colorado has the opportunity to stay ahead of the game by implementing more effective PFAS standards that align with the EPA’s most current efforts to regulate these toxic compounds. With the goal of setting enforceable maximum contaminant levels in drinking water, the EPA has drastically reduced its non-binding advisories for PFOA and PFOS in June 2022 to a paltry 0.004 ppt and 0.02 ppt, respectively, illustrating the dangers these substances represent even at exceedingly low concentrations.

Products that contain PFAS. Graphic credit: Riverside (CA) Public Utilities

#NewMexico: #GoldKingMine spill settlement fund draws 17 proposals totaling $28 million — The Farmington Daily Times #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

Click the link to read the article on The Farmington Daily Times website (Mike Easterling). Here’s an excerpt:

New Mexico officials received 17 proposals totaling more than $28 million for the $10 million in Gold King Mine spill settlement money between the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that has been set aside for restoration projects. The deadline for submitting proposals for the settlement money was Oct. 28, a date that was extended from its original deadline of Sept. 30 by the New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee, the state agency that is coordinating the process. Maggie Hart Stebbins, the New Mexico natural resources trustee, said her agency has begun the process of vetting the proposals and will be analyzing them to determine if additional information is needed from any of the entities seeking the funding…

The $10 million is part of a $32 million settlement the state reached with the EPA earlier this year to compensate New Mexico for damages related to the August 2015 incident, during which millions of gallons of toxic waste were released from the abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, eventually winding up in the Animas and San Juan rivers. A total of $18.1 million from that settlement was designated for response costs, while $3.5 million was set aside for water quality and cleanup activities through Clean Water Act and Superfund grants. The remaining $10 million has been earmarked for restoration of injured natural resources, much of which state officials said would be used to fund outdoor recreation opportunities in northwest New Mexico…

The list of proposals includes several projects submitted by government entities in San Juan County, as well as those associated with the Navajo Nation and the state of New Mexico. San Juan County submitted three proposals, while the City of Aztec submitted two, and the cities of Bloomfield and Farmington submitted one each. New Mexico State Parks led the way with four proposals, while the New Mexico Tourism Department submitted one.

New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via Geology.com.

#Colorado #water users, environmentalists brace for changes as EPA, Supreme Court weigh wetland rules — @WaterEdCO

Sunrise Over Wetland by NPS/Patrick Myers

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Caitlin Coleman):

A race is on to determine which wetlands and other waters will be protected under the Clean Water Act, the law that regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s water. At issue is not only the protection of water bodies but also clarity for farmers, ranchers, developers, and others who question whether the actions they take on their lands require a federal permit.

Last month, on October 3, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Sackett v. EPA, a case that asks whether certain wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act and how that should be determined. The Supreme Court offers no specific timeline as to when it will release an opinion, aside from by the end of this term in June 2023, or sooner, but likely not before January 2023.

“The magnitude of this Supreme Court case can’t be overstated,” said Ashley House, director of public policy national affairs for the Colorado Farm Bureau. “It’s a matter of food security.” But it’s also a matter of protecting the state and nation’s water resources.

In Colorado there is no state program to protect certain wetlands and waterways from dredging, filling and other damage if they’re not covered by the Clean Water Act. The state has always relied on the federal government’s program for dredge and fill permits, though it could develop its own protections if needed.

Over the past seven years, the test for which water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act has changed three times – with each new presidential administration – as certain categories of wetlands and ephemeral streams have been revised in and out of the definition for “waters of the United States,” also known as WOTUS, a federal status that extends them protections under the Clean Water Act.

Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are developing another new rule that would also clarify which waters are protected from pollutants under the act. The agencies’ final rule was submitted in September 2022 and, according to EPA, the agencies plan to issue the rule by the end of the year.

Recent changes to the definition of WOTUS occurred in 2015, 2020 and 2021, with another likely coming in 2022. Those recent definitions for what qualifies have bounced between broader and narrower.

“A narrow definition of waters of the U.S. leaves an incredibly important water resource value unprotected by federal law — which is basically uniform across the nation — and then it’s up to the states to decide what to do, and some states won’t decide to protect those areas at all,” said Joro Walker, general counsel with Western Resource Advocates.

Ephemeral streams are streams that do not always flow. They are above the groundwater reservoir and appear after precipitation in the area. Via Socratic.org

The 2020 definition, for example, excluded all ephemeral waterways and some wetlands. Ephemeral streams represent more than 25% of Colorado’s stream miles, according to Colorado Trout Unlimited.

But farmers and ranchers, developers, and other business owners worry the broader definition would mean federal involvement in day-to-day decisions around their properties, or the need to consult a lawyer on something like driving across an ephemeral stream or running water through an irrigation ditch every few years. The 2015 rule included a broad definition and has been referred to as a federal “overreach.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in 2019 that the rule would have put “backyard ponds, puddles, and prairie potholes under Washington’s control.”

Now though, the Colorado Farm Bureau and others who are regulated are calling for clarity and security, something they hope the Supreme Court will provide.

“It’s hard to know what is covered,” said Travis Vincent, general counsel and director of public policy state affairs for the Colorado Farm Bureau. “We want a more bright-lined test so our members have a better understanding of when their property or something on their property would be regulated under WOTUS.”

The organization is also looking for more stability.

“On the existential level it creates a lot of anxiety when you have changes to the definition with every changing administration. There’s a sense of anxiety with all producers,” said House. “Producers need accountability and also regulatory consistency.”

Currently, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are relying on the definition that was in place through 2015, which they call a “familiar approach” that will “support a stable implementation of ‘waters of the United States’” while EPA and the Army Corps continue their rulemaking.

According to a statement issued by EPA, the new rule will include “amendments to reflect the agencies’ determination of the statutory limits on the scope of the ‘waters of the United States’ informed by Supreme Court precedent, the best available science, and the agencies’ experience and technical expertise.”

But the Supreme Court’s decision could change that. If the Supreme Court issues a decision before EPA finalizes its rule, the agency would likely need to adjust its rule before issuing it. If EPA’s call comes first, it could render the court’s decision moot, or mean that the agencies need to go back to the drawing board after the court’s decision is released. Both the court’s opinion and the rulemaking could affect EPA’s regulatory process and the level of protection that water bodies receive.

“We are in a very dynamic situation with the rule and have been for a number of years,” says Trisha Oeth, director of environmental health and protection at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “I think all interests would benefit from certainty and stability in this area, so we continue to watch it very closely and have been having conversations with stakeholders here in Colorado to figure out, long term, what is the right path for us.”

Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

In Colorado, not all changes to the rule have been implemented. A month after the 2020 revision took effect, which rolled back protections, Colorado filed a legal challenge. According to Colorado’s Water Quality Control Division, some 25% to 50% of Colorado streams, lakes and wetlands could have been impacted by the 2020 rule. Colorado’s attorneys initially secured a stay on enacting the new rule and absorbing more enforcement responsibilities, but that ruling was vacated by the Tenth Circuit Court in March 2021.

In 2021, the nation reverted back to the pre-2015 rule but just after that, in January 2022 the Supreme Court agreed to review Sackett v. EPA, which questions whether certain wetlands are waters of the United States. The Sacketts own land in Idaho which lies across from wetlands and drains into a tributary that feeds Priest Lake. They had long been trying to build there but EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers found that the dredging and filling of construction would affect the tributary and lake.

When the case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals, the court upheld EPA’s conclusion, based on a test established through a 2006 Supreme Court case, Rapanos v. United States, in which Justice Kennedy argued that the Army Corps of Engineers should determine whether the water at issue possesses a “significant nexus” to waters that are navigable when determining whether a water body meets the definition of WOTUS.

But in the Rapanos case, justices failed to achieve a majority opinion on the WOTUS test. This has left, as the Sacketts have said, a landscape of “fruitless confusion, conflict, and litigation.”

The Sacketts appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision to the Supreme Court. The Sacketts aren’t alone in standing up to EPA on its decision. In April 2022, the Colorado Farm Bureau joined 19 other state Farm Bureaus in filing a brief with the court in support of the Sacketts.

More than 40 additional briefs in support of either EPA or the Sacketts have been filed by many other parties, including the State of Colorado, which filed a brief in June arguing for broad protection of waters and for the use of the “significant nexus” test in determining which waters to protect.

Although the court has heard oral arguments, it remains unclear where the justices will side and whether they will come together to provide a new, definitive test for WOTUS jurisdiction.

“It’s hard to speculate on what the [U.S. Supreme Court decision] is going to look like,” said Oeth. “If the outcome were to change the definition of WOTUS or add a new test for what WOTUS includes, that could have an impact here in Colorado.” If a new definition were to apply to fewer water bodies than it does now, that would mean that Colorado waters would have less protection than they do today, she said.

Elizabeth Miller contributed to this report.

Caitlin Coleman is a contributor to Fresh Water News and is editor of Water Education Colorado’s Headwaters Magazine. She can be reached at caitlin@wateredco.org.

EPA Awards Nearly $750,000 in Funding to Research #PFAS Exposure Pathways

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the release on the EPA website:

Today [October 28, 2022], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $748,180 in research grant funding to three institutions for research to improve our understanding of how people are exposed to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in several communities throughout the country.

“Recognizing that exposure to PFAS is a public health and environmental issue facing communities across the United States, and consistent with EPA’s Strategic Roadmap for PFAS, the EPA is investing in scientific research to increase understanding of PFAS exposures,” said Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The research announced today will answer critical questions regarding the contribution of PFAS exposures at home to PFAS found in the body and will produce science that can help inform and focus decisions to protect human health.”

PFAS are a large group of chemicals that are used in many consumer products and industrial and manufacturing applications and are commonly known as ‘forever chemicals’ since they take so long to break down. Due to their widespread use and environmental persistence, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. There is evidence that continued exposure above specific levels to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health effects. More data is needed to measure the nature and levels of PFAS in homes and food to understand pathways for human exposure and risk mitigation.

The research grants announced today will help us better understand the sources and pathways related to people’s exposures to PFAS chemicals.

The following institutions are receiving awards:

  • Silent Spring Institute, Newton, Mass., to measure PFAS in air and dust in homes, and evaluate associations between potential residential sources and PFAS occurrence at home. This research will enhance understanding of the contribution of residential pathways to PFAS exposures and improve the interpretation of PFAS biomonitoring data.
  • Duke University, Durham, N.C., to determine how different sources of PFAS exposure, including PFAS in drinking water and in homes, contribute to levels measured in blood. This study will address key questions on the most relevant PFAS exposure pathways for the general U.S. population.
  • Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., to develop a standardized, validated, scientific protocol to measure levels of a targeted set of PFAS in the home. Data collected from home samples will be compared to data collected from PFAS in blood to help identify residential sources of PFAS measured in people’s blood. 

Learn more about the research grant recipients.

Learn more about EPA research grants.

#Westminster, #Thornton, #Northglenn sites on ‘forever chemicals’ list — The Northglenn/Thornton Sentinel #PFAS

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the article on the Northglenn/Thornton Sentinel website (Luke Zarzecki). Here’s an excerpt:

Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, Thornton’s Ascent Solar and Westminster’s Ambassador Printing are all sites called out in a new interactive map that identifies places across the country contaminated by “forever chemicals.” […] The map calls out places that have tested positive for having PFAS onsite as well as “presumption contamination” from things such as firefighting foam and industrial chemicals. The sites in Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster are all listed among the sites with presumed contamination…[Alissa Cordner] said the tool’s purpose is to provide regulators, decision-makers and public health officials more information regarding potential risks to their communities.  Places with contamination or presumptive contamination do not imply direct exposure or ingestion…

In 2020, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment tested 400 Colorado water systems, 15 firefighting districts and 43 streams and found 34% of drinking water systems tested had some level of PFAS in the water.  A 2020 survey from the Colorado Health Department found 71 surface water samples had concentrations as high as 257 parts per trillion for 18 different kinds of PFAS.  The state health department released a report in April indicating that bodies of water in El Paso, Adams and Jefferson counties were contaminated with PFAS. CDPHE collected 49 fish representing 10 different species from Willow Springs Pond in El Paso County, Tabor Lake in Jefferson County and Mann-Nyholt Lake at Adams County’s Riverdale Regional Park. They found PFAS in 100% of the fish they collected. 

Legal agreement results in EPA taking action on deadly smog pollution in #Denver, other cities — Wild Earth Guardians

Denver smog. Photo credit: NOAA

Click the link to read the release on the Wild Earth Guardians website (Jeremy Nichols):

Affected areas in Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey, and New York are home to nearly 40 million people

As a result of a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups, today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency downgraded four areas across the country from a “serious” to a “severe” rating for their smog pollution. This downgrade in the ratings triggers more protective measures to reduce smog pollution.

The four areas, including the Denver Metro area, have some of the nation’s worst air quality. EPA downgraded the areas because their ground-level ozone pollution—commonly called smog—continues to exceed the levels that are safe for human health, wildlife, and plants.

“Recognizing that these areas have a severe smog problem marks an important step forward in reducing this pollution,” said Ryan Maher, an environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now it’s time for concrete plans to fix it.”

Smog pollution is linked to human health problems like asthma attacks, cardiovascular problems, and even premature death. Those most at risk include older adults, children and people who work outdoors. The harm smog does to plants can damage entire ecosystems and reduce biodiversity.

“For the more than 3.5 million people living in the Denver Metro and North Front Range region of Colorado, today’s finding gives new hope for clean air,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians.  “Now it’s up to Governor Polis and his administration to do the right thing and finally clean up this smoggy mess and restore healthy skies along Colorado’s Front Range.”

The four environmental groups sued the EPA in March 2022 after the agency missed its deadline to reclassify these areas from a serious to a severe rating for smog. The agreement resulting from this lawsuit required EPA to finalize the ratings for these four areas by today: the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas in Texas; the New York City metro areas of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey; and the Denver-Boulder-Greeley-Fort Collins-Loveland area in Colorado.

“The 37 million people who live in these areas with unsafe levels of toxic pollution deserve clean air and immediate federal action,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of the Center for Environmental Health’s illegal toxic threats program. “Today’s victory will help protect these communities from the dangers of this pollution.”

Under this agreement, EPA must also determine whether the smog ratings for Ventura County and western Nevada County in California need to be downgraded by December 16, 2022.

The downgraded ratings finalized today are part of the environmental groups’ ongoing effort to compel the EPA to protect human health and the environment from smog pollution in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

Smoggy day in Denver, August 11, 2022.

Other Contact

Ryan Maher, Center for Biological Diversity, (781) 325-6303, rmaher@biologicaldiversity.org , Kaya Allan Sugerman, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 740-9384, kaya@ceh.org , Ilan Levin, Environmental Integrity Project, (512) 637-9479, ilevin@environmentalintegrity.org

#Colorado landowner’s takings claim against EPA advances after judge denies motion to dismiss — The Ark Valley Voice #AnimasRiver #GoldKingMine

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

Click the link to read the article on the Ark Valley Voice website (Jan Wondra). Here’s an excerpt:

On Tuesday, August 30, Judge Armando Bonilla of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued a decision from the bench in favor of New Civil Liberties Alliance’s (NCLA) client and denying a motion to dismiss in Todd Hennis v. The United States of America.

“Today, the Court of Federal Claims recognized what we have long known. EPA must answer for the bad decisions it has made and the unlawful actions it has taken since 2015, said New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) Litigation Counsel Kara Rollins. “We are pleased that Mr. Hennis’s case is moving ahead, and we look forward to presenting the facts about what the EPA did to him—and took from him.”

Hennis filed a lawsuit against the United States for the physical taking of his property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He took this step after years of waiting for action. On August 5, 2015, EPA destroyed the portal to the Gold King Mine, located in Silverton, Colorado. Upon doing so, the agency released a toxic sludge of over 3,000,000 gallons of acid mine drainage and 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into the Animas River watershed. According to Hennis, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caused an environmental catastrophe that preceded and culminated in the invasion, occupation, taking, and confiscation of Hennis’s downstream property. Ever since, he has been trying to recover damages.  This ruling means the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is allowing Mr. Hennis’s lawsuit to go forward to discovery, and ultimately to trial…

[The EPA] eventually mobilized supplies and equipment onto Hennis’s downstream property to address the immediate after-effects of its actions, but it apparently ignored Hennis’s explicit instructions on how to protect the land and the scope of the access that he granted. Instead, the EPA constructed a multimillion-dollar water treatment facility on his land, without permission, compensation, or even following a procedure to appropriate his property for public use. After seven years, Hennis says the U.S. Government has been “squatted on his lands”, and he wants financial compensation. Hennis says he didn’t voluntarily give EPA permission to construct and operate a water treatment facility on his property. It was built without his knowledge or consent, and it later coerced him into allowing access to his lands by threatening him with exorbitant fines (over $59,000 per day) should he exercise his property rights. When Hennis  refused to sign an access document, the EPA preceded to occupy his property by operation of the agency’s own administrative order—and threatening him with fines if he challenges it.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

A real gold mine: Multimillion-dollar settlements raise questions among #Colorado officials — The #Durango Telegraph #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

Click the link to read the article on the Durango Telegraph website (Jonathan Romeo). Here’s an excerpt:

With the recent news that the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to pay New Mexico and the Navajo Nation more than $63 million for damages related to the Gold King Mine spill, some Coloradoans are asking: What about us?

“I just always question, should we have been louder, because holy smokes, that’s a lot of money,” La Plata County Commissioner Matt Salka said. “And it is concerning when $60 million-plus goes to communities at the end of the river, yet (Durango and Silverton) were the most heavily impacted.”

[…]

The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

After the plume passed by, the communities closest to the headwaters – Silverton and Durango – decided not to pursue litigation against the EPA. Instead, they chose to push for the cleanup of mines that pock the mountains around Silverton and have degraded water quality in the Animas River since the heydey of mining in the late 1800s, early 1900s. And indeed, in fall 2016, a collection of historic mines in the area, including the Gold King, received a Superfund designation with widespread local support…

Downstream communities in New Mexico and on the Navajo Nation, however, went a different route. New Mexico sued the EPA in May 2016, with the Navajo Nation following suit a few months later. The $63 million settlement, announced in June, is now under question by upriver elected officials.

“Those are funds I would have liked to see go to the actual source of the issue,” Salka said. “We should be addressing the Superfund site, making sure water quality is good and preventing another mine blowout.”

[…]

While the sheer sight of the spill alarmed even the most involved members of groups such as the Animas River Stakeholders Group (a now-defunct organization of volunteers dedicated to protecting the health of the river), the fact that a mine blew out near Silverton wasn’t a shock. It has happened many times over the years. Looking at the long view: roughly 5.4 million gallons of acid mine drainage leaches into the Animas each day, compared to 3 million in the one-time Gold King blowout. The spill, however, was the catalyst that finally secured a Superfund designation for the mines draining around Silverton. In the past, some community members objected that a Superfund declaration carried a stigma that would imperil the town’s tourism economy and destroy any possibility of reviving the local mining industry. But after the Gold King blowout drew national attention, there was no stopping the momentum, and the Bonita Peak Superfund site was established. It’s composed of 48 historic mining sites around Silverton that are the biggest culprits of metal loading…

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

It should be noted New Mexico also reached an $11 million settlement with Sunnyside Gold, the last operating mining company in Silverton, and is still pursuing a lawsuit against the EPA’s contractor…

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

On the Navajo Nation, a different case was made about the Gold King Mine spill. From a Native American cultural perspective, waters are sacred, and the disturbing sight of a bright orange San Juan River had a traumatic impact on tribal members (not to mention the history of environmental injustice on tribes throughout North America). According to media reports, some farmers on the Navajo Nation refused to use San Juan River water for years after the spill…

That’s not to say Silverton and Durango were shorted. Both governments received some reimbursement for dealing with the spill itself. The EPA built a $1 million water treatment plant that continues to operate at a cost to the EPA of $2.5 million a year. And, the agency has spent about $100 million to date on the Superfund site and expects to spend significantly more in the coming years…

Since the Gold King Mine spill happened, a lot of money has been exchanged (and not exchanged: the EPA, for instance, denied liability for $1.2 billion in private damages, such as rafting companies that took a hit during the river closure, lost wages for the tourism sector and alleged damage to crops and livestock). EPA’s Basile added a separate lawsuit settlement will have Sunnyside Gold pay $41 million to the federal government and $4 million to Colorado, all to be used on top of the federal government’s $45 million for the Bonita Peak site…At the end of the day, however, local officials say the best payout of all would be improved water quality in the Animas River watershed. Yet, Brookie said it does sting to see the dollar amount going to a New Mexico community that may not necessarily have a case for claiming they were impacted by the Gold King Mine spill.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

#ClimateChange Indicators: #Snowpack — Environmental Protection Agency

Click the link to read the article on the EPA website:

This indicator measures trends in the amount and timing of snowpack in the western United States.

Figure 1. Trends in April Snowpack in the Western United States, 1955–2020

This map shows trends in April snowpack in the western United States, measured in terms of snow water equivalent. Blue circles represent increased snowpack; red circles represent a decrease.
Data source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, 20205
Web update: April 2021

Figure 2. Change in Peak Snowpack Timing in the Western United States, 1982–2020

Figure 3. Average Date of Peak Snowpack in the Western United States, 1982–2020

Key Points

  • From 1955 to 2020, April snowpack declined at 86 percent of the sites measured (see Figure 1). The average change across all sites amounts to about a 19 percent decline.
  • Large and consistent decreases in April snowpack have been observed throughout the western United States (see Figure 1). Decreases have been especially prominent in Washington, Oregon, northern California, and the northern Rockies.
  • While some stations have experienced increases in April snowpack, all 12 states included in this indicator experienced a decrease in snowpack on average from 1955 to 2020 (see Figure 1). In the Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington), all but four stations saw decreases in snowpack over the period of record.
  • About 81 percent of sites have experienced a shift toward earlier peak snowpack (see Figure 2). This earlier trend is especially pronounced in southwestern states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Across all stations, peak snowpack has shifted earlier by an average of nearly eight days since 1982 (see Figure 3), based on the long-term average rate of change.
  • Background

    Temperature and precipitation are key factors affecting snowpack, which is the amount or thickness of snow that accumulates on the ground. In a warming climate, more precipitation will be expected to fall as rain rather than snow in most areas—reducing the extent and depth of snowpack. Long-term observations across the contiguous 48 states show that nearly 80 percent of weather stations examined have experienced a decrease in the proportion of precipitation falling as snow (see the Snowfall indicator). In addition, with warmer winters and springs (see the Seasonal Temperature indicator), the seasonality of snowpack is also changing. Higher temperatures cause snow to melt earlier, which in turn affects the timing and availability of water.

    Mountain snowpack plays a key role in the water cycle in western North America, storing water in the winter when the snow falls and releasing it as runoff in spring and summer when the snow melts. Millions of people in the West depend on the melting of mountain snowpack for hydropower, irrigation, and drinking water. In most western river basins, snowpack is a larger component of water storage than human-constructed reservoirs.1 Continued reductions in snowpack and shifts in snowmelt are expected in the future, which will reduce hydropower production in the Southwest and the Northwest.

    Changes in mountain snowpack can affect agriculture, winter recreation, and tourism in some areas, as well as plants and wildlife. For example, certain types of trees rely on snow for insulation from freezing temperatures, as do some animal species. In addition, fish spawning could be disrupted if changes in snowpack or snowmelt alter the timing and abundance of streamflows. (For a look at long-term trends in the timing of spring snowmelt runoff in United States, see the Streamflow indicator.) Additionally, warming and earlier snowmelt accelerate the start of the wildfire season and promote more wildfire activity in the western United States and Alaska (see the Wildfires indicator). Altogether, snowpack’s sensitivity to climate and its many related effects make this a valuable indicator to track.

    About the Indicator

    This indicator uses a measurement called snow water equivalent to determine trends in snowpack. Snow water equivalent is the amount of water contained within the snowpack at a particular location. It can be thought of as the depth of water that would result if the entire snowpack were to melt. Figure 1 shows long-term rates of change for April 1, the most frequent observation date, because it could reflect changes in precipitation, and it is extensively used for spring streamflow and water supply forecasting. Figures 2 and 3 focus on the day of each year when snowpack is at its deepest (that is, peak snowpack) to determine if it is occurring earlier or later.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture and other collaborators have measured snowpack since the early 1900s. In the early years of data collection, researchers measured snow water equivalent manually, but since 1980, measurements at some locations have been collected with automated instruments as part of the snow telemetry (SNOTEL) network. The long-term analysis in Figure 1 is based on data from nearly 700 permanent measurement sites in the western United States. The peak snowpack analysis shown in Figures 2 and 3 requires daily measurements, so it uses a smaller set of 328 SNOTEL sites that have data since 1982, which is when a large number of SNOTEL devices were deployed and came online.

    What the Supreme Court’s ruling on clean water means for rivers: Breaking down the recent clean water ruling — American Rivers

    San Luis Valley. Photo credit: The Alamosa Citizen

    Click the link to read the release on the American Rivers website (Amy Souers Kober):

    Clean water is essential to all life. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act this year, we should be moving forward – not backward – when it comes to safeguarding clean, accessible, safe, affordable water for all.

    But the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an unfortunate ruling on Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Kelly Catlett, director of hydropower reform at American Rivers, breaks down what the ruling means, and what’s next:

    Why is Section 401 of the Clean Water Act important – what does it do?

    The Clean Water Act helps prevent water pollution. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act gives states and certain tribes authority to place conditions for the protection of water on permits and licenses for the construction and operation of projects that could harm rivers, streams, and other water bodies. These protections ensure that infrastructure projects, such as dams or pipelines, won’t pollute our water or otherwise negatively affect water quality. Section 401 also allows states and tribes to work with the federal government to ensure that rivers are protected and that projects meet the needs of local communities.

    What did the Supreme Court rule, and what’s the impact for rivers?

    In 2020, the Trump Administration’s EPA made drastic changes that limit the way states and tribes can apply Section 401. The changes unraveled 50 years of practice and cooperation between the federal government and states and tribes in the administration of these protections. American Rivers, along with our allies, sued to overturn the rules and successfully convinced a District Court to nullify the 2020 rule while the current EPA works to revise them. A few states, the fossil fuel industry and the hydropower industry appealed to the Supreme Court and asked that the Supreme Court reinstate the 2020 rule until the current EPA successfully completes its process to change the rules in 2023. The result of this decision is that it will be more difficult for states and tribes to protect water. For example, the 2020 rules prohibit states and tribes from weighing climate change and its impacts in making conditioning decisions and it restricts conditions to addressing only point source pollution.

    What happens now — what are the next steps?

    American Rivers is not giving up because these clean water protections are too important. The Supreme Court did not provide a rationale for why they reinstated the 2020 rule, but the message appears to be that they found it inappropriate for the lower courts to nullify the rule without making a determination on the merits of the arguments each side had raised. American Rivers and our partners at American Whitewater, Idaho Rivers United, and California Trout will continue to make our case in the federal courts for why this rule should be overturned. We will also work with the EPA to make sure that the new rule due in 2023 will fix the flaws in the 2020 rule.

    Suncor discharging “forever chemicals” into #SandCreek and the #SouthPlatteRiver, enviro report says: Sand Creek and the South Platte provide drinking water and are used to irrigate crops — The #Denver Post #PFAS

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

    Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

    Discharges from one of Suncor’s drainage ports accounts for between 16% and 47% of the total PFAS pumped into Sand Creek in 2021, according to a report from Wheat Ridge’s Westwater Hydrology LLC. The creek dumps into the South Platte River and the refinery can be linked to 3% to 18% of the total PFAS found in that waterway. Analysts with Westwater Hydrology prepared their report for Earthjustice, a national environmental nonprofit…Chemicals found in Sand Creek and the South Platte River can be especially troubling because cities like Commerce City, Brighton, Thornton and Aurora take in water from the river downstream of Suncor, the report indicates…

    Pollution measured in the study only accounts for a portion of the discharges from Suncor, Wheeler said. The refinery installed a temporary treatment system in October to reduce PFAS discharges “but even with these measures in place, the pollution remains at toxic levels” under limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

    Watershed moment: The Grand Valley grapples with proposed #water quality standards — The #GrandJunction Daily Sentinel

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    Click the link to read the article on The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Dennis Webb). Here’s an excerpt:

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division is proposing the limits for 11 Colorado River tributaries in the valley with impaired water quality because of high levels of dissolved selenium and total recoverable iron, and in the case of two of the tributaries, E. coli. The river itself along that stretch, which meets water quality standards for selenium and E. coli, but not iron, is not itself targeted by the proposal, although it would benefit from it.

    As required by the federal Clean Water Act and by Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the state is developing what it calls total maximum daily loads (TMDL) that would establish how much of those pollutants can enter each of the tributaries each day while maintaining water quality standards.

    The Government Highline Canal flows past Highline State Park in the Grand Valley. CREDIT: BETHANY BLITZ/ASPEN JOURNALISM

    The area being targeted by regulators altogether encompasses about 138 square miles, stretching from Lewis Wash in the Clifton area to Salt Creek in western Mesa County. The area is all north of the Colorado River and is bounded on the northern end by the Government Highline Canal. That location beneath the canal is noteworthy because selenium is naturally occurring in the Mancos shale geological formation in the area, but at high levels in water can be harmful to fish and aquatic birds. The Water Quality Control Division, in its draft Grand Valley TMDL public notice, says that “the predominant source of selenium in all of the watersheds is likely groundwater inflow from canal seepage and deep percolation from irrigated lands.” Put another way, the valley’s irrigated agriculture, lying downgrade of the Government Highline Canal, is mostly driving the selenium problems in the drainages.

    But as it happens, state water-quality regulators have little say over that agricultural activity. The Water Quality Control Division holds permitting authority over point sources of surface water discharges. Agricultural stormwater discharges, and return flows from irrigated agriculture, aren’t considered point sources under the Clean Water Act. The state relies on incentive-based approaches to encourage partners to work on voluntary measures to address contaminants, something that grant funding is available to support. This can include measures such as lining or piping canals and changing irrigation methods and schedules to reduce the leaching of selenium…Still, a concern for some people, including Trent Prall, public works director for the city of Grand Junction, is that because of the state’s lack of authority over the agricultural side of things, it will lean on permitted sources of surface water discharges to fix a problem that is largely agriculture-driven.

    Scientists sound alarm at US regulator’s new ‘forever chemicals’ definition: Narrower definition excludes chemicals in pharmaceuticals and pesticides that are generally defined as #PFAS

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

    Click the link to read the article on The Guardian website (Tom Perkins):

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) department responsible for protecting the public from toxic substances is working under a new definition of PFAS “forever chemicals” that excludes some of their widely used compounds. The new “working definition”, established by the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, is not only at odds with much of the scientific world, but is narrower than that used by other EPA departments.

    Among other uses, the narrower definition excludes chemicals in pharmaceuticals and pesticides that are generally defined as PFAS. The EPA also cited the narrower definition in December when it declined to take action on some PFAS contamination found in North Carolina…

    The discussion within the EPA comes as the agency faces increased pressure to largely restrict the entire chemical class, and critics say the change benefits chemical manufacturers, the Department of Defense and industry…

    The most widely used, inclusive definition, and that proposed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), defines any chemical with one fluorinated carbon atom as a PFAS. That could include tens of thousands of chemicals on the market. The EPA toxics office, however, wrote a “working definition” that calls for “at least two adjacent carbon atoms, where one carbon is fully fluorinated and the other is at least partially fluorinated”. It covers about 6,500 PFAS, and the EPA is using that definition in its recently introduced “national testing strategy”, which serves as a road map in its attempt to rein in PFAS pollution. Beyond chemicals in pesticides and pharmaceuticals, the narrower definition excludes some refrigerants and PFAS gases. Some of the excluded PFAS compounds turn into highly toxic chemicals, like PFOA and PFOS, as they break down in the environment or are metabolized by the human body. And the production of some excluded PFAS requires the use of other more dangerous PFAS compounds.

    Bulkheads caused the Gold King Mine spill. Could they also be part of the solution? Remediation tool can limit acidic drainage, but experts must also understand the complicated hydrology — The #Durango Herald

    Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

    Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Aedan Hannon). Here’s an excerpt:

    Bulkheads remain relatively obscure except to those involved in mine remediation, but their purpose is to plug mines and limit the release of mine waste while reversing the chemical processes that contribute to acid mine drainage. They can be simple fixes for extraordinarily complex mining systems and produce unintended consequences. But they are also a critical tool for the EPA and those working to improve water quality and reduce the lingering effects of more than a century of mining in the Bonita Peak Mining District…

    The role of bulkheads in the Gold King Mine Spill

    In its October 2015 technical assessment of the incident, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation argued that bulkheads were at least partially responsible for the Gold King Mine spill. The Gold King Mine is a maze of tunnels, faults and fissures located at different elevations inside Bonita Peak and the surrounding mountains in Gladstone. The mine opening that drained when the EPA crews struck a plug holding back water was actually what’s known as the “Upper Gold King Mine,” or Gold King Mine Level 7. A short distance away lies the “Gold King Mine,” which refers to a mine adit called American Tunnel…

    With oversight from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, Sunnyside Gold Corp. first installed a bulkhead in American Tunnel in 1995 to stop mine drainage from entering Cement Creek. The company closed the valve on the first bulkhead in October 1996 and would go on to install two other bulkheads in American Tunnel. With the installation of the bulkheads, the flow of toxic mine waste into Cement Creek decreased from 1,700 gallons per minute to about 100 gallons per minute. But as the impounded water rose behind the bulkheads, the water rose elsewhere, including in Gold King Mine Level 7, which sits about 750 feet above American Tunnel, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s assessment…The EPA has yet to determine if it was faults and fractures in the rock or other internal mine workings that carried water from American Tunnel to Gold King Mine Level 7, but the EPA and the Bureau of Reclamation have both said the spill was in part the result of this buildup from the bulkheads in American Tunnel. Bulkheads have been used in mine remediation efforts in Colorado for more than three decades, and there are about 40 installed across the state, said Jeff Graves, director of Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety’s Inactive Mine Reclamation Program…Bulkheads back up water and fill mine tunnels. When they do so, they limit the air rocks can come into contact with, preventing the chemical reaction that creates acid mine drainage…

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

    Acid mine drainage can also still make its way into river systems. Water naturally moves through rock and can turn into acid mine drainage when exposed to oxygen, though in smaller volumes.

    The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

    #NewMexico finalizes $1 million in restoration projects from #GoldKingMine spill — The Sante Fe New Mexican #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver

    Click the link to read the article on the Sante Fe New Mexican website (Scott Weyland). Here’s an excerpt:

    The $1 million in restoration work is part of the $11 million settlement New Mexico reached last year with Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its two parent companies…

    The plan calls for:

  • San Juan County to build the Cedar Hill Boat Ramp on the Animas River.
  • The city of Farmington to build the Festival and Farmers Market Pavilion at Gateway Park.
  • The San Juan County Soil and Water Conservation District to implement a soil restoration project in San Juan Valley.
  • The Tse Daa Kaan Chapter of Navajo Nation to upgrade its irrigation system.
  • The other $10 million in the settlement covers environmental response costs and lost tax revenue, among other things.

    Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

    Sunnyside Gold oversaw construction of the bulkheads that led to mines filling with acidic water…

    Some money from the EPA settlement will go to northwestern New Mexico communities for agriculture and outdoor recreation, partly to ease the stigma the spill caused in that region, state officials said in a news release. It will cover some of New Mexico’s costs responding to the spill. And it will pay the state to restore and conserve river and land habitats, monitor water quality, and clean up pollution to protect drinking water.

    #Colorado health officials investigating contaminated #PFAS plume near #Denver fire training center — @WaterEdCO

    The South Adams County Water and Sanitation district is one of several water providers around the state now treating to remove PFAS from its drinking water supplies. Nov. 23, 2021. Credit: Jerd Smith

    Click the link to read the article on the Water Education website (Jerd Smith):

    The Colorado health department is investigating a contaminated underground plume issuing from land next to the Denver Fire Training Academy to determine whether it is responsible for high levels of so-called “forever chemicals” in the raw water supply of an Adams County water district that serves more than 65,000 people in the north metro area.

    Photo credit: Denver Fire Department

    The contamination was discovered in 2018, and since then, officials said, the City of Denver’s fire training center has stopped using the fire-fighting foam containing hazardous PFAS, or poly- and per-fluoroalkyl substances. The compounds have long lifespans and have been linked to certain cancers. Contained in such common substances as Teflon and Scotchguard, they are also widely used to fight fires.

    A spokesperson for the fire academy declined to comment on the investigation and referred media inquiries to the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, which said via email that it was working with the state to address the problem. It declined an interview request.

    Jennifer Talbert, a hazardous materials expert overseeing the investigation for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said she expects the investigation to be done later this year, at which time decisions on how to clean up the contaminants will be made.

    “They did discover PFAS within a certain region of the [fire academy] site, but we need to do more sampling and investigation. We’re developing the plume boundary now,” Talbert said.

    The four contaminated wells owned by the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District were shut down quickly in 2018 after testing showed extraordinarily high PFAS levels, 2400 parts per trillion (ppt), in the raw water, according to Kipp Scott, manager of water systems at the district.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory standard for PFAS says levels should be no higher than 70 ppt.

    Since then the state and the Tri-County Health Department have issued alerts to private well owners in the area, notifying them not to drink the contaminated water. Other residents in the region are served by the South Adams County district, whose water is being treated to reduce PFAS levels to 35 ppt, a level that is considered safe under the existing voluntary federal guideline.

    Anyone concerned about potential contaminants in their drinking water can have free testing done.

    The CDPHE’s Talbert said it hasn’t determined who is responsible for the contamination and won’t be able to do so until its investigation is finished.

    But Scott said no other PFAS sources within the district have been identified other than those found at the fire academy, whose site is less than a half mile from the contaminated wells.

    “We infer that that is the largest source in the area that is affecting our groundwater supply,” Scott said. “There are no other sources identified.”

    Little was known about the unregulated PFAS chemicals in Colorado until 2015 when national news began appearing about their links to cancer, their prevalence in fire-fighting foam used at military bases and fire-fighting centers, and their presence in groundwater.

    Two years ago, as more testing revealed more contaminated sites, the CDPHE vowed to boost its oversight. Since then the Colorado Legislature has provided the health department with more authority and money to combat the problem. CDPHE’s approach has included conducting surveys to identify contaminated sites and affected drinking water systems, spending as much as $8 million to buy contaminated firefighting foam and store it, and helping communities whose water has been tainted by the compounds with testing support and grants to help cover treatment costs.

    Dozens of fire departments, military facilities, water utilities, and commercial properties as diverse as hotels and apartment complexes are now monitoring and testing for the substances.

    As Colorado ramped up its oversight, last year the EPA announced it would begin work on a regulation that will, for the first time, set an official limit on PFAS compounds in drinking water. It is set to be available for public review this fall and would be finalized by the fall of 2023.

    In the meantime, Scott said the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District has spent $5 million to build a sophisticated testing and monitoring lab, and to strengthen its treatment program enough to comply with the 70 ppt federal health advisory limit.

    But that won’t be enough long-term to ensure its customers have access to safe drinking water, Scott said, so the district is preparing to install an advanced $70 million treatment system to reduce PFAS levels even further. That price tag is almost three times the size of the district’s annual $26 million budget.

    “If the health advisory number should go lower, and we think it will, we don’t have enough capacity to go to a lower number,” Scott said. “And we need that raw water from the wells we shut down to meet future demand.”

    Who will pay to correct the situation isn’t clear yet, but Scott said the cost should not fall on his district. “We’ve spent around $5 million treating for this contaminant that is in our water supply, and we did not put it there. But that $5 million cost is being paid by each one of our residents through higher rates and fees.”

    CDPHE’s Talbert said cleaning up the contamination near the fire training facility and other sites will likely be complicated because the chemicals have never been regulated and, as a result, methods and technologies for clean-up are still being developed. But she said most residents in the region have access to treated drinking water through their water utilities.

    “The science is new,” Talbert said,” and we don’t know the extent of the contamination. If we find that people have an exposure we will get them on bottled water and/or a reverse osmosis system.”

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

    #GoldKingMine settlement — @Land_Desk #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    From The Land Desk (Jonathan Thompson):

    We have just received word that the federal government and the owner of the Sunnyside Mine have agreed to pay a total of $90 million to settle claims relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine blowout. The proposed consent decree will be posted in the Federal Register and opened to public comment for 30 days prior to being finalized.

    That consent decree will “resolve all claims, cross-claims, and counterclaims between the United States and Sunnyside Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold Corporation (the “Mining Defendants”) in this multidistrict litigation,” according to the U.S. District Court of New Mexico filing.

    The Land Desk will have more details—along with a wonkfest explaining why Sunnyside is even involved with an incident that occurred at a mine it doesn’t own—next week.

    The settlement by the numbers:

    The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

    $40.95 million

    Amount Sunnyside Gold Corp., a subsidiary of Canada-based Kinross Gold, will pay to the federal government under the settlement, all of which will be used to finance cleanup relating to the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site.

    $4.05 million

    Amount Sunnyside Gold will pay to the Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment.

    $45 million

    Amount the U.S. government, on behalf of federal settling agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service—will pay to “appropriate federal accounts” under the settlement.

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

    From The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon):

    The Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Department, Department of the Interior, Department Agriculture and state of Colorado announced Friday they have reached a settlement with Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent company Kinross Gold Corp. to fund remediation in the Bonita Peak Mining District near Silverton.

    In the case of an old-fashioned standoff, the federal government will drop its claims against Sunnyside Gold Corp. and Canadian mining company Kinross Gold Corp. and the two companies will drop their claims against the federal government after the settlement.

    Sunnyside Gold Corp. will pay $40.95 million to the federal government and the EPA and another $4.05 million to Colorado, while the United States will contribute $45 million to the cleanup of mining contamination in the area…

    The agreement marks the end of Sunnyside Gold Corp.’s remediation work in the Bonita Peak Mining District. The EPA previously ordered the company to undertake a costly investigation of groundwater in the area in March 2018.

    The state of Colorado has also released Sunnyside from its reclamation permit obligations, which require the company to clean up its past mining operations and meet the conditions of a reclamation plan approved by the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, a branch of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

    In addition, the settlement limits the future liability of both Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent company…

    The settlement was made as a matter of practicality with no admission of wrongdoing or liability, Myers said in an email to The Durango Herald.

    Myers noted the federal government’s matching $45 million was a result of the federal government’s own liability for the Gold King Mine spill and damage to the surrounding area…

    The Colorado and the federal governments have argued that Sunnyside Gold Corp. is partly at fault and responsible for funding remediation in the Bonita Peak Mining District after placing bulkheads in the 1990s to prevent the drainage of contaminated water.

    Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

    In legal filings, the state has said the bulkheads backed up waste in surrounding mines, including the Gold King Mine, which was released when EPA contractors accidentally caused a blowout…

    The EPA has already spent more than $75 million to remediate the site.

    The Bonita Peak Mining District Community Advisory Group is working to define water-quality targets and other environmental standards that will need to be met for the area to be considered decontaminated. Those targets will help guide the work of the EPA…

    [Ty Churchwell] said a full cleanup of the site will likely take at least another decade. He pointed to similar Superfund sites near Leadville and Idaho Springs that each took about two decades.

    The settlement is a step in that direction.

    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 Associated Press (James Anderson) via The Colorado Sun:

    The agreement must be approved by the U.S. District Court in the District of New Mexico after a 30-day public comment period…

    An EPA-led contractor crew was doing excavation work at the entrance to the Gold King Mine, another site in the district not owned by Sunnyside, in August 2015 when it inadvertently breached a debris pile that was holding back wastewater inside the mine.

    Settling ponds used to precipitate iron oxide and other suspended materials at the Red and Bonita mine drainage near Gold King mine, shown Aug. 14, 2015. (Photo by Eric Vance/EPA)

    An estimated 3 million gallons of wastewater poured out, carrying nearly 540 U.S. tons of metals, mostly iron and aluminum. Rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah were polluted…

    Monies will be used for water and soil sampling and to build more waste repositories. The EPA said in a statement Friday it has spent more than $75 million on cleanup work “and expects to continue significant work at the site in the coming years.”

    The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

    The proposed consent decree follows Sunnyside settlements with New Mexico and the Navajo Nation earlier this year. Sunnyside admits no fault in the agreement.

    Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

    #Greeley #Water and Sewer announces nearly 10% rate increases — The Greeley Tribune

    Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

    Greeley Water and Sewer customers can expect about 10% rate increases starting this month, as the department funds more than $200 million in investments over the next several years.

    The Greeley Water and Sewer Board recently approved the new rates in a unanimous vote, according to a city news release. On average, residents can expect a utility rate increase of about $10 a month, or about 9.8%.

    The increases take effect this month, but residents may not see the changes until their February utility bills.

    The increases break down as follows, according to the release:

  • Water: An average increase of $4.16 per month will help cover the city’s participation in a new water storage reservoir to provide enough water for more than 4,500 new residents.
  • Sewer: An increase of $4.22 per month will cover the cost of state- and federally mandated sanitary sewer upgrades. The mandates reduce the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous allowed in the city’s treated wastewater discharge to reduce algae growth.
  • Stormwater: An increase of $1.54 per month will help the city resolve downtown flooding issues. The city will upgrade its storm drainage to handle large rain events, such as the one in July that damaged businesses and homes.
  • In the release, Harold Evans, chairman of the water and sewer board, cited the regulatory changes and providing for the city’s rapidly growing population as drivers behind the rate increases.

    After decades, some of America’s most toxic sites will finally get cleaned up: New funding and the revival of a long-lapsed tax on chemical makers in the bipartisan infrastructure law mean cities like Newark will get money to restore toxic Superfund sites — The Washington Post

    Leviathan Creek below an abandoned open pit mine, an EPA Superfund site in the Sierra Nevada, where iron oxide deposits coat the stream bottom. (Photos by David Herbst)

    From The Washington Post (Dino Grandoni):

    The laboratories and other buildings that once housed a chemical manufacturer here in New Jersey’s most populous city have been demolished. More than 10,000 leaky drums and other containers once illegally stored here have long been removed. Its owner was convicted three decades ago.

    Yet the groundwater beneath the 4.4-acre expanse once occupied by White Chemical Corp. in Newark remains contaminated, given a lack of federal funding…

    But three decades after federal officials declared it one of America’s most toxic spots, it’s about to get a jolt. This plot in Newark is among more than four dozen toxic waste sites to get cleanup funding from the newly-enacted infrastructure law, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday, totaling $1 billion…

    On that same day in November that Freeman looked out at the White Chemical site, President Biden signed legislation reviving a polluter’s tax that will inject a new stream of cash into the nation’s troubled Superfund program. The renewed excise fees, which disappeared more than 25 years ago, are expected to raise $14.5 billion in revenue over the next decade and could accelerate cleanups of many sites that are increasingly threatened by climate change.

    The Superfund list includes more than 1,300 abandoned mines, radioactive landfills, shuttered military labs, closed factories and other contaminated areas across nearly all 50 states. They are the poisoned remnants of America’s emergence as a 20th-century industrial juggernaut.

    The 49 sites receiving money from the infrastructure law include a neighborhood in Florida with soil contaminated from treating wooden telephone poles, a former copper mine in Maine laced with leftover metals, and an old steel manufacturer in southern New Jersey where parts of the Golden Gate Bridge were fabricated.

    America’s toxic spots

    Many of these sites are also in poor and minority communities, such as Newark, where most residents are African American. Biden has said easing the pollution burden that Black, Latino and Native Americans bear is central to his environmental policy.

    No state boasts more Superfund sites than New Jersey. Some of them, such as the White Chemical site, have lingered on the agency’s “priorities list” for decades…

    The law that established the Superfund program in 1980 gives the EPA the power to compel polluters to clean up their noxious messes. But many of these companies have gone out of business, or in some cases, it is hard to find the culprits. Congress taxed the chemical and oil industry to create a trust fund for these orphaned sites, but the taxes expired in 1995.

    By the early 2000s, the trust fund was drained. The agency has grappled with a mounting list of costly and complex hazardous waste sites ever since…

    The new bipartisan infrastructure law reestablishes fees on the sale of more than 40 chemicals often found in fuels, plastics and other products, ranging from 44 cents to $9.74 per ton depending on the compound.

    The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and other groups lobbied unsuccessfully to defeat the proposal…

    Biden administration officials, however, said the tax revenue will provide a critical boost for underfunded projects. Carlton Waterhouse, Biden’s nominee to head the EPA’s land office, said that even after paying for projects that got no financial support last year, there will still be money left over…

    To fully clean up the ground where White Chemical once stood, crews will have to inject a cocktail of chemicals underground to break down lingering volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethene, which is linked to neurological problems and several kinds of cancer. Right now, no building can be constructed over the contaminated aquifer without the risk of hazardous fumes accumulating indoors…

    Until Friday, the EPA had to shelve the plan for nearly a decade because it cost $16.6 million. But with the tax reinstated and with Congress providing an additional $3.5 billion for the Superfund program, work in Newark and on dozens of other orphaned sites will begin “as soon as possible,” according to the agency.
    Global warming gives these projects even greater urgency. The Frelinghuysen Avenue lot is one of more than 900 toxic waste sites facing ever-increasing risks from rising seas, fiercer wildfires and other disasters driven by climate change, according to a 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office.

    Climate impacts could unleash hazardous waste at 60 percent of Superfund sites, mainly due to flooding. More than a dozen Superfund sites flooded after Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast in 2017. In Newark, even a Category 1 hurricane could damage the White Chemical site, the GAO said…

    Reviving the chemical production fee is a step toward making the Superfund program operate as originally intended, with industry paying to clean up its messes even after companies go bankrupt. The tax will be up for renewal again in 2031.

    #PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ constantly cycle through ground, air and #water, study finds: The Stockholm University study highlights the chemicals’ mobility, which has been found in penguin eggs and polar bears — The Guardian

    Polar bear. Photo credit: Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    From The Guardian (Tom Perkins):

    Toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” in the ocean are transported from seawater to air when waves hit the beach and that phenomenon represents a significant source of air pollution, a new study from Stockholm University has found.

    The findings, published in Environmental Science & Technology, also partly explain how PFAS get into the atmosphere and eventually precipitation. The study, which collected samples from two Norwegian sites, also concludes that the pollution “may impact large areas of inland Europe and other continents, in addition to coastal areas”.

    “The results are fascinating but at the same time concerning,” said Bo Sha, a Stockholm University researcher and study co-author…

    The study highlights the chemicals’ mobility once they’re released into the environment: PFAS don’t naturally break down, so they continuously move through the ground, water and air and their longevity in the environment has led them to be dubbed “forever chemicals”. They have been detected in all corners of the globe, from penguin eggs in Antarctica to polar bears in the Arctic.

    The Stockholm research team collected aerosol samples between 2018 and 2020 from Andøya, an Arctic island, and Birkenes, a city in southern Norway. It found correlating levels of PFAS and sodium ions, which are markers of sea spray. The chemicals’ transfer occurs when air bubbles burst as waves crash, and the study found that PFAS can travel thousands of kilometers via sea spray in the atmosphere before the chemicals return to land.

    Some regulators and the chemical industry have long claimed that dumping PFAS into the ocean is an appropriate disposal method because it dilutes the waste to a safe level. The study concluded that the approach isn’t safe because the chemicals are returned to land, which can pollute drinking water sources, among other issues.

    “The common belief was that PFAS would eventually wash off into the oceans where they would stay to be diluted over the timescale of decades,” said Matthew Salter, a co-author of the study and researcher at Stockholm University. “But it turns out that there’s a boomerang effect, and some of the toxic PFAS are re-emitted to air, transported long distances and then deposited back onto land.”

    Owner of mine to pay $1.6 million in settlement for #GoldKingMine blowout: Money will go toward restoration projects in areas damaged by spill — The #Durango Herald #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    From The Durango Herald (Nicholas A. Johnson):

    A $1.6 million settlement agreement with Sunnyside Gold Corp. was approved by the Colorado Natural Resources Trustees to resolve the company’s liability for damaged natural resources at the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site where the 2015 Gold King Mine blowout occurred.

    Colorado Natural Resources Trustees include state Attorney General Phil Weiser, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Jill Hunsaker Ryan and the Executive Director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Dan Gibbs.

    The settlement will allow trustees to fund restoration projects in natural areas damaged by the spill and other releases of hazardous substances within the Superfund site.

    Trustees will now begin to consult with regional stakeholders, including local governments and nonprofit groups, solicit proposals and allocate the money for environmental restoration and property acquisition projects.

    “The settlement announced today is a step in the right direction to address the damage suffered in Southwest Colorado and the Four Corners region in the wake of the Gold King Mine disaster and other degradation of our natural resources,” Weiser said in a news release. “The trustees look forward to partnering with the local community on how to invest the funds.”

    The work reflects the mandate of the trustees to take necessary actions to address when Colorado’s natural resources are injured or destroyed.

    In an email to The Durango Herald, Gina Meyers, director of reclamation operations for Sunnyside Gold Corp., said the settlement agreement was reached as a matter of practicality, with no admission of liability or wrongdoing.

    The settlement agreement resolves the trustees’ claims that Sunnyside caused or contributed to releases of acidic, metals-laden mine wastewater into the Upper Animas River watershed. Sunnyside operated the Sunnyside Mine from 1986 until 1991…

    The settlement agreement will be filed with the U.S. District Court in Denver. Once filed with the court, the agreement will go through a 30-day public comment process.

    After the close of the comment period, Sunnyside Gold Corp. and the trustees will present all comments received to the court. The court will ultimately decide whether to approve the settlement.

    “The trustees look forward to infusing funds into the local economy through community endorsed reclamation projects that improve watersheds and address legacy mining impacts,” Gibbs said in a news release.

    Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

    EPA Invites 39 New Projects to Apply for #Water Infrastructure Loans

    Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

    Here’s the release from the EPA:

    [December 3, 2021], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that 39 new projects are being invited to apply for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans and four projects are being added to a waitlist. The agency anticipates that, as funds become available, $6.7 billion in WIFIA loans will help finance over $15 billion in water infrastructure projects to protect public health and water quality across 24 states.

    “Far too many communities still face significant water challenges, making these transformative investments in water infrastructure so crucial,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The WIFIA invited projects will deliver major benefits like the creation of good-paying jobs and the safeguarding of public health, especially in underserved and under-resourced communities. This program is a shining example of the public health and economic opportunities that will be achieved under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

    EPA’s WIFIA program will provide selected borrowers with innovative financing tools to address pressing public health and environmental challenges in their communities. Consistent with its announced priorities, the WIFIA program is making $1.2 billion in loans available to support infrastructure needs in historically underserved communities. Additionally, 14 projects will help protect infrastructure from the impacts of extreme weather events and the climate crisis. New and innovative approaches, including cybersecurity, green infrastructure, and water reuse, are included in 24 projects.

    By diversifying its geographic reach and the types of selected borrowers, the WIFIA program will also expand the types of projects it supports. For the first time, entities in Connecticut, Delaware, and Hawaii are invited to apply. Three small communities, with populations of 25,000 or less, are selected for WIFIA loans totaling nearly $62 million. In addition, seven projects submitted by private borrowers and public-private partnerships totaling over $1.5 billion in WIFIA financing are included.

    EPA is also inviting state agencies in Indiana and New Jersey to apply for a total of $472 million in WIFIA loans through EPA’s state infrastructure financing authority WIFIA (SWIFIA) program. EPA’s SWIFIA loans are available exclusively to state infrastructure financing authority borrowers, commonly known as State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, and will allow these programs to finance more infrastructure projects in their states. These programs will combine state resources, annual capitalization grants, and the low-cost, flexible SWIFIA loans to accelerate investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure to modernize aging systems and tackle new contaminants.

    WIFIA Invited Projects:

  • Baltimore City Department of Public Works (Md.): $36 million for the Water Infrastructure Advancement 2021 project.
  • Charlotte Water (N.C.): $169 million for the Mallard Creek Sewer Basin Wastewater Collection and Treatment Improvements Program.
  • City of Ashland (Ore.): $36 million for a 7.0 Million Gallons per Day Water Treatment Plant.
  • City of Bellingham (Wash.): $136 million for the Post Point Resource Recovery Plant Biosolids Project.
  • City of Boise (Idaho): $272 million for Water Renewal Services Capital Investments Projects.
  • City of Chattanooga (Tenn.): $186 million for Wastewater Compliance and Sustainability Projects.
  • City of Cortland (N.Y.): $12 million for the Homer Avenue Gateway Project.
  • City of Memphis (Tenn.): $44 million for Stormwater Upgrades.
  • City of Oregon City (Ore.): $12 million for Water Rehabilitation, Resiliency and Improvement Projects.
  • City of Philadelphia (Pa.): $260 million for the Water Department 2021 project.
  • City of Port Washington (Wis.): $12 million for the Water Treatment Plant Improvement Project.
  • City of Santa Cruz (Calif.): $164 million for the Santa Cruz Water Program.
  • Westminster

  • City of Westminster (Colo.): $130 million for the Water2025 project.
  • City of Wichita (Kan.): $181 million for the Wastewater Reclamation Facilities Biological Nutrient Removal Improvements Project.
  • County of Hawaii (Hawaii): $24 million for Hawaii Wastewater Treatment Upgrades.
  • EPCOR Foothills Water Project Inc. (Ore.): $76 million for the Lake Oswego Wastewater Treatment Replacement Project.
  • Fishers Island Water Works Corporation (N.Y.): $14 million for Water System Improvements.
  • Gainesville Regional Utilities (Fla.): $14 million for the Sanitary Sewer Replacement and Improvement Project.
  • Helix Water District (Calif.): $16 million for the Drinking Water Reliability Project.
  • King County (Wash.): $287 million Master Agreement.
  • Marin Municipal Water District (Calif.): $11 million for Marin Water.
  • Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) (Mo.): $278 million for MSD Project Clear – Deer Creek Watershed / Lemay Service Area System Improvements.
  • Metro Water Services (Tenn.): $186 million for the Process Advancements at Omohundro and K.R. Harrington Water Treatment Plants Project.
  • Narragansett Bay Commission (R.I.): $28 million for Field’s Point Resiliency Improvements.
  • New Castle County (Del.): $32 million for the Christina River Force Main Rehabilitation Project.
  • Ridgway via AllTelluride.com

  • Project 7 Water Authority (Colo.): $39 million for the Ridgway Water Treatment Plant.
  • Rialto Water Service LLC (Calif.): $68 million for Microgrid and System Improvements.
  • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (Calif.): $618 million for Wastewater Capital Plan Resilience Projects.
  • Santa Clara Valley Water District (Calif.): $575 million for the Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project.
  • Santa Clara Valley Water District (Calif.): $80 million for the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.
  • Santa Margarita Water District (Calif.): $22 million for Recycled Water Conversion.
  • Sharyland Water Supply Corporation (Texas): $14 million for Sharyland Water Supply Corporation Water System Infrastructure Improvements.
  • South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (Conn.): $20 million for Lake Whitney Dam and Spillway Improvements.
  • Tualatin Valley Water District (Ore.): $16 million for the Water System Upgrades Program.
  • United Water Conservation District (Calif.): $52 million for the Santa Felicia Safety Improvement Project.
  • Upper Santa Ana River Watershed Infrastructure Financing Authority (Calif.): $177 million for the Watershed Connect project.
  • Village of New Lenox (Ill.): $70 million for Phase 1 Improvements projects.
  • Waitlist Projects:

  • American Infrastructure Holdings (S.D.): $20 million for the Sioux City Biosolids to Fertilizer Project.
  • Lake Restoration Solutions, LLC (Utah): $893 million for the Utah Lake Restoration Project.
  • U.S. Highway 287 runs through the future site of Glade Reservoir. The Larimer county Board of County Commissioners approved the 1041 Land Use Permit for NISP in September, 2020. Photo credit: Northern Water

  • Northern Water (Colo.): $464 million for the Northern Integrated Supply Project – Glade Reservoir Complex.
  • Southland Water Agency (Ill.): $479 million for the Southland Water Agency Infrastructure System.
  • Background on WIFIA

    Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. WIFIA’s goal is to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects.

    Colorado launches #PFAS takeback, emergency grant programs — @WaterEdCO

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    This fall Colorado has launched two new programs, one aimed at removing firefighting foam containing so-called “forever chemicals” from fire departments, military bases and other properties and an emergency grant program aimed at helping communities where the chemicals have appeared in drinking water.

    The chemicals, known broadly as PFAS or poly- and per-fluoroalkyl substances, have long lifespans and have been linked to certain cancers. Contained in such common substances as Teflon and Scotchguard, they are also widely used to fight fires, particularly those involving jet fuel.

    “We’re learning more every day about PFAS and its exposure in our environment,” said Erin Garcia, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    The unregulated substances were once thought to be rare, but since at least 2015 have shown up at alarming levels in communities such as Fountain and Security, where groundwater was contaminated by runoff from the nearby Peterson Air Force Base. Those two communities were forced to shut down their water systems, find temporary substitute supplies, and build new treatment systems.

    The chemicals have also been found in groundwater wells that serve Commerce City and in areas near the Suncor Refinery in Adams County and Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, among other sites.

    Two years ago, as more testing revealed more contaminated sites, the CDPHE vowed to boost its oversight. Since then the Colorado Legislature has provided the health department with more authority and money to combat the problem, including conducting surveys to identify contaminated sites and drinking water systems, and providing as much as $8 million to buy contaminated firefighting foam and store it, and to help communities whose water has been tainted by the compounds.

    Sugarloaf Mountain fire station.

    Dozens of fire departments, military facilities, water utilities, and commercial properties as diverse as hotels and apartment complexes, are now monitoring and testing for the substances.

    As Colorado has ramped up its oversight, last month the EPA announced it would begin work on a regulation that will, for the first time, set a limit on PFAS compounds in drinking water. It is set to be available for public review next fall and would be finalized by the fall of 2023.

    Ron Falco, CDPHE’s safe drinking water program manager, said he’s pleased the EPA is moving to regulate PFAS, but he said fast action is critical.

    “We want the EPA to hit that timeline,” he said.

    The South Adams County Water and Sanitation District, which serves Commerce City, is watching the state’s progress carefully. It discovered PFAS contamination in 2018 when it began testing voluntarily for the substances after the crises in Fountain and Security.

    It already had in place a carbon filtering system and was able to strengthen it to reduce PFAS contamination in its system to 35 parts per trillion (ppt), half of the EPA’s voluntary 70 ppt guideline. It also had to shut down wells whose contamination levels were so high, 2400 ppt, that no amount of carbon filtering could remove the chemicals fast enough to keep the drinking water safe.

    “The key here is that we can treat the current levels,” said Kipp Scott, manager of drinking systems at the South Adams County district, but better treatment will be needed once the federal regulation takes effect.

    And that means the district will need to install a new system that uses an ion exchange technology to remove the chemicals. Its estimated cost is $70 million. Scott said the district hopes the state’s emergency grant fund and new federal infrastructure dollars will help cover the cost.

    “I hope this moves in the right direction, and we can continue to provide safe water to our customers,” Scott said.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

    EPA announces over $15M to the Indian Health Service to improve access to drinking #water in Tribal communities

    Navajo Nation. Image via Cronkite News.

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    Today [October 6, 2021], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $15.8 million in water infrastructure funding for projects that will improve access to safe drinking water for the Tuscarora Nation, the Navajo Nation, and the Alaska Native Village of Tununak. This funding, which will be placed into an interagency agreement between EPA and the Indian Health Service (IHS), will be used to boost public health protections by improving access to safe water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.

    “While most people have access to reliable and safe water, some communities lack this basic necessity—even today,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “With this grant funding, EPA will help build drinking water systems to improve water access and water quality for the Tuscarora and Navajo people and the residents of Tununak.”

    EPA is awarding this grant funding to the Indian Health Service, which is prioritizing projects in three Tribal communities through interagency agreements:

  • The agreement will support the development of an interconnected water source to Tuscarora Nation, which currently relies on private well water from a highly contaminated ground water source or bulk water delivery. The agreement will prioritize $5.6 million in WIIN grant funding to improve water access.
  • The agreement will focus $3.8 million to support three well projects to benefit Navajo Nation. This funding will help address widespread public health concerns and water supply vulnerabilities by improving access to safe drinking water.
  • The agreement will provide over $6.4 to support the Alaskan Native Village of Tununak. The effort will improve water access and support the creation of a new public water system to benefit the community.
  • “Today’s grant is a step forward for the thousands of Navajo families who have waited too long for access to safe and reliable drinking water,” said U.S. Senator Mark Kelly. “In the Senate, I remain committed to ensuring that the water infrastructure needs of Arizona’s tribal communities are addressed.”

    “Access to clean drinking water has been and continues to be a challenge for Native American communities across the country. On Navajo Nation, the Diné people—myself included—have struggled to haul water from livestock wells to their homes for cooking, bathing, and so forth,” said Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director Valinda Shirley. “This $3.8 million investment in access to clean water will transform the lives of many families across Navajo Nation.”

    Background

    These projects are funded under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act’s Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Tribal Grant Program. Under this program, and through an interagency agreement with the Indian Health Service, EPA is awarding a total of $24 million in critical infrastructure needs for Tribal communities. EPA previously awarded $9 million to the Alaskan Native Villages of Tuluksak and Stebbins in April 2021.

    For more information, visit: https://www.epa.gov/tribaldrinkingwater/wiin-act-section-2104-assistance-small-and-disadvantaged-communities-tribal

    #Colorado may have more sites with dangerous “forever chemicals” than any other state: A new analysis of an EPA database shows demand for #PFAS in fracking and other industries puts Front Range at the top of the contamination list — The Colorado Sun

    From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

    Colorado may have more locations where dangerous PFAS “forever chemicals” are stored and used than any other state in the U.S., according to a database released by the EPA after challenges from a watchdog group.

    About 21,000 industrial sites in Colorado appear on the previously undisclosed EPA database of locations that “may be handling” PFAS, with more than 85% of those places related to oil and gas, and heavy concentrations of possible locations at the industry’s core in Weld County, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which forced EPA to release the data.

    PFAS chemicals repel water, lubricate, and prevent stains better than many other substances, and have been used in firefighting foam and thousands of common household and industrial products worldwide.

    The national database includes more than 100,000 possible PFAS locations, according to the watchdog group that forced EPA to release it, far more in the most recent analyses of PFAS ubiquity throughout the country. A map released in July by the Environmental Working Group put the number of Colorado locations possibly handling and discharging PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) into the environment at 501.

    State officials investigating PFAS contamination and solutions in Colorado said they are not surprised by the extent of the EPA PFAS listings…

    Colorado starts foam buyback

    Colorado in September launched a new program to help local fire departments replace stores of firefighting foam containing PFAS with a safer alternative, and store the chemicals until the state figures out a disposal method, Dani said. Municipal water supplies covering 90% of state residents have been tested for the chemicals, and the state now encourages anyone using private well water to sign up for testing.

    PFAS, which encompasses thousands of chemicals with slight variations, can run off into groundwater and accumulate in fish, animals and humans. While federal and state officials are still establishing safe human consumption limits for PFAS, the EPA says studies show the chemicals cause “reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals,” as well as tumors. High cholesterol levels in those exposed are also common impacts.

    The chemicals, also used as repellents or lubricants, and previously in nonstick pans, as well as thousands of other products including fast-food wrappers, do not appear to break down or lose their potency, thus earning their “forever” label.

    A whistleblower and watchdog advocacy group used an EPA database of locations that may have handled PFAS materials or products to map the potential impact of PFAS throughout Colorado. They found about 21,000 Colorado locations in the EPA listings, which were uncovered through a freedom of information lawsuit. Locations are listed by industry category. (Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility analysis of EPA database)

    Physicians for Social Responsibility claimed in a July report that oil and gas companies in some states used PFAS or chemicals that break down into PFAS in fracking wells between 2012 and 2020. Colorado was not among the six states listed in that report.

    California, a much larger state by population, is second in in the database’s total of “may be handling” sites, at about 13,000, with Oklahoma third, according to PEER, a nonprofit that provides legal and technical support to whistleblowers. PEER won release of the EPA’s PFAS registry and database through Freedom of Information Act requests.

    The vast reach of PFAS chemicals and potential water contamination should put pressure on federal and state regulators to finally complete long-running studies on how to set a strict national drinking water standard, demand safer substitutes and force cleanups of spills, PEER advocates said.

    “Colorado has become the PFAS capital of the United States,” said PEER’s Rocky Mountain director, Chandra Rosenthal. As EPA consistently delays moving its PFAS “guideline” to a specific cap in drinking water, Rosenthal said, “it is imperative that the state set a drinking water standard ASAP. Offering filters and bottled water to impacted communities isn’t sufficient.”

    From Public Employees for Envinronmental Responsibility:

    To address the threat posed by toxic PFAS chemicals, EPA announced a PFAS action plan almost three years ago. One of the steps in that plan was the development of an interactive map that would show sources and concentrations of PFAS in the environment.

    When that map was never produced as promised, PEER sent a records request to EPA for data and information about the map. After months of delay and stonewalling by the Trump administration, PEER sued and finally began receiving documents. We felt EPA was hiding something, and we were determined to find it.

    Under the Biden administration, we continued our records request. Finally, we received an EPA data set with information on some 120,000 industrial facilities “may be handling” PFAS, a figure that is over three times higher than outside experts had estimated. These figures show a scale of potential PFAS contamination in this country that is gargantuan.

    The EPA figures indicate that the listed sites involving PFAS manufacture, import, handling, or storage –

  • Are in areas with more than 25% minority residents, with nearly 40% located within a three-mile radius of those communities;
  • Are found in all states and territories, but that three states, Colorado, California, and Oklahoma (in that order), house more than one-third of all the facilities listed; and
  • Include more than 6,000 facilities with a history of environmental violations.
  • The agency categorizes more than half of these facilities (around 57%) as active, with one-quarter (around 27%) categorized inactive, while the status of the balance (around 16% or more than 20,000 sites) is listed as “unknown.”

    “PFAS” refers to a family of human-made chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are used as non-stick coatings, firefighting foams, stain and water protection for fabrics, and protective coatings; more recently, they have been used in food packaging, cosmetics, medical devices, and other commercial products, like artificial turf.

    Why was EPA sitting on this data?

    Probably because these revelations have huge implications for our nation’s battle to contain PFAS pollution. PFAS are associated with a variety of ailments, including suppressed immune function, thyroid disease, testicular and kidney disease, cancers, and liver damage. Because PFAS have a strong carbon-fluorine bond, they do not easily break down in the environment and are called “forever chemicals.” As a result, they are virtually impossible to destroy and there is no know safe way to dispose of PFAS.

    Despite the serious nature of this problem, EPA is taking a lax approach to regulating these chemicals, even as communities around the country are spending millions of dollars to clean up contaminated water supplies. This data is another indication that EPA is not doing its job and seems more worried about appeasing the chemical companies than protecting public health and the environment.

    PEER is advocating regulation of PFAS as a class of chemicals, removing them from our drinking water and food supply, and removing them from consumer products. In addition, PEER has been asking EPA to treat PFAS as a hazardous waste from manufacture to disposal, employing a so-called cradle to grave approach.

    You can view our map of the data here.

    From The Guardian (Carey Gillam and Alvin Chang):

    List of facilities makes it clear that virtually no part of the US appears free from the potential risk of air and water contamination with the chemicals

    The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified more than 120,000 locations around the US where people may be exposed to a class of toxic “forever chemicals” associated with various cancers and other health problems that is a frightening tally four times larger than previously reported, according to data obtained by the Guardian.

    The list of facilities makes it clear that virtually no part of America appears free from the potential risk of air and water contamination with the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

    Colorado tops the EPA list with an estimated 21,400 facilities, followed by California’s 13,000 sites and Oklahoma with just under 12,000. The facilities on the list represent dozens of industrial sectors, including oil and gas work, mining, chemical manufacturing, plastics, waste management and landfill operations. Airports, fire training facilities and some military-related sites are also included.

    The EPA describes its list as “facilities in industries that may be handling PFAS”. Most of the facilities are described as “active”, several thousand are listed as “inactive” and many others show no indication of such status. PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their longevity in the environment, thus even sites that are no longer actively discharging pollutants can still be a problem, according to the EPA.

    The tally far exceeds a previous analysis that showed 29,900 industrial sites known or suspected of making or using the toxic chemicals.

    Screenshot of Guardian website 10/18/2021.

    People living near such facilities “are certain to be exposed, some at very high levels” to PFAS chemicals, said David Brown, a public health toxicologist and former director of environmental epidemiology at the Connecticut department of health…

    A Guardian analysis of the EPA data set shows that in Colorado, one county alone – Weld county – houses more than 8,000 potential PFAS handling sites, with 7,900 described as oil and gas operations. Oil and gas operations lead the list of industry sectors the EPA says may be handling PFAS chemicals, according to the Guardian analysis.

    In July, a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility presented evidence that oil and gas companies have been using PFAS, or substances that can degrade into PFAS, in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a technique used to extract natural gas or oil…

    The EPA said in 2019 that it was compiling data to create a map of “known or potential PFAS contamination sources” to help “assess environmental trends in PFAS concentrations” and aid local authorities in oversight. But no such map has yet been issued publicly…

    The new data set shows a total count of 122,181 separate facilities after adjustments for duplications and errors in listed locations, and incorporation and analysis of additional EPA identifying information. The EPA facility list was provided to the Guardian by the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), which received it from the EPA through a Freedom of Information request. (Peer is currently representing four EPA scientists who have requested a federal inquiry into what they allege is an EPA practice of ignoring or covering up the risks of certain dangerous chemicals.)

    #Durango: Acid Mine Nation Day — A #GoldKingMine Spill Retrospective, September 26, 2021

    #Colorado health officials hopeful after #Arizona court rejects Trump-era Clean Water Act rules — @WaterEdCO #DirtyWaterRule #WOTUS

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Credit: Jerd Smith

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Colorado state health officials said they’re hopeful a recent federal court ruling that effectively overturned Trump-era rules reducing oversight of Western rivers and streams will allow states to revert back to a more protective standard.

    “We are aware of Arizona’s court decision and are following what it means for other states, especially arid states such as Colorado. We are hopeful the Arizona ruling will apply nationwide because it has the potential to allow states to revert back to standards that protected our state waters more,” said Trisha Oeth via email.

    Oeth, who is the environmental health and protection policy director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), also said the state understood the need to ensure that more certainty regarding the regulations was critical to protect all the interest groups affected by them.

    The Trump rule sought to overturn Obama Administration rules that expanded the scope of the Clean Water Act. But Aug. 30, the Arizona court rejected it, saying it harmed streams in Western states and ignored important science. It has directed regulators across the country to use a set of rules developed prior to the Obama Administration’s actions until the Biden Administration can develop new regulations.

    Since 2019, when the Trump-era rule was finalized, the CDPHE has been working, without success, on a proposed permitting program that lawmakers would have to approve. The permitting program would have covered streams and rivers left unprotected by the Trump rule. The so-called dredge-and-fill permits proposed by the state would be required when activities such as road and home building affect streams no longer covered by the Trump rule.

    But farm interests, developers and contractors remain concerned that the Clean Water Act (CWA) rule, known as the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, will remain mired in legal battles and regulatory uncertainty, delaying projects and raising their costs.

    “It’s a big fear of ours,” said Zach Riley, the Colorado Farm Bureau’s director of public policy. The organization, which has 23,000 members, had supported the narrower WOTUS rule.

    The political seesaw has been going on for decades with the CWA legally hamstrung over murky definitions about which waterways fall under its jurisdiction, which wetlands must be regulated, what kinds of dredge-and-fill work in waterways should be permitted, what authority the CWA has over activities on farms and Western irrigation ditches.

    Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, the CWA is credited with making U.S. waters some of the cleanest in the world. But it has also been difficult to administer, in part because the country is home to widely different geographies and because of numerous court cases that have altered how it is interpreted by different presidential administrations.

    Western states have been particularly concerned because in the Midwest and East, for instance, major rivers that carry barge and shipping traffic are clearly “navigable,” the term early courts used to determine how water would be regulated. If a stream was navigable, it was subject to federal law.

    But Colorado and other Western states rely on shallow streams that often don’t flow year round and don’t carry traditional commercial traffic. Over the years many of those streams too became protected by the Clean Water Act.

    The Trump administration’s WOTUS rule, however, excluded them, saying that only navigable streams would be regulated, meaning that thousands of miles of streams in Colorado and other Western states that don’t flow year round or carry commercial shipping traffic would no longer have been protected.

    Whether Colorado can or should craft a new permitting regulation that will remove it from the political back-and-forth that has dogged WOTUS and provide industry and environmental groups with more certainty isn’t clear yet.

    The CDPHE has not yet said what it plans to do, saying it is still analyzing the Arizona decision.

    “At the state level, it will be interesting,” said Alex Funk, senior counsel and director of water with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which has advocated for a new state permitting program. “We’re still supportive of a state program to get out of this habit of having new WOTUS rules every four years…we need something that will survive at the federal level.”

    Still others want the CDPHE to take a breather, to wait and see how the EPA and other agencies interpret this latest ruling before trying to create a new state regulation.

    “Given the pace of change and the multiple rounds of litigation, the state could take more time to discuss what’s needed,” said Gabe Racz, an attorney who represents water utilities and industry at the Colorado Water Congress.

    And Racz said he believes there is a chance that the Biden Administration will be able to craft new rules that can endure at the federal level, regardless of who is in the White House.

    “The Biden Administration announced they planned to develop a durable rule. I’m hopeful. That’s a step in the right direction,” Racz said.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    EPA Announces First Validated Laboratory Method to Test for #PFAS in #Wastewater, Surface #Water, #Groundwater, Soils

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), published a draft of the first EPA-validated laboratory analytical method to test for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in eight different environmental media, including wastewater, surface water, groundwater, and soils. This method provides certainty and consistency and advances PFAS monitoring that is essential to protecting public health.

    “This new testing method advances the science and our understanding of PFAS in the environment, so we can better protect people from exposure,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This illustrates the progress we can make when working with federal partners in an all of government approach. I want to thank the Department of Defense for its leadership on this issue and for working with us to achieve this important milestone.”

    A partnership between EPA and the Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program has produced draft Method 1633, a single-laboratory validated method to test for 40 PFAS compounds in wastewater, surface water, groundwater, soil, biosolids, sediment, landfill leachate, and fish tissue. Until now, regulated entities and environmental laboratories relied upon modified EPA methods or in-house laboratory standard operating procedures to analyze PFAS in these settings. With the support of the agency’s Council on PFAS, EPA and DoD will continue to collaborate to complete a multi-laboratory validation study of the method in 2022.

    “This is one of many examples of strong EPA – DoD Collaboration on issues of national importance. Currently the Department is working with EPA, other federal agencies, academic institutions, and industry on over 130 PFAS-related research efforts, and we expect further progress in the future,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment and Energy Resilience Richard Kidd.

    This draft method can be used in various applications, including National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. The method will support NPDES implementation by providing a consistent PFAS method that has been tested in a wide variety of wastewaters and contains all the required quality control procedures for a Clean Water Act (CWA) method. While the method is not nationally required for CWA compliance monitoring until EPA has promulgated it through rulemaking, it is recommended now for use in individual permits.

    Draft Method 1633 complements existing validated methods to test for PFAS in drinking water and non-potable water.

    For more information on CWA Analytical Methods for PFAS, visit:
    https://www.epa.gov/cwa-methods/cwa-analytical-methods-and-polyfluorinated-alkyl-substances-pfas.

    For Frequent Questions about PFAS Methods for NPDES Permits, visit:
    https://www.epa.gov/cwa-methods/frequent-questions-about-pfas-methods-npdes-permits.

    Background:

    Draft Method 1633 complements existing Safe Drinking Water Act methods to test for 29 PFAS compounds in drinking water and a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act method for 24 PFAS compounds in non-potable water.

    EPA publishes laboratory analytical methods (test procedures) that are used by industries, municipalities, researchers, regulatory authorities and other stakeholders to analyze the chemical, physical, and biological components of wastewater and other environmental samples. EPA regularly publishes methods for CWA compliance monitoring on its CWA Methods website. Doing so does not impose any national requirements to use the method. Only after EPA promulgates a CWA analytical method through rulemaking (at 40 CFR Part 136) does it become nationally required for use in NPDES permit applications and permits.

    The work the agency is doing to provide new laboratory analytical methods reflects the work that the EPA Council on PFAS is undertaking to support federal, state, local, and Tribal efforts to protect all communities from the harmful impacts of PFAS contamination.

    Toxic Threat The military polluted #NewMexico waters and soils with #PFAS and is fighting against cleanup of the “forever problem” — The #SantaFe Reporter

    Release of firefighting foam. PFAS are substances found in firefighting foams and protective gear, as well as many household products, like pizza boxes and rain jackets. Graphic credit: ITRC

    Here’s an in-depth report from Laura Paskus that’s running in The Santa Fe Reporter. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Today, we know the [firefighting] foam contained toxic chemicals responsible for polluting the water around hundreds of military bases nationwide, including Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases in New Mexico. And the toxic chemicals are present in the drinking water of millions of Americans…

    Over the years, [Kevin] Ferrara has learned that the military knew Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) was dangerous—and so did the companies that manufactured it. But without federal regulations that set drinking water standards or hazardous waste limits, states like New Mexico still can’t hold the Pentagon accountable for the pollution that has crept from the bases into the wells of local residents and businesses. Meanwhile, military firefighters like Ferrara wonder what’s happening within their own bodies—and the bodies of those whose water they polluted.

    In the waning days of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) was grappling with a problem. A “forever” problem, as it turns out.

    Contractors hired by the military were investigating whether AFFF used at the state’s three Air Force bases had contaminated groundwater with PFAS.

    In an August 2018 conference call, Air Force officials told state officials that PFAS had been found in wells at Cannon Air Force Base at concentrations above the US Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. Further studies showed the levels exceed 26,000 parts per trillion—more than 370 times that EPA health advisory—and that PFAS was also in off-base wells that supply homes and dairies in Clovis.

    In October, NMED, the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture publicly announced the presence of the contamination on and off the base. They advised private well-owners within a 4-mile radius of the base to use bottled water. NMED issued a notice of violation against the Air Force for breaking state regulations. The agency issued “corrective action permits” with cleanup mandates for the military’s state permits.

    But in January 2019, just after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took office, the US Department of Defense sued New Mexico, challenging the state’s authority to mandate cleanup.

    And although the state made no announcements nor issued any corrective actions, a report the Air Force submitted to NMED during the Martinez administration showed that groundwater samples of PFAS at Holloman Air Force Base were as high as 1.294 million parts per trillion. In February 2019, NMED issued a notice of violation against the Air Force over Holloman, too.

    The following month, in March 2019, New Mexico filed its own lawsuit, asking a federal judge to compel the Air Force to act on, and pay for, cleanup at Cannon and Holloman.

    But that hasn’t worked out as planned.

    “We wanted action quickly. When that wasn’t available, or that wasn’t on the table, that’s when we litigated,” NMED Secretary James Kenney says in an interview.

    The lawsuit has been lumped in with hundreds of other PFAS-related lawsuits. One court in South Carolina now oversees all cases regarding PFAS and the military’s use of the AFFF—more than 750 separate actions.

    Even though New Mexico has tried to extricate itself from the multidistrict litigation, hoping to pursue its case against the Air Force without being tied to those hundreds of other cases, a judge has denied that request. And in June, the Biden administration’s Defense Department called New Mexico’s attempts to compel cleanup under state permits “arbitrary and capricious.”

    In summary, three years after the Air Force notified New Mexico of the PFAS pollution, there are no clean-up plans in place at Cannon or Holloman, though earlier this year, Cannon announced an on-base pilot project to test the best ways to remove PFAS from water. And even though the military knows when, why and how the contamination happened, it has sued New Mexico to say the state can’t make it clean up the problem.

    Meanwhile, state Environment Sec. Kenney says the EPA needs to set federal pollution standards for the toxic substances.

    In 2016, the EPA established a lifetime health advisory for two types of PFAS found in firefighting foams, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). But that advisory of 70 parts per trillion isn’t a regulatory limit. That means states like New Mexico don’t have any legal tools to require that polluters like the military clean up PFAS.

    EPA Identifies Drinking Water Contaminants for Potential Regulation

    Release of firefighting foam. PFAS are substances found in firefighting foams and protective gear, as well as many household products, like pizza boxes and rain jackets. Graphic credit: ITRC

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    [July 12, 2021], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Draft Contaminant Candidate List 5 (CCL 5), which provides the latest list of drinking water contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems and are not currently subject to EPA drinking water regulations. As directed by the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA’s CCL 5 identifies priority contaminants to consider for potential regulation to ensure that public health is protected.

    “This important step will help ensure that communities across the nation have safe water by improving EPA’s understanding of contaminants in drinking water,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “On PFAS, the agency is working with the scientific community to prioritize the assessment and regulatory evaluation of all chemicals as contaminants.”

    The Draft CCL 5 includes 66 individual chemicals,12 microbes, and three chemical groups – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), cyanotoxins, and disinfection byproducts (DBPs). These contaminants have been identified as agency priorities and contaminants of concern for drinking water. PFAS are proposed as a group, with the exception of PFOA and PFOS because the agency is moving forward with national primary drinking water standards for these two contaminants. This action is in keeping with the agency’s commitment to better understand and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by PFAS.

    CCL 5 was developed under an improved process that included new approaches to rapidly screen a significantly larger number of contaminants, prioritizing data most relevant to drinking water exposure and the potential for the greatest public health concern, and better consideration for sensitive populations and children. EPA continues to collect data and to encourage further research on the listed contaminants to better understand potential health effects from drinking water exposure before making any regulatory determinations.

    EPA plans to consult with the Science Advisory Board (SAB) on the Draft CCL 5 in the fall of 2021. The agency will consider public comments and SAB feedback in developing the Final CCL 5, which is expected to be published in July 2022. After a final CCL is published, the agency will undertake a separate regulatory determination process to determine whether or not to regulate contaminants from the CCL.

    EPA is seeking comment on the Draft CCL 5 for 60 days after this action publishes in the Federal Register. For more information, visit: https://www.epa.gov/ccl/contaminant-candidate-list-5-ccl-5.

    Background

    Developing the CCL is the first step under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in potentially regulating drinking water contaminants. SDWA requires EPA to publish a list of currently unregulated contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems and that may require regulation. EPA must publish a CCL every five years. The CCL does not create or impose regulatory burden on public water systems or state, local, or Tribal governments. EPA has completed four rounds of CCLs since 1996. The last cycle of CCL, CCL 4, was published in November 2016. EPA began the development of the CCL 5 in 2018 by asking the public to nominate chemicals, microbes, or other materials for consideration for the CCL 5. The agency received 89 nominations and evaluated the nominated contaminants and other contaminant data and information in developing the Draft CCL 5.

    Recruitment for large-scale ‘forever chemical’ study starts in #Fountain soon — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette #PFAS

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):

    Recruitment for a large-scale study on the health effects of “forever chemicals” will start in the Fountain Valley this month and its results could help set federal limits on the chemicals in drinking water.

    The work is part of the second large-scale study in the country to examine exposure to perfluorinated compounds — a family of manmade chemicals that linger in the body and have earned the nickname “forever chemicals” — and the health risks they pose.

    The first large-scale study was done 15 years ago in Ohio and West Virginia and found probable links between the chemicals and conditions including high cholesterol, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancers, said epidemiology professor Anne Starling, with the University of Colorado.

    This study through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is set to investigate health effects of the chemicals including impacts to the immune system, kidneys, liver and thyroid. It will also help determine if the chemicals change neurobehavioral outcomes in children trough tests of their attention, memory and learning abilities. The study was expected to begin last fall but it was delayed by the pandemic, Starling said.

    Researchers plan to study 7,000 adults and 2,100 children exposed to perfluorinated compounds across seven states, including 1,000 adults and 300 children 4 and older in the Fountain Valley…

    The study will also be the first to include people with high levels of a chemical found in firefighting foam in their blood, Starling said.

    Firefighting foam from used by the military at Peterson Air Force Base contaminated the aquifer that residents in Widefield, Security and Fountain used for drinking water, studies have determined. After the contamination was found in 2016, drinking water providers for all three communities worked to ensure the water was safe. Since then, the Air Force has paid $41 million for three new water treatment plants to bring the level of chemicals down to nondetectable levels.

    Researchers will take one-time blood and urine samples to help determine how the chemicals may have affected residents’ kidneys, liver and sex hormones, among other bodily functions. It will not examine whether the chemicals cause cancer.

    The urine samples will likely be more indicative of forever-chemicals residents have recently been exposed to, Starling said…

    The tests and residential histories should allow researchers to estimate the cumulative lifetime exposure residents have had to the chemicals, according to a news release.

    The work will also examine the neurobehavioral effect of the chemicals in children because some smaller studies have suggested that exposure to the forever chemicals early in life may affect children’s development and response to vaccines, but the connection is not yet well established, she said.

    The researchers plan to have children complete puzzles and problem-solving tasks, similar to activities they might do in school, as part of the study, she said…

    The neurobehavioral tests will not diagnose problems in individual children, she said.

    The upcoming study expects to build on a recent study of 220 residents in the Fountain Valley that found the median level of a chemical specific to firefighting foam in residents was 10 times higher than the national median. Some residents had levels of the chemical that were much higher, said Colorado School of Mines Professor Christopher Higgins, a lead researcher on the study…

    Scientists don’t know whether the chemical specific to the foam is more or less dangerous than other forever chemicals, Starling said.

    The levels of chemicals in residents seem to be dropping and that may be good if some of the health effects are reversible. But some people may still be experiencing long-term health effects…

    Study participants will receive individual test results that could be shared with their doctor. The test results may not indicate a problem, but more and more doctors are becoming aware of the potential health effects of forever-chemical exposure, Starling said.

    In the long-term, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academies of Science could use results from this study to help set enforceable limits on water contamination. No federal maximum limits on forever chemical contamination of drinking water exist, she said.

    Recruitment for the study is expected to start later this month and researchers have set up an office in Fountain to meet with residents. Data collection could take 12 to 18 months. The entire study could be completed in 2024, although researchers should have results to share before that, Starling said.

    Those interested in participating in the study can find more information at http://co-scope.org. Those interested in participating can email coscope@cuanschutz.edu or call (719) 425-8828.

    #Monument purchasing treatment system to remove radium #water #pollution — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette #groundwater

    Denver Basin Aquifer System graphic credit USGS.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):

    Monument is planning to install a new water treatment system in the coming months that will remove radium from one of its wells allowing it to start serving the town again.

    The town expects to spend about $1.5 million on the new water treatment system, an associated building and lab space. The work will expand an existing facility at Second Street and Beacon Lite Road, said Tom Tharnish, Monument’s public works director.

    Extended exposure to radium, a naturally occurring element and common along the Front Range, can cause cancer and other health problems over time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency…

    The problem was discovered in the city’s 9th well about four years ago and no unsafe levels of radium ever reached residents’ taps. Monument’s engineers designed a system that diluted the radium to safe levels, but that proved to be only a temporary fix. The well was shut down late last year while the town worked on a more permanent solution, Tharnish said.

    The new filtration system will employ a resin that will filter out the radium at the end of the water treatment process, he said…

    The new technology will also come with ongoing maintenance costs. The resin will need to be replaced every year to 18 months and will require between $18,000 to $20,000, Tharnish said…

    Monument’s board of trustees approved drilling a 10th well in November to help offset the loss of water from the well that had to be shut off because of radium pollution. The work was expected to cost $624,975. The new well is expected to be in production next week, Tharnish said.

    The community is also seeking additional water rights, so that it doesn’t need to rely as heavily on its groundwater, Wilson said.

    Unclear waters: How pollution, diversions and #drought are squeezing the life out of the lower #ArkansasRiver Valley — The #Denver Post

    This view is from the top of John Martin Dam facing west over the body of the reservoir. The content of the reservoir in this picture was approximately 45,000 acre-feet (March 2014). By Jaywm – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37682336

    From The Denver Post (RJ Sangosti):

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit promises to bring clean drinking water to more residents of southeast Colorado

    n the 1940s, the Arkansas River was dammed south of town to build [John Martin Reservoir], a place locals call the Sapphire on the Plains. The reservoir was tied up in a 40-year battle until Colorado and Kansas came to an agreement, in 2019, to provide an additional water source to help keep the levels high enough for recreation and to support fish.

    Forty years may seem like a long time to develop a plan to save fish and improve water levels for a reservoir, but southeastern Colorado is used to long fights when it comes to water…

    Arkansas Valley Conduit map via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka) June 2021.

    For nearly a century, leaders in southeastern Colorado have worked on plans to bring clean drinking water to the area through the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, but progress on the pipeline project stalled after a major push in the 1960s. Pollution, water transfers and years of worsening drought amid a warming climate continue to build stress for water systems in the area. Adding to that, the area continues to see population decline combined with a struggling economy.

    The water needed for the conduit will be sourced from melting snowpack in the Mosquito and Sawatch mountain ranges [ed. and Colorado River Basin]. Under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, passed in the early 1960s, the water has been allocated for usage in the Lower Arkansas Valley. The water will be stored at Pueblo Reservoir and travel through existing infrastructure to east Pueblo near the airport. From there, the conduit will tie into nearly 230 miles of pipeline to feed water to 40 communities in need.

    Renewed plans to build a pipeline to deliver clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley are bringing hope for many people in southeastern Colorado. But in an area that is inextricably linked to its water, the future can seem unclear…

    “Deliver on that promise”

    “It was nearly 100 years ago, in the 1930s, that the residents of southeast Colorado recognized that the water quality in the lower valley of the Arkansas River was quite poor,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and a former Bent County commissioner.

    Water systems in the district, which includes Pueblo, Crowley, Bent, Prowers, Kiowa and Otero counties, have two main issues affecting drinking water.

    The first is that a majority of those systems rely on alluvial groundwater, which can have a high level of dissolved solids. This can include selenium, sulfate, manganese and uranium, which are linked to human health concerns.

    Second, the remaining systems in the water district rely on the Dakota-Cheyenne bedrock aquifer that can be affected by naturally occurring radionuclides. Radium and other radionuclides in the underlying geologic rock formation can dissolve into the water table and then be present in drinking water wells, also carrying health risks.

    John F. Kennedy at Commemoration of Fryingpan Arkansas Project in Pueblo, circa 1962.

    In 1962, residents in southeastern Colorado thought President John F. Kennedy was delivering a solution to their drinking water problem during a ceremony in Pueblo. Congress had passed the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, and Kennedy came to Pueblo to authorize the construction of a pipeline to deliver clean drinking water…

    Residents of the 1930s began working on ideas to deliver clean drinking water to southeastern Colorado. By the 1950s, they were selling gold frying pans to raise money to send backers to Washington, D.C., to encourage Congress to pass the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act. But it wasn’t until 1962 that the pipeline authorization became a reality.

    Fast forward 58 years, and two more politicians came to Pueblo to address a crowd about the same pipeline project. This time, on Oct. 3, 2020, it was at the base of Pueblo Dam. Because of funding shortfalls, the Arkansas Valley Conduit was never built after it was authorized in 1962.

    The Colorado communities could not afford to cover 100% of the costs, as initially required, so in 2009, the act was amended to include a 65% federal share and a 35% local cost share. Additionally, in 2020, Congress appropriated $28 million more toward the project, according to the water conservancy district.

    That October day, Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner took turns talking about the importance of the project. They told a small crowd that when the pipeline is built, it will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 residents in southeastern Colorado…

    The water conservancy district estimates the pipeline project’s cost will range from $546 million to $610 million…

    Physical construction of the pipeline won’t start until 2022, according to the water district…

    “The solution to pollution Is dilution”

    A hand-painted sign with stenciled letters welcomes travelers on Highway 96 into Olney Springs. The highway cuts across four blocks that make up the width of the small town with around 340 residents.

    Olney Springs is one of six water systems in Crowley County that plans to have a delivery point, known as a spur, on the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The plans for the pipeline call for two spurs in Pueblo County, three in both Bent and Prowers counties, and one in Kiowa County. Out of the 40 total participants, the remaining 25 are in Otero County…

    Located along the Arkansas River about 70 miles east of Pueblo, La Junta is the largest municipality in Otero County. With its population around 7,000 and a Walmart Supercenter, a Holiday Inn Express and Sonic Drive-In, La Junta can feel like a metropolis when compared to Olney Springs.

    La Junta is one of two Arkansas Valley Conduit participants, along with Las Animas, that uses reverse osmosis to remove potentially harmful and naturally occurring toxins from the water. Reverse osmosis is a process that uses pressure to push water through a membrane to remove contaminants. According to the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Arkansas Valley Conduit Environmental Impact Statement, reverse osmosis can treat source water to meet standards, but the brine from the process “is an environmental concern, and operation costs are high.”

    The other participants use conventional methods to treat water. The environmental impact statement said those methods can be as simple as adding chlorine for disinfection and filtration or adding chemicals to remove suspended solids, but that those treatments “…cannot remove salt or radionuclides from water.”

    Tom Seaba, director of water and wastewater for La Junta, said out of a total of 24 water districts in Otero County, 19 were in violation with the state due to elevated levels of radionuclide.

    Four of the 19 came into compliance with the state’s drinking water standards after La Junta brought them onto its water system. The remaining 15 are still in violation with the state, according to Seaba.

    La Junta spent $18.5 million to build a wastewater treatment plant that came online in 2019 to help meet water standards for its community. But the city’s water treatment came with its own issue: selenium.

    After La Junta treats its water using reverse osmosis, the water system is left with a concentrate, which is safe drinking water. However, it’s also left with a waste stream high in selenium. “That wastewater has to go somewhere,” Seaba said. It goes to the city’s new wastewater treatment plant…

    According to the environmental impact statement, “La Junta’s wastewater discharge makes up about 1.5% of average annual flow in the Arkansas River.” The study goes on to say that during drought or low-flow events, the wastewater discharge can contribute up to half of the streamflow downstream from the gage.

    Seaba is looking to the Arkansas Valley Conduit as a possible answer. “The solution to pollution is dilution,” he said. The water from the pipeline will not have a selenium problem, Seaba explained. By blending water from the conduit with the selenium waste from reverse osmosis, La Junta hopes to reduce costs and stay compliant with Environmental Protection Agency standards to discharge into the river.

    The environmental review studied a section of the Arkansas River from where Fountain Creek runs into the river east to the Kansas border. The study found that a section of the river was impaired by selenium…

    “I sure don’t drink it”

    The EPA sets a maximum contaminant level in drinking water at 5 picocuries per liter of air for combined radium and 30 micrograms per liter for combined uranium. If contaminant levels are above those numbers, the water system is in violation of drinking water regulations, which the state enforces.

    According to data provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Patterson Valley Water Company in Otero County, one of the 40 pipeline participants, had the highest result of 31 picocuries per liter for combined radium in 2020. In that same county, Rocky Ford, another pipeline participant, had a high result of 0.2 picocuries per liter for combined radium. According to the state health department, Rocky Ford’s combined radium sample numbers were last recorded in 2013.

    Manzanola, also in Otero County and a pipeline participant, topped the list with the highest result of 42 micrograms per liter for combined uranium in 2020. In contrast, 19 other pipeline participants, from across the valley, had results of 0 micrograms per liter for combined uranium, according to the most recent numbers from the state health department.

    Levels of the two carcinogens are sporadic throughout the valley. The average of the highest results of all 40 participants in the pipeline for combined radium is roughly 8 picocuries per liter and combined uranium is roughly 5 micrograms per liter. According to Seaba, averaging the members’ highest results might seem unfair to some individual water systems because it brings their numbers up, but what those averages do show is that water in Pueblo Reservoir, which will feed the future conduit, is approximately three times less affected by combined radium and combined uranium than the average of current water used by pipeline participants. In 2020, the highest result of combined radium in the Pueblo Reservoir was 2.52 picocuries per liter, and the highest result of combined uranium was 1.7 micrograms per liter…

    “I sure don’t drink it,” said Manny Rodriquez. “I don’t think anybody in town drinks the water.”

    Rodriquez, who grew up in and still lives in Rocky Ford, was not sure if the water at his apartment was in violation of the state’s clean drinking water act or not. State data showed at that time his water was not in violation. Colorado is required to notify residents if their water system is in violation of the clean drinking water act…

    MaryAnn Nason, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, used an example to show how violations can add up: “If a public water system has two entry points that fail for both combined radium and gross alpha (measures of radionuclides), and they have those same violations for 10 years each quarter, that is going to appear as 160 violations on the website. But really, it is one naturally occurring situation that exists for a relatively long time,” Nason said.

    For some residents like Ruby Lucero, 83, it makes little difference to her if her water is in violation with the state or not. She plans to buy her drinking water no matter what the results say about her tap water…

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    “The struggling farmer”

    In the past decade, Otero County has seen a 2.9% drop in population. Residents have a ballpark difference of $38,000 in the median household income compared to the rest of the state, and the county is not alone. All six counties that are part of current plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit are seeing economic hard times.

    Adding to those factors is drought. Years of drought keep hitting the area’s No. 1 industry: agriculture.

    The Rocky Ford Ditch’s water rights date back to 1874, making them some of the most senior water rights in the Arkansas River system. In the early 1980s, Aurora was able to buy a majority of those water rights. Over time, Aurora acquired more shares and has converted them to municipal use…

    “We still have a heavy lift before us”

    Planned off the main trunk of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a pump station near Wiley will push water along a spur to support Eads in Kiowa County. Water that ends up in Eads will have traveled the longest distance of the pipeline project. The majority of the pipeline will be gravity-fed, but this section will need to be pumped uphill.

    The journey is a good representation of Eads’ battle with water. Not only is clean drinking water needed, but the area is also desperate for relief from years of drought exacerbated by climate change…

    Long said that Eads is different from a majority of the other participants in the project because it is not located along the Arkansas River…

    The domestic water that will be delivered via the conduit is even more important for a town like Eads, said Long. “It’s very difficult to attract new industry when you have a limited supply of very poor water.”

    Long believes the conduit will make a huge difference to support communities in the Lower Arkansas River Valley…

    Long has been working on the Arkansas Valley Conduit project for nearly 18 years.

    “After such a long fight, to finally be where we are feels good, but honestly I can say it doesn’t feel as good as I thought it would. Only because I know we have so much work still to do, and I know how difficult the past 18 years have been,” Long said. “We still have a heavy lift before us.”

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

    EPA to repeal Trump-era water rule — The #Taos News #dirtywaterrule

    New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via Geology.com.

    From The Santa Fe New Mexican (Scott Wyland) via The Taos News:

    U.S. regulators aim to repeal a contentious Trump-era rule that stirred fierce opposition from conservationists and many New Mexico leaders because it removed most of the state’s water from federal protection.

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s head said the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had determined the rule was causing substantial harm to water bodies and pointed to New Mexico and Arizona as among the states most affected.

    The current rule, which has spurred a string of lawsuits, only protects waterways that flow year-round or seasonally and connect to another body of water.

    It excludes as “ephemeral” storm-generated streams as well as tributaries that don’t flow continuously to another water body – disqualifying most of New Mexico’s waters. Unregulated storm runoff can carry contaminants into rivers used for drinking water, conservationists say.

    Water advocates see the announced change as an encouraging move, but warned it will take time to repeal and replace the rule…

    After the EPA states its intention to scrap “the dirty water rule” in the Federal Register, a 30-day public comment period will follow and then the agency can work to repeal it, said Rachel Conn, projects director for Taos-based Amigos Bravos.

    Establishing a new rule will take considerably more time, Conn said, but in the meantime it’s crucial to get rid of a standard that is leaving most of New Mexico’s waters unprotected…

    Conn and other critics of the current rule have worried it would nix the EPA’s oversight of heavily polluted runoff from Los Alamos County into the Río Grande – a prime source of drinking water – and that it might disqualify the Gila River from protection because that waterway runs dry before reaching the Colorado River.

    “After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

    The lack of protections is especially significant in arid states such as New Mexico and Arizona, where nearly every one of over 1,500 streams has been found to be outside federal jurisdiction, the EPA said in a news release.

    Regan said the agency is committed to creating a “durable definition” of U.S. waters based on Supreme Court precedents, learning from past regulations and getting input from a variety of interested parties. The agency also will consider the impacts of climate change, he said…

    New Mexico is one of just three states that has no authority from the EPA to regulate discharges of pollution into rivers, streams and lakes under the Clean Water Act, which leaves it at the mercy of whomever is in the White House, Conn said…

    If the rule is repealed, the regulations will revert to more stringent ones enacted in 1987, said Charles de Saillan, staff attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center…

    Congress should intervene and create well-defined and permanent updates to the Clean Water Act to stop the political seesawing that happens every change of administration, de Saillan said.

    Congressional action would be much better than having the U.S. Supreme Court make rulings on it, de Saillan said. The last high court decision on which waters merited federal protection was ambiguous, causing more confusion and legal battles, he said.

    Waterways get a break as #Colorado refuses to ease rules for how much pollution gets discharged to rivers and streams — The Colorado Sun

    The Suncor refinery in Commerce City is pictured on Sand Creek near where it meets the South Platte River. Both streams have highly challenged water quality, though many conservationists argue they can get still better. Photo credit: Suncor

    From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

    Members of the Water Quality Control Commission said they were shocked by the blowback to a proposed change that would have made it easier for industry, utilities to send more pollution downstream.

    The state Water Quality Control Commission has delayed for at least a decade a controversial proposal that would have allowed further degradation of Colorado waters already challenged by pollution

    In a scheduled review of the state’s “antidegradation” provision — a key to the federal Clean Water Act — some on the commission had sought to broaden chances for industries to discharge more pollutants into streams already considered heavily impacted by historic degradation. The rule currently in place says polluters must make a compelling argument that worsening the conditions of a stretch of river is unavoidable in creating economic growth for a community.

    Colorado waters are divided into three categories: “outstanding” waters, where no degradation can be permitted; “reviewable,” meaning degradation is only allowed if there is no other way for the economic activity to move forward; and “use protected,” where industrial or city dischargers can degrade existing water quality in heavily impacted streams in order to maintain or expand their operations.

    Conservation groups and multiple local and state officials argued last week that the commission’s proposed change would have allowed many more Colorado streams to fall under “use protected,” even when the entity seeking higher pollution permits was the one responsible for historic pollution.

    Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District Hite plant outfall via South Platte Coalition for Urban River Evaluation

    Heavy industrial users, such as Metro Wastewater Reclamation, which treats all metro area sewage, could have used the opening to say they didn’t need to further clean up their discharge.

    Citing the intense blowback against the proposed change by dozens of conservation and community groups testifying earlier in the week, the commission late Friday said current protections would stay in place until at least 2031.

    “The decision comes after extensive stakeholder engagement with the EPA, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, environmentalists and regulated entities, and it maintains the regulations as they are for the time being,” the state Water Quality Control Division said in a statement…

    Coors Brewery in Golden Colorado. Photo credit: Molson Coors via Westword

    Opponents of the change said it would open the door for existing permitted polluters such as Molson Coors, Suncor and Metro Wastewater to discharge more pollutants if they could show the water was already degraded beyond a chance for improvement. The industries could have asked for the leeway even if they were the ones whose waste had previously damaged streams, such as on the South Platte River through Adams County. In that stretch of river, discharge from Metro Wastewater’s treatment facility makes up most of the stream volume for much of the year.

    Groups testifying against the change ranged from Adams County commissioners to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, to Trout Unlimited and Green Latinos. Industrial dischargers, meanwhile, had argued in submitted filings that their use of waters supported important economic interests for communities, and that some heavily used Colorado streams simply won’t support more aquatic life than they already do…

    Conservation groups did not get the relief on Friday that they’d sought since a 2020 commission decision declining to upgrade protections for urban stretches of the South Platte River and Clear Creek, which flows past the Molson Coors plant. They said they will continue to seek ways to tighten down on pollution discharges into those waters and give them a chance to recover further.

    “Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Friday criticized a lawsuit filed by 3M Corp. against the state to challenge its strict drinking water standards related to #PFAS chemicals” — The #Detroit News

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

    From The Detroit News (Leonard N. Fleming):

    The Minnesota-based company recently filed suit in Michigan Court of Claims against the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and its drinking water standards adopted last year. 3M called them “the result of a rushed and invalid regulatory process, scientifically flawed, and reliant on speculative and unquantified purported benefits to justify the costly” rules.

    Nessel said the suit is a way for 3M officials to go after the limits for PFAS compounds in drinking water. 3M officials in their suit contend the cleanup efforts will cost millions of dollars in the first year and would continue to climb.

    Michigan’s attorney general has sued 3M, along with other PFAS manufacturers, to recover clean up costs, damages to the environment and natural resource damages caused by PFAS contamination. State officials have contended that many of 3M’s products with PFAS ended up contaminating the environment that include land, drinking water and other natural resources.

    “3M profited for years from its sale of PFAS products and concealed its evidence of adverse health impacts from state and federal regulators,” Nessel said in a statement. “It is no coincidence that this out-of-state company is resorting to attempts to rewrite our state’s standards put in place to protect Michiganders from PFAS in their drinking water.

    Water treatment plants that will remove ‘forever chemicals’ from El Paso County water nearing completion — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette #PFAS

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):

    Three new water treatment plants in Fountain, Security and Widefield needed to remove toxic “forever chemicals” from the groundwater, carrying a heavy price tag of $41 million, are nearing completion.

    The plant in Widefield was finished in February, the Security plant is expected to be operational this week and the Fountain plant is expected to be complete in June, following a pause in construction that lasted more than a month, officials with each district said.

    Construction of the Fountain plant was halted because the supplier of critical piping for the plant could not provide it, said Dan Blankenship, utilities director for Fountain, adding that the supplier’s work was delayed by the coronavirus. In a written statement the Air Force Civil Engineer Center said work on the $7 million plant in Fountain is expected to resume May 3. The other two plants are expected to cost a combined $34 million, the statement said.

    The Air Force is paying for the water treatment plants that will remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from groundwater because investigations showed the contamination came from Peterson Air Force Base, where firefighters used a foam rich in one of those compounds for decades to put out aircraft fires…

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    Water providers stopped using the groundwater after the contamination was discovered in 2015 and 2016, and studies are still ongoing to learn about the long-term health consequences of the contamination. The compounds’ ability to stay in the body led to their nickname “forever chemicals.”

    Encouraging results from one of the studies conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines showed that the amount of chemicals in blood samples taken from 53 exposed residents dropped from 2018 to 2019, according to a presentation of results. The median level of the chemical most closely associated with firefighting foam dropped 50% in the participants, results showed…

    The new treatment plants are meant to protect the public from additional exposure to the chemicals and allow the districts in some cases to return to using a key water source.

    In Security, the new plant was tested in December, and water samples showed it was removing problematic chemicals down to undetectable levels, said Roy Heald, general manager of the Security Water and Sanitation Districts.

    ‘Forever Chemicals’ Levels In #Frisco Drinking Water Would Be Illegal In Three Other States, Residents ‘Shocked’ — CBS #Denver #PFAS

    PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

    From CBS Denver (Kati Weis):

    A CBS4 Investigates analysis of public testing data has found levels of perfluoroalkyl substances – commonly known as forever chemicals – in Frisco’s drinking water would be considered too high in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York. The levels would also trigger further testing requirements in Michigan.

    Jessica Johnson, who lives and works in Frisco, said she was unaware of the elevated levels.

    “I was pretty shocked, honestly, to learn that the forever chemicals were in our water,” Johnson said. “It’s concerning for me; thyroid issues run in my family, so I don’t really want to do anything that would exacerbate that, because I’m sure it’s probably looming on the horizon for me anyway.”

    The Findings

    While there is no federal legal limit, the EPA recommends drinking water not have more than 70 parts per trillion of PFOA and PFOS combined, but some states say that’s not good enough, setting more stringent legal limits…

    State health department testing conducted last summer found Frisco’s drinking water had a level of 58.5 for the chemicals regulated in Massachusetts and Vermont, more than twice the legal limits in those states. The testing also found Frisco had a level of 11 parts per trillion of PFOS, which would be above the safe limit set in New York. Frisco’s PFOA level was only 6.2 part per trillion, but would require quarterly testing in Michigan…

    The Town of Frisco says right now, there’s no health concern, because the PFAS levels are below the EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion…

    Frisco spokesperson Vanessa Agee wrote in an email, “an interview with Frisco’s Water Division would do nothing to further your viewer’s understanding of PFAS or alert them to a health danger, which are in fact really admirable and helpful goals that we hope you have much success with, as it is vital that we have the facts and current understanding around this evolving research into PFAS and PFAS’ potential impacts on our health.”

    Asked why residents were not notified about the PFAS testing results, Agee wrote, “if there were a health concern, then the EPA and CDPHE would require individual notification of residents, and the Town would of course provide that notification swiftly because we authentically care about the health of our neighbors and friends, which is what Frisco’s residents are in this very close-knit community and county. The public would be very well served by understanding that the science around PFAS is evolving, understanding where that science is right now, and having knowledge about what is being done across Colorado and the country to better understand PFAS and their impact on health.”

    The state health department has also told CBS4 in a past interview that residents should not be concerned about the elevated levels, because they are below the health advisory, but that if residents are still concerned, they can look at purchasing a reverse osmosis filtration system for their home or bottled water…

    The Laws

    Currently, the state of Colorado has taken its own steps to begin regulating PFAS, for example, new state legislation has created a PFAS registry, so state officials know where industrial PFAS sources are located.

    But Josh Kuhn with Conservation Colorado says the centennial state should study the issue further and look at setting its own more stringent legal limits…

    What’s Next

    In the meantime, Agee says Frisco is in the process of conducting further testing in other areas of its water distribution system, including at the tap “to get a more comprehensive picture.”

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also says it’s in the process of developing a grant program to assist Frisco and other communities with additional testing.

    “The CDPHE grant program has not been launched yet so the Town Water Division is doing what it does best, providing safe and delicious water, while always striving to have a full understanding of the facts,” Agee said in an email to CBS4.

    The CDPHE says the testing will help officials determine what areas and private wells may be at risk for PFAS.

    One question remains: what is the source of the PFAS pollution in Frisco? PFAS can be found in a variety of household products, and even your clothes. The Environmental Working Group also found PFAS in cosmetics.

    The state health department is working to find an answer in Frisco, writing to CBS4, “we expect these (test) results to provide insight into where the chemicals may be coming from.”

    @EPA Releases Updated #PFBS Toxicity Assessment After Rigorous Scientific Review #PFAS

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    [On April 8, 2021] the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [release] an updated toxicity assessment for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), a member of a larger group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Today’s PFBS assessment is part of EPA’s commitment to restore scientific integrity to all of the agency’s actions and increase the amount of research and information available to the public on PFAS chemicals.

    “This PFBS assessment reflects the best available science, involved extensive federal, state, and public engagement, and is critical to EPA efforts to help communities impacted by PFAS,” said senior career scientist Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development and the agency’s Science Advisor. “The assessment posted today fixes the errors in the version issued earlier this year, was developed by EPA career scientists, and upholds the values of scientific integrity. I’m proud to release such an important assessment that will help EPA and communities take action to address PFAS and protect public health.”

    EPA, federal agencies, states, tribes, and local communities can use the PFBS toxicity assessment, along with specific exposure and other relevant information, to determine if and when it is necessary to take action to address potential health risks associated with human exposures to PFBS under appropriate regulations and statutes.

    The assessment released today has gone through all appropriate reviews, includes input EPA received from external peer review, upholds the tenants of scientific integrity, was authored by expert career scientists in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and has not been compromised by political staff – these were all issues with a version of the assessment that was posted during the previous administration. The release of today’s PFBS assessment upholds the integrity of EPA’s science, which EPA, states, tribes, and more rely on to make decisions that protect the health of their communities.

    For more information on PFAS: http://www.epa.gov/pfas.

    For more information on the updated PFBS toxicity assessment: https://www.epa.gov/pfas/learn-about-human-health-toxicity-assessment-pfbs.

    After Clean Water Act setback, state to ask lawmakers for new authority — @WaterEdCO #dirtywaterrule #WOTUS

    Ephemeral streams are streams that do not always flow. They are above the groundwater reservoir and appear after precipitation in the area. Via Socratic.org

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    For the second time in less than a year, state health officials plan to ask lawmakers to fast-track permitting authority over hundreds of miles of streams left unprotected after a 2020 Trump Administration rollback of federal Clean Water Act rules.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s move comes just weeks after a federal court denied Colorado’s effort to prevent the new federal rules from taking effect.

    The CDPHE is holding work group sessions and seeking public comment on a proposed bill that is likely to be introduced in the next two weeks, officials said. The CDPHE declined to comment for this article.

    Last May Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and won a temporary injunction against the new rules, which would have taken effect in June 2020. But a federal appeals court overturned that decision last month.

    As a result, the rules are set to take effect in Colorado April 23. Though many expect the Biden Administration to alter the new rules, once again, state health officials say an interim rule is needed to ensure the state has the permitting authority and the funds needed to protect streams.

    The CDPHE launched a similar effort last year, but a lack of support for that proposal caused the agency to withdraw it. Now agency officials say they will try again.

    Major water interests, such as the nonpartisan Colorado Water Congress, are closely watching the latest legislative effort.

    Colorado Water Congress Executive Director Doug Kemper said right now there is too much uncertainty around which streams and which activities will be overseen by federal and state agencies.

    “It’s a big deal right now because you don’t really know what activity is covered and what is exempted,” said Kemper. His group has not taken a position on the CDPHE’s initiative, in part because a formal bill has yet to be introduced.

    Environmentalists said it’s important that the state moves quickly to assume the permitting authority to protect streams and to allow millions of dollars in construction, dam and road projects to be properly reviewed and permitted.

    Industry groups, however, believe new legislation isn’t required right now because the state has some discretion to act already and because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees much of the work on federally protected streams, also has some discretionary authority to review and issue permits.

    “We’re concerned that the focus is solely on legislative options,” said John Kolanz, an attorney who represents the Colorado Stone, Sand and Gravel Association. He believes the state could make changes to its own rules, rather than enacting a new law.

    “We don’t think it’s advisable to rush through legislation and a complicated rulemaking by the end of the year,” Kolanz said during a public work group meeting hosted by the CDPHE Monday.

    Melinda Kassen, general counsel for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership who tracks water quality regulation, disagreed, saying the CDPHE must be given new legal authority quickly in order to adequately monitor and fund stream protection work over the next one to two years.

    “The biggest part of this legislation is getting some fees so that the [Colorado Water Quality Control] division can do its job and go out and see what’s happening on the ground,” Kassen said Monday.

    At issue is what’s known as the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. The rule was designed to classify which streams are subject to federal rules and which activities must obtain permits from the Army Corps to ensure those streams are protected even when they are disturbed by home and road building, construction of new storm water systems, and other activities.

    But WOTUS has been contested in courts for years over murky definitions about which waterways fall under its jurisdiction, which wetlands must be regulated, what kinds of dredge-and-fill work in waterways should be permitted, what authority the CWA has over activities on farms and Western irrigation ditches, and what is allowable for industries and wastewater treatment plants to discharge into streams.

    It has also been difficult to administer because the U.S. is home to such a wide variety of waterways.

    In the East and Midwest massive rivers are filled with barge and shipping traffic and are clearly “navigable.” That was the term early courts used to determine how water would be regulated. If a stream was considered navigable, it was subject to federal law.

    But Colorado and other Western states rely on shallow streams that don’t carry traditional commercial traffic. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 44 percent of Colorado’s streams are intermittent, meaning they are sometimes dry, and 24 percent are ephemeral, meaning they can be dry for months or years and appear only after extraordinary rain or snow. Just 32 percent of Colorado streams are classified as being perennial, meaning they flow year round.

    Under the new federal rule only perennial and intermittent streams, or those deemed navigable, are regulated, meaning that thousands of miles of streams in Colorado and other Western states are no longer protected under the law.

    If the CDPHE’s new legislative effort succeeds, it would give state health officials the authority to issue so-called dredge-and-fill permits on stream segments no longer protected by the federal law.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    @EPA advances efforts to address #PFAS in industrial discharges — #Water & Wastes Digest

    From Water & Wastes Digest (Cristina Tuser):

    The EPA Office of Water published an advance notice of a proposed rule-making (ANPRM) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) that could lead to development of effluent limitations guidelines, pretreatment standards, and new source performance standards for PFAS manufacturers, formulators, and other industries being studied by EPA.

    In its recent ELG program planning document, EPA described its ongoing Multi-Industry Detailed Study of industrial PFAS use, which focuses on: PFAS manufacturers, pulp and paper manufacturers, textile and carpet manufacturers, metal finishing companies, and commercial airports as industries of interest for potential PFAS discharges, reported The National Law Review.

    The ANPRM is open for public comment through May 17, 2021.

    There is no approved method for analysis of PFAS compounds in wastewater and EPA is requesting monitoring data that identifies the analytical methods used.

    EPA is specifically requesting data about: PFAS in process wastewater, cooling water, contaminated storm water, wastewater from aqueous scrubbers or air pollution control equipment, off-specification products, equipment cleaning wastewater, and spills and leaks from manufacturing or formulating entities.

    In addition to wastewater characterization data, EPA will also seek information and data for potential treatment technologies, reported The National Law Review.

    Senate Confirms @POTUS’s Pick to Lead @EPA — The New York Times

    Portrait of Michael S. Regan 16th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. By White House – https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Michael_Regan.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99054948

    From The New York Times (Lisa Friedman):

    The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Michael S. Regan, the former top environmental regulator for North Carolina, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and drive some of the Biden administration’s biggest climate and regulatory policies.

    As administrator, Mr. Regan, who began his career at the E.P.A. and worked in environmental and renewable energy advocacy before becoming secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, will be tasked to rebuild an agency that lost thousands of employees under the Trump administration. Political appointees under Donald J. Trump spent the past four years unwinding dozens of clean air and water protections, while rolling back all of the Obama administration’s major climate rules.

    Central to Mr. Regan’s mission will be putting forward aggressive new regulations to meet President Biden’s pledge of eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the electric power sector by 2035, significantly reducing emissions from automobiles and preparing the United States to emit no net carbon pollution by the middle of the century. Several proposed regulations are already being prepared, administration officials have said.

    His nomination was approved by a vote of 66-34, with all Democrats and 16 Republicans voting in favor..

    Mr. Regan will be the first Black man to serve as E.P.A. administrator. At 44, he will also be one of Mr. Biden’s youngest cabinet secretaries and will have to navigate a crowded field of older, more seasoned Washington veterans already installed in key environmental positions — particularly Gina McCarthy, who formerly held Mr. Regan’s job and is the head of a new White House climate policy office…

    But most of the opposition centered on Democratic policy. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, called Mr. Biden’s agenda a “left-wing war on American energy.”

    “Mr. Regan has plenty of experience,” Senator McConnell said. “The problem is what he’s poised to do with it.”

    In his testimony before the Senate last month Mr. Regan assured lawmakers that when it comes to E.P.A. policies, “I will be leading and making those decisions, and I will be accepting accountability for those decisions.”

    Mr. Regan has a reputation as a consensus-builder who works well with lawmakers from both parties. North Carolina’s two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr voted to support his nomination. Even Senate Republicans who voted against him had kind words.

    Photo credit from report “A Preliminary Evaluation of Seasonal Water Levels Necessary to Sustain Mount Emmons Fen: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests,” David J. Cooper, Ph.D, December 2003.