Chemical contamination from 7 #Colorado #coal-fired power plants found during #groundwater monitoring — The Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Comanche Station at Dusk. Photo credit: Power Technology

From The Colorado Sun (Tamara Chuang):

Local plants vow to minimize coal-ash contamination to meet new EPA rules; report finds cases much worse in other states

Since federal regulations kicked in a few years ago, coal-fired power plants are required to monitor and publicly report what happens to the residue from burning coal and determine whether chemicals are seeping from the coal-ash disposal sites into the groundwater.

But the reporting process is inconsistent between facilities and the data collected is often complicated to interpret. So a group of environmentalists culled the data from 265 coal-fired power plants or ash dumps, including seven in Colorado, and found 91 percent had unsafe levels of one or more chemicals in nearby groundwater.

“This is only the beginning of the end,” said Abel Russ, a senior attorney for The Environmental Integrity Project, which published the report as part of a collaboration between the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and other environmental organizations. “If it’s gradually leaking and if you don’t do anything about it now, future generations will have to deal with it. And it’s not any one chemical but a bunch. Most had four different chemicals (contaminating groundwater). The coal-ash rule and our report are looking at drinking water standards, but there’s the whole fish and wildlife (ecosystem) that this doesn’t address.”

Facing $billions in costs for #PFAS cleanup the Pentagon is lobbying for reduced standards

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

The Pentagon is reportedly lobbying for a more lenient standard for cleaning up toxic chemicals used for decades in firefighting foam that have been found in drinking water in southern El Paso County and around the country.

Even if the Pentagon is successful, the Air Force appears unlikely to get off the hook for cleaning up the contaminated Widefield aquifer serving tens of thousands of residents south of Colorado Springs, state health officials said.

The Defense Department’s push to revise safety standards comes as it faces billions of dollars in cleanup costs tied to its decades-long use of a firefighting foam laced with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals, known as PFAS, are tied to cancer, liver disease and low infant birth weight.

The lobbying appears aimed at influencing the Environmental Protection Agency’s groundwater cleanup standard — a level at which cleanup would be required of polluters.

In a report to Congress, the Pentagon said an appropriate level is 380 parts per trillion, the New York Times reported. It’s at least five times what the EPA says could be harmful to people, and dozens of times higher than another federal agency says is toxic to people.

At that level, the military could avoid paying to clean up many contaminated sites across the nation, said David Andrews, senior scientist for the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group.

“Even if it’s the same number of sites, the amount of cleanup you’re doing at each site would be drastically reduced,” Andrews said. “The likely impact is that DoD is really trying to pass on the responsibilities and the cost for cleaning up this contamination. Which is dreadful.”

In a statement, the Pentagon said it takes its cleanup responsibility “seriously.”

“DOD is not seeking a different or weaker cleanup standard but wants the standard risk-based cleanup approach that is based on science and applies to everyone,” the statement said.

Still, one of Delaware’s Democratic U.S. senators, Tom Carper, claimed in a letter to the EPA that the Defense Department is currently only cleaning up sites where groundwater readings exceed 400 parts per trillion, and only removing the chemicals to 70 ppt. The Pentagon was joined by NASA and the Small Business Administration in lobbying for more relaxed standards, the senator said.

The Pentagon report only referenced two PFAS varieties — PFOA and PFOS — even though thousands of other varieties are known to exist. The report was issued last year, and reported Thursday by The New York Times, along with Carper’s letter.

The Defense Department’s maneuvering is expected to have little impact on cleanup operations around Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado health officials say.

State regulations would still force the Air Force to clean up the tainted Widefield aquifer to a more stringent standard that is in line with the EPA’s current health advisory, according to Kelly MacGregor, a Colorado Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman.

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously in April to adopt a site-specific groundwater quality standard of 70 ppt for the same two chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — combined.

Even without the state standard, the aquifer’s contamination downstream from the base is so bad that cleanup efforts around Peterson would likely go unaffected by the Pentagon’s lobbying.

Seven wells drilled about three years ago in the Widefield aquifer showed PFOS at levels of 400 ppt or greater. One well drilled at the Colorado Springs Airport found the chemical at 1,600 ppt.

Neither the state’s adopted groundwater standard, nor lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., touch on the thousands of other types of chemicals, also called perfluorinated compounds.

For communities affected by use of the foam, such as Security, Widefield and Fountain, that could be a significant problem, Andrews said.

For example, another type of chemical called PFHxS is often associated with use of the firefighting foam. And no other type of perfluorinated compound was as common in drinking water samples taken from Security or Fountain wells as PFHxS, nor present at such high levels, according to EPA drinking water data.

A couple of other chemicals were reported as frequently in wells serving Widefield. But again, none were as consistently high as PFHxS.

It also has been found in the drinking water of dozens of other water districts across the country, EPA results show. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says it could cause liver damage and a decreased ability to respond to vaccines.

Several other types of PFAS also have raised health concerns while being found in water systems across the country.

“Really we’d like to see the EPA and the DoD focusing on reducing the total PFAS contamination … shifting into high gear and taking responsibility for cleaning up all of this contamination,” Andrews said.

The Colorado Section of AWRA, Water Eduction Colorado, and the Colorado Groundwater Association present: #Colorado Water Stories – Learning from our past, reimagining our future Friday, April 19, 2019 @AWRACO @WaterEdCO

Scott Hummer shows off a fish passage at a North Poudre Irrigation Company diversion structure. His agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Click here to view the agenda and to register:

Colorado Water Stories – Learning from our past, reimagining our future
Friday, April 19th
7:30 am to 5:30 pm

Mount Vernon Canyon Club
24933 Club House Circle
Golden, CO 80401

Come join us for an informative day of Colorado water stories and discussions. Speakers will include:

  • Amy Beatie (Deputy Attorney General for Natural Resources and the Environment)
  • Becky Mitchell (Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board)
  • Interactive presentation on conflict resolution by Todd Bryan
  • Stories from retired State and Division Engineers, moderated by KUNC reporter Luke Runyon
  • This year’s conference will cover a range of topics from both a technical and policy perspective, including a deep-drill into ASR, geophysical applications, and how Coloradans are reimagining the river. The day will end with happy hour and a silent auction to benefit the AWRA Colorado and CGWA scholarship programs.

    Please click this link for the 2019 Symposium Agenda!

    Online registration available HERE.

    PDF registration form available HERE.

    Sponsorship opportunities are available, please click this link for more information.

    Potential San Luis Valley water export topic of Saguache County Board of Commissioners “working meeting” March 12, 2019

    Saguache Creek

    From The Valley Courier (Teresa Benns):

    A group of county residents is appealing to those concerned about water issues in the county to attend an important water meeting March 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Road and Bridge Building in Saguache, 305 3rd Street, to sit in on a discussion with commissioners regarding water export plans.

    The meeting is styled as “a listening work session,” meaning no public comment or questions will be allowed. The guest speaker is Sean Tonner, who will host a water export proposal presentation…

    The water plan, apparently in the works for the past several years, was officially announced during a Rio Grande Water Conservation meeting in Alamosa, the Valley Courier reported Dec. 7, 2018…

    Background

    While some of those proposing the plan are newly arrived players, the proposal is not. The plan first emerged in the late 1980s with Maurice Strong’s Arizona Land and Cattle Co. and Stockmen’s Water. After reorganizing as AWDI, the new version of the plan was opposed and defeated in the early 1990s by the Rio Grande Water District and Valley citizens.

    Originally AWDI, backed by then Baca Ranch owner Gary Boyce — also owner of numerous other water rights — presented a plan to pump 200,000 acre-feet of water annually from the underground aquifer. They claimed there would be no impact on the environment or existing water users. The application was later amended to 60,000 acre-feet annually, (approximately twice the amount consumed yearly by the City of Pueblo).

    The new version of the water transport plan was most recently run past Saguache County Commissioners in 2014, prior to the death of Baca Ranch owner Gary Boyce. The entity then proposing the water was Sustainable Water Resources (SWR), now retitled as Renewable Water Resources (RWR). The new company is a mix of the previous organization and new members, a media advisor for the group said Tuesday.

    Rio Grande River Basin via the Colorado Geologic Survey

    Security files suit against Air Force over water contamination –Pueblo Chieftain

    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    From the Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

    It’s been nearly three years since the U.S. Air Force acknowledged that toxic chemicals from Peterson Air Force Base contaminated groundwater under the city of Security, forcing it to stop using well water that served its 19,000 customers.

    This week, Security officials and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation answered with a federal lawsuit in Denver asking for nearly $19 million in damages from ongoing contamination.

    What’s causing it isn’t in doubt. A military firefighting foam that contains perfluorinated chemicals has been seeping into groundwater south of Peterson AFB since 1970 and has contaminated the underlying Widefield and Windmill Gulch aquifers.

    Air Force officials confirmed the contamination in an August 2016 study, and the Security Water District stopped using its 24 groundwater wells the following month. Then, it began buying water through the Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir.

    Despite the 2016 Air Force study, the lawsuit says the federal government rejected a claim for damages last year, forcing Security and the Pikes Peak foundation, a nonprofit charity, to sue for damages.

    The water district has itemized $15.5 million in losses and expenses related to finding a new water supply for the community.

    The foundation, which owns Venetucci Farms in El Paso County, is asking for $3.1 million in damages for losing access to water suitable for growing crops.

    The lawsuit gives a detailed account of how Air Force officials used the firefighting foam at Peterson AFB since 1970. It was used mostly in training, though the Air Force also sprayed contaminated water over the base’s golf course. It was also poured into the Colorado Springs city sewers…

    On Wednesday, representatives from the Defense Department testified before a House subcommittee about the extent of the problem. They said the foam’s chemicals have been found in more than 560 public and private water systems nationally.

    #NM sues @usairforce over #PFAS pollution

    View of Alamogordo, New Mexico. By Foreverstocks – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38802827

    From The New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):

    On Tuesday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) filed a complaint in federal district court, asking a judge to compel the Air Force to act on, and fund, cleanup at the two bases near Clovis and Alamogordo.

    “We have significant amounts of PFAS in the groundwater, under both Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases,” NMED Secretary James Kenney told NM Political Report.

    PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are toxic, human-manufactured chemicals that move through groundwater and biological systems. Even in small amounts, exposure to PFAS increases the risk of testicular, kidney and thyroid cancer and problems like ulcerative colitis and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

    “We want the groundwater cleaned up in the shortest amount of time possible, and we think at this point litigation is our best and fastest approach,” Kenney said. NMED and the New Mexico Department of Health are continuing to collect groundwater samples, and the two agencies are also working closely with the state’s Department of Agriculture. “As soon as we have those results, which should be in the next couple of weeks, we will determine the best way [to engage with the community],” he said. That could mean public meetings or roundtable discussions in the communities.

    “I personally understand: It’s a bit scary, if you’re in those areas, to know there’s a groundwater issue and [to wonder], ‘How am I affected?” Kenney said. “We need to get some scientific data to get the answers to those questions.”

    Groundwater tests at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis showed concentrations of PFAS exceeding 26,000 nanograms per liter, or more than 300 times the federal lifetime drinking water exposure limit. In off-base wells, including those that supply drinking water to dairies, levels ranged from 25 to 1,600 nanograms per liter. The human health advisory for a lifetime drinking water exposure to PFAS is 70 parts per trillion, or 70 nanograms per liter. At Holloman, contamination levels in some wells were 18,000 times the federal health advisory for PFAS.

    Judge denies @EPA motion to dismiss #GoldKingMine spill lawsuit — The Farmington Daily Times #AnimasRiver

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

    A federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss claims brought by state, federal and local governments and private entities related to damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill.

    U.S. District Court Judge William P. Johnson denied the motion on Feb. 28 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, its contractors and mining companies…

    New Mexico, Navajo Nation and Utah, along with residents in Aztec and on the Navajo Nation, have filed lawsuits for environmental damages and tort claims against the federal agency and its contractors and mining companies since May 2016.

    The defendants requested that the court dismiss claims, arguing sovereign immunity barred the litigation.

    The two states and the tribe are seeking to recover the costs of their responses to the spill under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

    New Mexico officials commended the latest court decision.

    James Kenney, secretary for the environment department, said the state will continue to hold the defendants responsible for the environmental and economic harms caused by the spill.

    Among damages the state is seeking on its behalf and for agricultural and recreational operations is more than $130 million in lost income, taxes, fees and revenues…

    Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the tribe is pleased with the judge’s decision.