Palmer Lake trustees pass ordinance to restrict service area

Palmer Lake via Wikipedia Commons

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

The Palmer Lake Board of Trustees last week unanimously passed the ordinance, which requires that developers drill wells to serve properties outside the service area, Town Administrator Cathy Green said.

However, developers may still build within the service area and connect to existing water mains, Green said.

The town provides water to nearly 1,000 households and businesses. An engineering services company has found the municipal water supply can support about 80 more taps.

In late July, the town implemented Stage 2 water restrictions — preventing residents from watering their lawns and washing their cars — due to a broken pump on one of its wells and abnormally low reservoir levels.

But the town is finishing the installation of a new pump on the well, so the emergency restrictions will be lifted soon, Green said.

Normal year-round restrictions, which require Palmer Lake residents to water their lawns only on certain days of the week, will remain in place, she said.

@EPA plans to release PFAS management plan by the end of the year

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Nashua Telegraph (Ken Liebeskind):

After completing its final PFAS Community Engagement event in Leavenworth, Kansas, on Sept. 5, the EPA plans to prepare its PFAS management plan and release it by the end of the year.

The first community engagement event was in Exeter in June, with follow-ups in Horsham, Pennsylvania, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Fayetteville, North Carolina and an event for tribal representatives in Spokane, Washington.

The EPA said, “The Community Engagement events and the input the agency has received from the docket for public comments have been incredibly informative and will be used, along with perspectives from the National Leadership Summit to develop a PFAS management plan for release later this year.

[…]

While the EPA says one of its actions will be to evaluate the need for a MCL for PFAS that may change its current level of 70 parts per trillion that is a health advisory…

Many environmental groups are calling for lower levels that have already been established by other states.

Fountain Creek trial: @EPA, et al. v. Colorado Springs begins

The confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River in Pueblo County — photo via the Colorado Springs Business Journal

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewic):

A trial began Wednesday to determine whether the city of Colorado Springs violated clean water laws by discharging pollutants and large-volume water flows from its storm water into Fountain Creek and other Arkansas River tributaries.

The trial is for a 2016 lawsuit by federal and state.environmental agencies against Colorado Springs. The case is central to long-standing disputes that Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas River Valley have with the city for defiling the creek and the river.

The environmental agencies contend the city is responsible for creating a threat to public health because the stormwaters increase levels of E. coli, pesticides and other pollutants into the creek.

The agencies also contend discharge of “extraordinary high levels of sediment impairs (the creek’s) ability to sustain aquatic life, damages downstream infrastructure and communities like Pueblo, worsen flood damage (and) impairs farmers’ ability to irrigate and obtain water to which they are legally entitled under Colorado law.”

Senior Judge Richard P. Match of U.S. District Court in Denver is presiding over the trial that is expected to run at least 10 days.

The Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment as plaintiffs by intervening in the case.

The district is comprised of Pueblo, Otero, Crowley, Bent and Prowers counties.

The lawsuit alleges that damage to the creek and river is caused because Colorado Springs’ stormwater system is inadequate, and for numerous years has violated clean water laws by exceeding discharge limits set in permits issued by the state for the system…

An attorney for the city, Steven Perfrement, defended the city’s efforts to operate the system, and to control discharges of pollutants and the volume of water flows. “The city has adopted programs and enforces them.”

El Paso County: Hearing delayed on class-action suit over tainted water

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

A hearing to determine whether 7,000 southern El Paso County residents can act as a class to sue chemical manufacturers over tainted water in the Widefield aquifer has been delayed.

David McDivitt, whose firm is representing the plaintiffs, said it could be fall before the issue is decided. If the federal court allows a class-action suit, the plaintiffs could argue their case as a group, rather than suing the chemical companies one at a time…

The suit, which targets chemical giant 3M and other manufacturers of a firefighting foam used by the Air Force, claims the firms knew or should have known that the foam contained harmful perfluorinated compounds. The chemical companies have denied the allegations.

The Air Force, which used the foam at Peterson Air Force Base, is not named in the suit, even though studies have shown the chemicals sprayed at the base wound up in the aquifer. The federal government is largely immune from lawsuits over the actions of the military.

The lawsuit has survived initial efforts to have it dismissed but remains years from resolution.

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder/Jakob Rodgers):

The acronyms read like a helping of toxic alphabet soup: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHpA.

They number in the thousands — each representing a different compound with the same chemical foundation as those contaminating the aquifer beneath Security, Widefield and Fountain.

But as the number of those chemicals known to researchers grows, a central question about the federal government’s plans for protecting residents from those chemicals remains unresolved.

Will the EPA widen its approach and focus on the thousands of perfluorinated compounds as a group? Or will federal regulators continue addressing only one or two at a time — part of a lengthy process that experts and clean water advocates say could last for decades, if not longer?

At meetings last week in Colorado Springs, advocates gave the EPA an earful about the agency playing “whack-a-mole” with the chemical — chasing down each variation for its own set of regulations.

“The solution is to regulate perfluorinated compounds as a family to protect our families,” the Sierra Club’s Fran Silva-Blayney told EPA bosses at their Wednesday gathering in town.

Perfluorinated compounds entered the local lexicon in 2016, when testing revealed that drinking water for thousands of households in southern El Paso County exceeded an EPA health advisory for the chemicals due to contamination in the Widefield aquifer. Millions of other Americans were affected, too.

Testing later identified a likely source for the local contamination: firefighting foam used for decades at Peterson Air Force Base that spread into the aquifer after it was sprayed on the ground in training exercises.

Since then, two other communities in Colorado have discovered the compounds in their drinking water. One site, in western Boulder County, appears to have been fouled by the same toxic firefighting foam, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Requests to approach all the perfluorinated chemicals as a group — and to regulate them with enforceable drinking water standards — were among the most prevalent voiced to the EPA regulators who visited Colorado Springs on Tuesday and Wednesday during the third stop of a nationwide listening tour.

They echoed similar requests made during the agency’s previous two stops in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, said William Cibulas Jr., acting director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s division of toxicology and human health services…

For years, the EPA has chosen a narrower route — issuing a health advisory for the two best-known types of chemicals on that list, but withholding judgment on thousands of others. Both chemicals — perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA — were found in the Widefield aquifer.

In recent months, the EPA has doubled down on that course — voicing a desire to possibly stiffen regulations on those same two chemicals, while possibly developing baseline toxicity values for two others.

At a meeting Wednesday, residents and clean water advocates said that the agency can’t afford to continue addressing the chemicals one by one…

Jennifer McLain, the EPA’s deputy director of groundwater and drinking water, said the agency was trying to take a broad-based approach to oversight of the chemicals. Still, details aren’t expected until the agency’s release of a management plan for the toxic chemicals, which is due by the end of the year.

“It’s not possible to do everything chemical by chemical, but it is also important to study some of these important chemicals one by one,” McLain said. “It’s something that we see as being necessary for the future of our understating — is to have an understanding of how these chemicals behave in classes, as well as getting a deep understanding of some of the specific chemicals we’re finding in the environment.”

The number of such chemicals — also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS — is unknown, said Christopher Higgins, a Colorado School of Mines chemist who has studied the chemicals. Some scientists have estimated as many as 3,000 or 5,000 exist.

They’re all man-made. But the vast number of products that they have been used in — and the complex chemistry used in making them — have complicated researchers’ efforts to make a final count.

And some of the chemicals change in the environment — often into versions federal officials say appear most threatening to human health…

The American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, opposes a group-based approach to regulation. The chemicals’ properties vary widely, along with their uses and benefits, said Jon Corley, a spokesman for the organization. He argued that not all such chemicals require “risk-based regulation,” and that lumping them together would ignore their vast differences.

“We don’t think that would be based on good science,” Corley said.

Still, some experts say anything less than addressing the chemicals as a group will only prolong the risks Americans face. At a time when thousands of other such chemicals are known to exist, the rationale for keeping a narrow focus is questionable at best, they say.

“They’re all chemically so much alike that you’d expect one to act like the other in a biological setting,” said Dr. Paul Brooks, a West Virginia physician who led the nation’s only large-scale study of a community whose water was contaminated by the chemicals.

@EPA PFAS “community engagement” hearing recap

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From TheDenverChannel.com (Lance Hernandez):

Residents who live in Fountain Valley southeast of Colorado Springs are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the perflourinated compounds which have contaminated their drinking water supplies.

The requests came during a two day “community engagement” event sponsored by the EPA.

“I think this is a big deal,” said Fran Silva-Blayney of the Sierra Club’s Fountain Creek Water Sentinels. “It’s a big deal in terms of bringing public awareness to the issue and in terms of the EPA recognizing that we need to take regulatory action.”

Silva-Blayney said the community wants the EPA to set “maximum contaminant levels.”

[…]

The contamination in the public water supplies of Fountain, Security and Widefield came from firefighting foam, which was used for decades at Peterson Air Force Base.

Health Impact

Several residents and former residents raised questions about the health impact of long-term exposure.

“My father died of kidney cancer last year,” said Mark Favors, a member of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition.

Favors told Denver7 that he was born and raised in the valley, and then moved to New York eight years ago.

“My cousin was here yesterday,” he said. “His grandson, at 14 years of age, had to have a kidney replaced, a transplant last year.”

“We would really like to know, do we have hereditary cancers, or do we have environmental cancers?” said Liz Rosenbaum, who founded the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition.

“Summit was amazing”

Rosenbaum said she is encouraged by what’s going on.

“The community wants to be more actively involved,” she said, adding that it’s a way to stay informed.

“When you’re scared, you get angry,” she said, “and if you know what’s going on, you can develop solutions and ideas.”

State health officials say they don’t know yet how widespread the contamination problem is in Colorado.

So far, contamination has been found during tests of public wells in the Fountain Valley, Commerce City and at a fire station on Sugar Loaf Mountain in Boulder County.

“We’re in the initial stages of identifying potential sources in the state,” said Kristy Richardson, an environmental toxicologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We’re looking at all those sources that have been used in industry and manufacturing.”

Advisory limit

The EPA’s advisory limit for Perfluorooctanesulfonic acids (PFOs) and PFAS is 70 parts per trillion.

Residents who attended the EPA’s meetings would like to make it a regulatory standard and much tougher than 70 ppt.

“We have a health advisory for two substances, in a family of 3,000… so we don’t know if we’re removing all of them,” Richardson said. “Residents are very concerned about getting them out (of the water) and making sure they’re not exposed to them anymore.”

From KRCC.org (Jake Brownell):

The Colorado Springs meeting was the third of four community forums scheduled across the country this summer, each hosted by the EPA, to collect feedback from people on the ground dealing with PFAS contamination.

“Understanding and addressing emerging contaminants such as PFAS is difficult, but critically important,” explained Doug Benevento, administrator of EPA Region 8, which includes Colorado and other western states. “The experiences and perspectives shared by state and local officials as well as community groups today, in addition to the numerous members of the public, will be invaluable as EPA develops a plan to manage PFAS.”

PFAS contamination is a growing concern among public health and water management professionals nationwide, with at least 40 states experiencing some form of contamination, according to the Environmental Working Group. The EPA says it has identified the issue as a high priority, and is in the process of developing new rules to regulate contamination levels in drinking water…

“We need regulatory infrastructure in order to, number one, compel investigation and clean up, but also to promote a more consistent approach to addressing PFAS nationwide,” Tracie White of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told EPA officials Wednesday.

Her concern was echoed by members of the public and by those responsible for managing affected drinking water systems, who urged the EPA to establish a legally-binding Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, for the chemicals.

“Health advisories have the same connotations and effect as maximum contaminant levels, but none of the support that an MCL provides,” said Brandon Bernard, water manager for Widefield Water and Sanitation.

For their part, EPA officials didn’t say whether an MCL would be forthcoming, but said the agency is looking at a range of options to regulate the chemicals, including listing them as “Hazardous Substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, otherwise known as Superfund. Jennifer McLain, deputy director of the agency’s Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, said she couldn’t give a timeline for any future regulatory decisions, but stressed that the agency is “moving as quickly as possible.”

Over the course of the two day forum, residents of Security, Widefield, and Fountain also shared their experiences with contamination in the area. Liz Rosenbaum, who has lived in Security and Widefield for 15 years, spoke on behalf of the grassroots group, Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition…

Many community members also said that they feel they’ve been left out of important discussions about the future of their drinking water, and haven’t been treated as stakeholders in the process.

Still, Rosenbaum said the community forum was a good first step, and that she was encouraged by the dialogue that took place. Going forward, she said she hopes the conversation can continue, so that the “community feels more connected in decision making processes” as the EPA and other agencies work to address the issue of PFAS contamination here in El Paso County and nationwide.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Over and over, residents and clean water advocates implored the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday evening to set enforceable drinking water standards for the toxic chemicals contaminating their water — and at tighter levels than the agency currently deems acceptable.

Their pleas came during the EPA’s third stop in a nationwide tour meant to help its leaders create a management plan for the toxic chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds. It marked the first opportunity in more than two years for people affected by the toxic chemicals to sound off to the EPA on the contamination of their drinking water.

Many argued that the EPA’s response was past due.

His voice cracking, Mark Favors, 49, listed several family members who drank the water most of their lives and have since died, many from kidney cancer. He read the obituary of one, Shelton Lee King, a retired master sergeant who served in Vietnam and died in 2012 of kidney cancer…

The EPA’s current process for regulating chemicals does not call for instituting any new drinking water standards for perfluorinated compounds until 2021.

Jennifer McLain, the agency’s deputy director in charge of groundwater and drinking water, said the agency is trying to accelerate that process, though she gave no timeline for when that might happen.

“We are working as quickly as we can,” McLain said.

So far, the EPA has only committed to evaluate the need for an enforceable drinking water standard for the two best-known types of perfluorinated compounds: perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

The EPA also is seeking to propose that those two chemicals be classified as “hazardous substances,” easing the process for seeking Superfund cleanup funding. And it is seeking to develop groundwater cleanup recommendations for both chemicals.

In addition, the agency is working to set toxicity levels for two other types of perfluorinated compounds. Neither was included in a different agency’s recent list of possibly dangerous chemicals.

The EPA’s management plan is due out by the end of the year.

From Colorado Public Radio (Anne Marie Awad):

Water managers for the El Paso County communities of Security, Widefield, Stratmore Hills, and Fountain have been working to rid their drinking water systems of Perfluorinated Chemicals since 2016. The contamination, discovered that year, traces back to firefighting foam used at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.
“Fifty years from now, 100 years from now, the Widefield Aquifer will still be contaminated if we don’t figure out a way to clean it,” said Fran Silva-Blayney, chair of the Sierra Club Fountain Creek Water Sentinels. “Is remediation even possible?”

Silva-Blayney was one of a handful of community stakeholders invited to speak at a listening session organized by the Environmental Protection Agency. Her comments and others carried the same message: the EPA isn’t doing enough.

“We are past the point of evaluating, proposing and recommending,” Silva-Balyney said. “People’s lives have been compromised. It’s time to regulate, enforce and remediate.”

In a statement, EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento said the community listening session would “inform our path forward in addressing PFAS in communities here in Colorado Springs and across the country.” Regulations are under consideration that would create an enforceable drinking water standard for two of the most common PFCs — mainly PFOS and PFOA.

Right now, EPA has an advisory in place, which isn’t enforceable. Water districts in the area have chosen, voluntarily, to make sure drinking water has no more than 70 parts per trillion of the chemicals. The agency could also classify certain PFCs as hazardous, and they’re developing groundwater cleanup recommendations if contamination is found.

#ColoradoSprings stormwater fees start

Heavy rains inundate Sand Creek. Photo via the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Independent.

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

City stormwater fees, approved by voters in November 2017, will finally be billed this month. For most, the fees aren’t based on impact — or square footage of impermeable surface, such as rooftops or driveways, that lead to runoff. Instead, residential properties will pay a flat $5 a month, whether for a palatial estate or a tiny studio apartment, bringing in an estimated $7.9 million a year.

Nonresidential property owners, who are expected to pay around $8.2 million a year, will be billed $30 per developed acre per month. But properties that are 5 acres or less will pay the fee without any adjustment for impermeable surface, while those larger than 5 acres will be charged fees determined by the city’s stormwater manager based on impermeable surface.

Fountain to bring USAF supplied filters online in distribution system

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From KRDO.com (Scott Harrison):

Four filters supplied by the Air Force will allow Fountain residents this week to resume using groundwater that was found to be contaminated by firefighting chemicals more than two years ago.

Two filters were tested [June 18, 2018] and the other two are scheduled to be in operation next month.

The test had to be stopped, however, after the filtering system produced too much pressure, ruptured some seals and sprang a leak.
“We’ll try again (Tuesday),” said Curtis Mitchell, director of Fountain Utilities. “We only have one more set of seals, so we want to make sure we figure out what caused the problem before we risk rupturing the other seals.

Since the contamination from a firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base was discovered in the fall of 2015, the city stopped using water from its underground aquifer and began using surface water from the Pueblo Reservoir.
The filters cost around $700,000 to reduce the amount of the three most dangerous chemicals to well below levels deemed safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The filtering agent is a sandy, charcoal-like material that is inserted into the tanks.

But, according to research last year by the Colorado School of Mines, the same filters didn’t do well in reducing the levels of more than two dozen other chemicals.

“We know that customers will choose to use bottled water for drinking and cooking, as they have been,” Mitchell said. “But we want them to know we’ve tested the filtering system and the water is safe.”

City officials estimate that only 15 percent of the city’s water usage will come from the aquifer on peak days, and that groundwater is needed to supplement the surface water supply.

Many residents remain skeptical about the water quality, fearing that they’ve been exposed to the contamination for years.

From KOAA.com:

City leaders say the water is now safe to drink, with a new process called Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) which gets rid of any PFC’s found in the water.

‘We did laboratory testing a week ago,’ said Fountain Utilities Dir. Curtis Mitchell, ‘the results came back non-detect, so now we’re comfortable that we can provide safe drinking water in addition to the surface water that we use from pueblo reservoir to our customers.’

Still, a majority of the water will come from the Pueblo Reservoir.

Additionally, the city will test the water every week for the entire lifespan of the water facility.

More facilities are on the way, but Mitchell says that’s about 2 years out.