#Colorado Has $500,000 Ready For #PFAS Water Testing. So Far, There Are Few Takers — Colorado Public Radio

The team responsible for the development of the enhanced contact electrical discharge plasma reactor, a novel method for degrading poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). Professors Selma Mededovic Thagard and Thomas Holsen with Nicholas Multari and Chase Nau-Hix (shaved head), pose in the CAMP lab, October 6, 2017.

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

Colorado officials will continue to reach out to drinking water districts to encourage testing for synthetic chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances — otherwise known to the public under the PFAS acronym umbrella.

The sign-up rate, however, has been minimal.

About one week into the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s campaign, officials said about 8 percent of Colorado’s roughly 790 drinking water districts have signed up for tests…

That’s not to say that officials aren’t pleased with the sign-up rate so far. They plan to send email notifications to drinking water districts to remind them of the available funds over the coming weeks…

While the [EPA’s] current advisory limits are voluntary, they are determining whether to formally regulate two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS. A decision is expected later in 2020.

U.S. House votes to crack down on toxic chemicals; Trump threatens veto — The #Colorado Independent #PFAS

From The Colorado Independent (Allison Stevens):

The U.S. House voted Friday to pass a comprehensive legislative package that would crack down on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals known as PFAS that are said to cause serious health problems.

Used in tape, nonstick pans and other everyday substances, PFAS have been linked to cancer, decreased fertility, developmental delays and other conditions and have been found in high concentrations in sources of public drinking water and other sites around the country.

The PFAS Action Act includes a series of provisions designed to mitigate their harm. It cleared the House with support from 223 Democrats and 24 Republicans. One hundred and fifty seven Republicans voted against it, as did one Democrat and Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash. Twenty-four lawmakers did not vote.

Colorado’s delegation was split on the vote, with Democratic representatives voting for the bill and Republicans voting against it…

Friday’s vote came after supporters of the legislation suffered a stinging setback last month, when key PFAS provisions were struck from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before it was signed into law.

Opposition to those provisions from Senate Republicans prompted House Democrats to call the PFAS bill to the floor this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday.

“Last year, our members worked relentlessly to pass bold legislation to tackle the PFAS crisis,” Pelosi said on the House floor. “Unfortunately, at the end of the year, the Senate GOP refused to join the House to secure full, robust protections against PFAS chemicals and key provisions were cut from the NDAA.”

The “Senate GOP obstruction,” she said, “is why we are here today.”

The NDAA does take some steps to address PFAS. It includes provisions that require the U.S. military to transition off of PFAS-laden fire-fighting foam by 2024, ban the foam in exercises and training and test PFAS levels in military firefighters’ blood.

But supporters said the PFAS Action Act passed Friday goes much further.

It would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to list certain PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the EPA’s Superfund program, which would accelerate cleanup of contaminated sites. That would be a “significant first step while we allow the EPA to study the remaining compounds — which needs to start now,” Dingell said in a press release.

The bill would also create a national drinking standard for certain PFAS chemicals, help people understand water testing results, prevent new PFAS chemicals from being approved and more…

Colorado public health officials acknowledge federal action on creating a legally binding drinking water standard is lagging, forcing the state to address a public health crisis it’s ill-equipped to handle. The state is in the process of adopting new regulations after finding PFAS levels above the federal health advisory limit in groundwater across the Denver metro region, Colorado Springs and Boulder County. In September, lawmakers approved $500,000 so that the Colorado Department of Public Health can begin testing public drinking water supplies for the toxic chemical…

Despite its bipartisan support in the House, the bill faces an uphill battle.

First, it must pass the GOP-controlled Senate, where hundreds of House-passed bills are languishing on the desk of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg News that the legislation had “no prospects in the Senate.”

If it passes the Senate, then it would move to the White House, which issued a veto threat on Tuesday…

The EPA is already “taking extensive efforts” to address PFAS across the nation, it added — an assertion underscored by the EPA in a statement released on the same day as the White House veto threat.

But critics say the EPA’s “action plan” doesn’t go far enough to contain and clean up PFAS and are skeptical the agency will put public health over corporate profits.

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

Backlog of toxic #Superfund cleanups grows under @POTUS — the Associated Press

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

From the Associated Press (Ellen Nickmeyer, Matthew Brown, and Ed White) via The Aurora Sentinel:

The Trump administration has built up the biggest backlog of unfunded toxic Superfund cleanup projects in at least 15 years, nearly triple the number that were stalled for lack of money in the Obama era, according to 2019 figures quietly released by the Environmental Protection Agency over the winter holidays.

The accumulation of Superfund projects that are ready to go except for money comes as the Trump administration routinely proposes funding cuts for Superfund and for the EPA in general. The four-decade-old Superfund program is meant to tackle some of the most heavily contaminated sites in the U.S. and Trump has declared it a priority even while seeking to shrink its budget…

The unfunded projects are in 17 states and Puerto Rico. They range from abandoned mines that discharged heavy metals and arsenic in the West to an old wood pulp site in Mississippi and a defunct dry cleaner that released toxic solvents in North Carolina…

two former EPA officials whose work dealt with Superfund oversight said the growing backlog of stalled Superfund projects under the Trump administration, and steady or ebbing numbers of cleanup construction projects completed, point to a different picture.

“They’re misleading Congress and the public about the funds that are needed to really protect the public from exposure to the toxic chemicals,” said Elizabeth Southerland, who worked for 30 years at EPA, including as director of science and technology in the water office, before retiring in 2017. ”It’s detrimental.”

This is a “regulatory failure,” said Judith Enck, who served as the EPA’s regional northeastern U.S. administrator under President Barack Obama…

Asked what the EPA spent money on instead, and why the agency didn’t ask Congress for more to deal with the growing backlog, EPA spokeswoman Maggie Sauerhage offered few specifics Thursday.

The EPA’s Superfund program “will continue to prioritize new construction projects based on which sites present the greatest risk to human health and the environment,” Sauerhage said in an email. “Further, the agency maintains the authority to respond to and fund emergencies at these sites if there is an imminent threat to human health and the environment.”

She pointed to some areas where Trump’s Superfund effort was more on par with that of his predecessors. Long-term remedial efforts to make sure contamination didn’t rebound at existing Superfund sites, for example, averaged 64 a year under Trump. That compares with an average of 60 a year in Obama’s last five years.

But overall, the backlog of 34 unfunded projects is up from only 12 in 2016, Obama’s last year , and the most at least since 2004.

At the site of another of 2019’s unfunded Superfund projects, Montana’s Upper Tenmile mining region, which includes the community of Rimini and a subdivision downstream, the EPA has been providing bottled water to residents for the past decade in response to water supplies polluted by about 150 abandoned gold, lead and copper mines.

Pollution still flows from the mines and into Upper Tenmile Creek more than 20 years after the area was added to the Superfund list.

About 6 miles from Rimini in the rural Landmark subdivision is a huge pile of contaminated soil that was removed from residential yards. It was supposed to be hauled away but now has weeds growing over it after sitting untouched for several years, said Patrick Keim, who lives nearby…

EPA has been one of the main focuses of Trump’s efforts to cut federal regulations and oversight that he sees as burdening businesses. Trump each year has asked Congress for nearly one-third cuts in EPA’s budget, and has sought much smaller cuts for Superfund.

Congress has kept both levels of funding roughly even.

Public Notice: Alternative Treatment Technique for National Primary Drinking Water Lead and Copper Regulations for Denver Water — @EPA

Denver Water’s new Administration Building, seen from West 12th Avenue looking south. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Here’s the release from the EPA:

Summary

U.S. EPA Region 8 approved a variance under the Safe Drinking Water Act for Denver Water. This variance will allow Denver Water to implement a Lead Reduction Program Plan (LRPP) as an alternative to treating for the corrosion of lead and copper with orthophosphate. EPA believes that Denver’s LRPP will provide health benefits and will be as protective in lowering the lead levels as the requirements under the Lead and Copper Rule. Under the LRPP, Denver will implement a holistic lead management strategy that requires an accelerated lead service line replacement schedule, provides filters to customers, and controls corrosion through pH/alkalinity adjustments. Additionally, Denver Water will develop a comprehensive lead service line inventory and conduct an extensive community outreach campaign. This variance is effective for an initial period of three years and may be extended if Denver Water demonstrates that that LRPP can be effectively implemented and results in reductions to lead in drinking water.

Concurrent with this action, EPA is asking for comments on the potential criteria for how the Agency will determine whether to extend this variance for up to an additional twelve years. EPA is accepting public comments on these criteria and on EPA’s interpretation of the statutory standard for future variance requests. See the Federal Register notice in the docket for specific questions on which EPA is seeking feedback.

Related Documents

Denver Water Variance Letter Final (PDF)(2 pp, 125 K, 12/16/2019)
Denver Water Variance Order Final (PDF)(20 pp, 2 MB, 12/16/2019)
Denver Water Variance Federal Register Notice – Pre-Publication (PDF)(7 pp, 301 K, 12/16/2019)
Denver Water Variance Appendix Final (PDF)(14 pp, 1 MB, 12/16/2019)

From Colorado Public Radio (Taylor Allen):

Denver Water will expedite the removal of lead pipes from homes across the metro area after the Environmental Protection Agency granted approval Monday.

The public agency will launch the program in 2020 and expects it to take 15 years and cost $500 million to complete. Officials estimate there are between 64,000 and 84,000 lead service lines in the system.

High lead exposure can lead to kidney and brain damage as well as developmental issues for children. Homes built prior to 1951 are more likely to have lead service lines, according to Denver Water…

Denver Water proposed the program to the EPA in July. Without the approved plan, it would take 50 years to remove the lead pipes, Lochhead said.

Denver Water has committed to remove at least 4,500 lines annually under an agreement with the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The idea for the program came soon after the state ordered Denver Water to do orthophosphate treatment in its water supply in March of 2018. The treatments are used to reduce lead and copper in water that’s delivered to peoples’ taps.

“That did not cure the overall cause of the problem, which is the lead service lines,” Lochhead said. “Orthophosphate treatment, being a nutrient, creates water quality and environmental issues in the water supply as well as costing more than simply going in and removing them.”

Denver Water worked with federal and state agencies to develop this alternative approach. It will be funded through water rates, bonds, new service fees and hydropower generation. The company said it will also look for funding through loans, grants and partnerships.

Graphic via Denver Water

Mining company included in #GoldKingMine lawsuit receives environmental excellence award — The Farmington Daily Times

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 Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

Sunnyside Gold Corporation, the last mining company to actively operate in the Silverton caldera, was recognized for “five years of responsible mining and 30 years of successful remediation and reclamation,” according to the award announcement provided to The Daily Times by Sunnyside Gold Corporation.

This award comes as Sunnyside faces continued litigation alleging the bulkheads it installed in the Sunnyside Mine’s American Tunnel led to changes in water levels. The suit claims this eventually created a buildup of water in the Gold King Mine that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contractors later accidentally released when they breached a collapsed portal into the mine.

“The primary purpose of the engineered concrete bulkheads was to isolate the interior workings of the Sunnyside Mine, and to prevent water flow from the interior workings to the Animas Basin,” said Kevin Roach, Sunnyside’s director of reclamation, in an email to The Daily Times.

Roach said that while Sunnyside owns mines near the Gold King, it never owned or operated the Gold King Mine. He said the company was not involved in the Gold King Mine spill and has no responsibility for it.

“There is no physical man-made connection between the Sunnyside and Gold King mine workings,” Roach said.

And Roach stood by the decision to install bulkheads in Sunnyside’s mine workings.

“One of the most important lessons that can be derived from SGC’s successful reclamation is that, in appropriate circumstances, bulkheading of closed mines can be an effective method to improve water quality,” he said.

Sunnyside has maintained the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which triggered the spill, bears the responsibility. Roach further highlighted studies showing the water quality in the Animas River returned to pre-spill conditions shortly after the incident…

The award also comes after Sunnyside refused to comply with an order the EPA sent the company to install groundwater wells and meteorological stations as part of the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site remediation work. The Superfund site includes 48 mine sites believed to have impacted water quality in the Animas River. Some of these mine sites were related to Sunnyside’s operations…

Working to reclaim land

Over the past 30 years, Sunnyside has spent $30 million on reclamation work. Roach said much of Sunnyside’s work occurred at sites it does not own. In addition to installing bulkheads, this work included relocating or removing mine tailings from several sites, including near the Animas River and its tributaries.

Sunnyside Gold Corporation was a latecomer to the mining activity in the Silverton caldera, entering the region in 1985 when it acquired the Sunnyside Mine, which it operated until 1991. The mine itself dates back to 1873 and includes two tunnels for hauling ore and drainage, one of which is the American Tunnel.

Following the installation of bulkheads in the American Tunnel, the Sunnyside Gold Corporation was released from liabilities in 2003 when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment concluded it had completed its obligations laid out in a consent decree.

In terms of the future, Sunnyside does not have plans to resume mining in the Silverton caldera. However, that does not necessarily mean mining is gone from the caldera forever.

#NM Environment Department: Silver Wing Mine incident summary — No hazard to human health or the environment in New Mexico

Moab uranium tailings pile removal update

From Aspen Public Radio (Molly Marcello):

In a park, nestled in a red rock canyon outside Moab, Utah — a short drive from a giant pile of uranium tailings — a crowd gathered for a celebration. Elected officials and community members mingled, and enjoyed refreshments.

Volunteers placed pieces of yellow cake in small paper bowls.

It was a facetious nod to the gathering’s purpose: to celebrate the removal of 10 million tons of toxic uranium tailings from the banks of the Colorado River.

“You never would have thought you would have all these people congratulating themselves in the community on moving 10 million tons,” said Sarah Fields, executive director of the nonprofit Uranium Watch. “They seem to be really dedicated to getting this done.”

[…]

Before cleanup efforts began about 10 years ago, elevated levels of uranium and ammonia were showing up in the river’s water near Moab. The contamination alarmed officials downstream in Nevada and California, and they called for the Department of Energy to step in.

Getting the pile out of the floodplain became a community rallying cry as well, Fields said.

“The (Department of Energy) pretty much from the beginning realized that if they decided to leave it in place they would be standing alone because the town, the city, most of the members of the community, the state, the EPA all said, ‘Move the pile,’” Fields said.

Workers began moving the pile in 2009. The tailings are loaded into train cars, and sent 30 miles north where they’re stored away from the river in the middle of the desert. With the 10 millionth ton moved, more than 62% of the pile is gone, which means many Moabites could see completion in their lifetimes.