The latest “Fountain Creek Chronicles” newsletter is hot off the presses

UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.

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

Creek Week – YOU Can Make a Difference!
QUICK – FUN AND EASY
From September 28 – October 6
1 – 2-hour commitment
Anyone can participate – All Ages, Demographics

What is approximately 40 times as heavy as a hippopotamus, is 180 times as heavy as a grand piano, and is 42 times as heavy as a car? The answer is the amount of trash, in tons, that volunteers have picked up during “Creek Week” since its inception in 2014.

“Creek Week” began as a way to encourage citizens to help remove litter and debris from our land and waters, raise awareness of watershed health and to foster a sense of community, and has grown into an annual event. It provides an opportunity for communities to give back, to enjoy the parks and trails they are cleaning and to understand their place in the Fountain Creek Watershed.

Concerned citizens from Palmer Lake, Monument, Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Green Mountain Falls, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Pueblo and beyond will come together from September 28-October 6, to clean and protect the Fountain Creek Watershed.

Participants include individuals and groups, from towns, cities, churches, and organizations. Last year nearly 3,000 volunteers removed 24 tons of litter from Palmer Lake to Pueblo and further. Volunteer participation has grown 350 percent over its 5-year history. Now it’s your turn to get involved. Complete the online form to facilitate a Crew, or click on Public Event Registration to join in on 40+ public cleanups at: at http://www.fountaincreekweek.com . For any “Creek Week” related questions, email the Steering Committee at creekweeksoco@gmail.com.

Congressional #PFAS Task Force and others sign letter asking House and Senate negotiators to maintain provisions to respond to contamination

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

From the National Groundwater Association:

A Congressional PFAS Task Force and other members of Congress signed a letter on September 3 asking congressional leadership finalizing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 to keep the House of Representative and Senate provisions addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination and cleanup. In total, a bipartisan group of 162 members of the House of Representatives signed the letter.

As members of Congress return from the August recess, differences between the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, the defense spending authorization bill, will be negotiated this month.

Circle of Blue reports the White House issued a veto threat in July against the House bill, which designates PFAS as hazardous substances under federal law and requires the military to discontinue the use of fluorine firefighting foams by 2025.

Despite some differences, both bills set a timetable for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a national drinking water standard for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

The September 3 letter notes that among the Senate and House provisions included in the Authorization Act are items relating to groundwater that would:

  • Require groundwater and drinking water quality monitoring for PFAS
  • Require reporting of industrial discharges of PFAS
  • Accelerate PFAS cleanups at military facilities through the use of cooperative agreements
  • Designate PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund law
  • Require permits for PFAS discharges under the Clean Water Act
  • Require the EPA to set a sufficiently protective drinking water standard for PFAS compounds
  • Require the Department of Defense to treat and clean PFAS-contaminated water used for agricultural purposes.
  • Groundwater movement via the USGS

    #ColoradoSprings is exploring solutions to blue-green algae blooms

    Mechanism of operation of the SolarBee system. Graphic credit: Environmental Science & Engineering

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Henderson):

    Warmer temperatures and higher nutrient levels in the water have led to more blue-green algae blooms, which are harmful to humans and potentially deadly to pets, said Erik Rodriguez a Health, Safety and Environmental specialist with the city. The daily temperature record in Colorado Springs has already been broken five times this year.

    While the city struggles to find a fix, other Colorado towns have used environmentally-friendly machinery that helps aerate the water. Better circulation gives algae less chance to accumulate.

    In the Green Ridge Glade Reservoir in Loveland, sit five SolarBee units — solar powered machines that float in the middle of the lake. They keep the water in the reservoir moving, disrupting the stagnant environment that blue-green algae likes, said SolarBee regional manager Dave Summerfield. Each unit costs about $40,000.

    Since the units were installed two years ago, the 150-acre drinking water reservoir has been free of algae.

    In the past, the popular method among water treatment agencies was to dump algicides such as copper sulfate into the water. But the solution wasn’t sustainable, said Summerfield.

    The bacteria would slowly adapt to the sulfate, forcing maintenance to use more and more of it, racking up costs and dangerous toxin levels…

    Rodriguez pointed out that several Colorado Springs lakes already have aeration features in them. Monument Valley Park ponds have a few aerators — devices that create small air bubbles to push the water around. Mary Kyer Park has a fountain in the middle that helps with circulation, he said.

    Cyanobacteria, which causes the blue-green algae, thrives off nutrients in the water, specifically nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen and phosphorous get into water in runoff from agriculture, fossil fuels, fertilizers, yard and pet waste, even soaps and detergents. The city’s recent warm weather and heavy thunderstorms haven’t helped, Rodriguez said.

    New judge for Fountain Creek degradation case — The Pueblo Chieftain

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

    A different judge is presiding over the 2½-year-old environmental lawsuit against Colorado Springs for degrading Fountain Creek.

    Senior Judge John L. Kane Jr. of the U.S. District Court for Colorado has replaced Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch, who died in May.

    “This is a very, very important case,” Kane said last week when he held his first proceeding, a status conference, on the case. He has been on the bench for 41 years.

    “Taking over a case (from another judge) is not very pleasant” because a lot of catching up is required, he told the attorneys. Thousands of pages of documents have been filed for the litigation.

    The federal and state environmental protection agencies filed the lawsuit in 2016, and were joined by the Pueblo County commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District…

    After a trial last year, Matsch decided Colorado Springs had violated its permit which regulates discharges of the city’s storm water sewer system into the creek.

    The next step would be another trial for Kane to determine what Colorado Springs must do to remedy the violations.

    However, The Pueblo Chieftain reported July 30 that all sides notified the judge that they have been meeting “regularly and intensively” all year to try to agree on terms to settle the dispute, instead of going to trial again.

    At their request, Kane put the case on hold until Nov. 22 to give them more time for that purpose.

    At last week’s court conference, a federal attorney told the judge that the violations “are ongoing.”

    Air Force completes #PFOS/#PFOA Site Inspection at the Academy, expanded inspection set to begin

    McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Air Force Academy, Colorado. By Greg Goebel – https://www.flickr.com/photos/37467370@N08/7303434226, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22282943

    Here’s the release from the Air Force Academy:

    Air Force officials released the results of a 2018-2019 Site Inspection at the U.S. Air Force Academy that assessed the potential for Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) presence in ground water, surface water, soil and sediment samples stemming from past firefighting activities.

    The Air Force Civil Engineer Center confirmed that groundwater samples from several areas on the Academy were found to be above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) levels of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.

    PFOS and PFOA are part of a family of synthetic fluorinated chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, used for many years in industrial and consumer products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, as well as in commercial industry and military firefighting foam.

    Colorado Springs Utilities supplies the drinking water to the Air Force Academy and has not detected these compounds at its water treatment facilities above the method reporting limit of 10 ppt, including its most recent voluntary sampling conducted in the 1st quarter 2019.

    However, because levels above the LHA were found in groundwater on the Academy, drinking water wells south of the base could be impacted.

    The Air Force will conduct an Expanded Site Inspection in the coming months to assess potential risk to private wells south of the Academy, primarily in the Woodmen Valley area

    “We share community concerns about the possible impacts past use of these chemicals may have on human drinking water sources,” said Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander. “We will work closely with AFCEC to protect human health and conduct a thorough inspection to ensure safe drinking water.”

    Where Air Force operations are found to have contributed to PFOS and PFOA levels in drinking water above the EPA LHA, the Air Force will take immediate action to ensure residents whose private drinking water wells are impacted have access to safe drinking water.

    The EPA established a LHA level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water in 2016. The Air Force Academy is one of 203 installations the Air Force identified as a potential Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) release location.

    For more information on the Air Force response to PFOS/PFOA, please visit: https://www.afcec.af.mil/WhatWeDo/Environment/Perfluorinated-Compounds/

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

    Air Force Academy firefighter training a quarter century ago released a torrent of toxic perfluorinated chemicals that seeped into groundwater and flowed into Monument Creek, a 15,000-page Air Force report released Friday shows.

    A series of tests by Air Force researchers showed groundwater had 1,000 times the level of perfluorinated compounds considered safe by state and federal regulators. Records on the training that used firefighting foam loaded with the chemicals are spotty to non-existent at the academy, the report said, but hazy recollections of the training, which ran from the late 1980s to the early 1990s at the pit, less than 100 yards from the creek, led to the recent tests.

    Colorado’s health department on Friday recommended that anyone who uses groundwater south of the academy who hasn’t had their well tested should switch to bottled water. The same holds true for anyone whose wells exceed the EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion after testing.

    About 30 domestic or household wells exist within one mile downstream of the Air Force Academy, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    The Air Force plans to go door-to-door in the affected area to determine if private wells are being used for drinking water, the agency said. In the process, the Air Force plans to take up to 125 drinking water samples from potentially affected private or municipal drinking water wells.

    “Our focus is on ensuring no one is drinking water above the EPA’s (advisory level),” the academy said in an email. “In the event any human drinking water sources (are) believed impacted … the Air Force will take immediate measures to provide bottled water or other alternative sources until more permanent mitigation can be installed.”

    Colorado Springs Utilities says the chemicals from the academy won’t impact drinking water in the city.

    The utility said its wells on and near the Air Force Academy have hardly — if ever — been used. The utility has traditionally relied solely on surface water to supply people on its system. The last time the utility used any wells in its system was around 2002 or 2003, during a significant drought, said Steve Berry, a utilities spokesman. That use was “very limited,” Berry said, though he was unsure whether wells near the academy were used at that time.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder, Jakob Rodgers):

    Plans are underway to begin testing drinking water wells south of the academy in the Woodmen Valley area after unsafe levels of the chemicals were found at four locations on base, the academy said Thursday.

    It was unclear Thursday evening how many people and wells could be impacted.

    The discovery of perfluorinated compounds at the academy opened a new front in the region’s battle against chemicals that have fouled an aquifer serving more than 64,000 people just 20 miles to the south, outside Peterson Air Force Base.

    And it threatened to push the price tag to remove the chemicals from drinking water here ever higher, beyond the $50 million spent by the Air Force…

    Air Force officials stressed that drinking water at the academy wasn’t affected — the base is supplied by Colorado Springs Utilities, which has not detected the chemicals in its water.

    Utilities customers south of the academy should not have detectible exposure to the chemicals, said Dave Padgett, the utility’s chief environmental officer.

    Unclear, however, is whether residents in that area are using private wells for drinking water and if the wells are contaminated.

    Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, an academy spokeswoman, pledged relief for anyone affected.

    “Bottom line, we will do everything we can immediately to ensure people have safe drinking water,” including providing bottled water, Bunko said.

    Four sites on the academy were found to have chemical levels higher than an Environmental Protection Agency lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, said Michael Kucharek, another academy spokesman. He declined to name the location of those sites.

    An August 2018 Air Force report, however, suggested four possible test sites during such an inspection:

    • the academy’s fire training area;

    • a fire station and a spray test area;

    • an airfield spray test area;

    • the academy’s water treatment plant and nonpotable reservoir.

    Blue-green algae found at Pikeview Reservoir — @CSUtilities

    Cyanobacteria. By NASA – http://microbes.arc.nasa.gov/images/content/gallery/lightms/publication/unicells.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5084332

    Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:

    There is an increasing occurrence of toxic blue-green algae in reservoirs across the United States this year, forcing the limitation of recreational access to the bodies of water for public safety.

    In a recent test at Pikeview Reservoir, a popular fishing lake in central Colorado Springs and part of our water system, the bacteria was identified.

    While the reservoir is still safe for fishing, as a precautionary meaure, humans and pets are prohibited from entering the water until further notice. Anglers are directed to thoroughly clean fish and discard guts.

    We have removed Pikeview as a source for drinking water until the reservoir is determined to be clear of the algae. There are no concerns about this affecting water supply for our community.

    Presumptive testing has indicated levels of less than 5 mcg/L.

    Sickness including nausea, vomiting, rash, irritated eyes, seizures and breathing problems could occur following exposure to the blue-green algae in the water. Anyone suspicious of exposure with onset of symptoms should contact their doctor or veterinarian. For questions regarding health impacts of exposure, contact the El Paso County Health Department or Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    Warming temperatures have contributed to the growth of the bacteria.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Henderson):

    The popular fishing lake that lies just south of Garden of the Gods Road tested above acceptable limits for the bacteria the news release read. The water is still safe to fish in, but humans and pets are not allowed. Anglers are asked to clean the fish thoroughly and remove guts, according to the news release.

    The reservoir has been removed as a drinking water source, Utilities stated, however there are no concerns about the tainted water affecting the community.

    #ColoradoSprings closes Prospect Lake in Memorial Park due to positive blue-green algae testing — Colorado Springs Gazette

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Henderson):

    Prospect Lake in Memorial Park has been closed indefinitely after a test found toxic blue-green algae in the water, Colorado Springs officials said Friday.

    A “precautionary water sample,” taken from the lake Friday morning by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, tested positive for mycrocystin toxin, also known as blue-green algae.

    The lake’s swim beach was roped off and closure signs were posted. Fishing areas remain open, but anglers are encouraged to clean the fish and remove guts. Rentals are not available, and pets are not allowed.

    “Given today’s positive test for mycrocystin toxin, we have closed Prospect Lake for usage,” said Erik Rodriguez of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services in a statement. “CDPHE will continue to test weekly until the bacteria clears up.”

    In the meantime, the city has banned swimming, bathing, paddleboarding, motorized and nonmotorized boats even with permits, tubing and water skiing.

    Prospect Lake in Memorial Park. By Beverly & Pack – Colorado Ballon Classic 2009, Labor Day Weekend, Prospect Lake in Memorial Park in Colorado Springs, CO. Uploaded by Tomer T, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19191608