South Adams County Water and Sanitation shuts down 3 wells citing PFC pollution

Typical water well

From 9News.com (Allison Sylte):

A news release about the contamination was distributed on Friday morning. This comes after the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District found perfluorinated compounds (commonly known as PFCs) in water samples from certain shallow groundwater wells. These chemicals are known to pose significant health risks if people are exposed to them – especially expectant mothers and young children.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, and the Tri-County Health Department are working to find the source of the contamination.

However, health officials say the water distributed to the 50,000 customers in the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District is safe after three wells with the highest concentration of the PFC chemicals were shut down earlier this month. This means the district is taking 40 percent of its water supply from Denver rather than the usual 20 percent.

The concern now, according to South Adams County Water and Sanitation District Water Systems Manager Kipp Scott, are private wells and the people who use them – which is what prompted the advisory to the public in the first place.

“When we find something that is of a concern like this, we notify the health department,” Scott said. “The concern is, we are treating for that chemical here and removing it to levels below the health advisory, but the concern is with other people that maybe using wells that are not on our system and supplied water by our district.

Scott said some wells tested positive for PFCs in May. When that happened, they tested the treatment process – and results took five weeks to come back. Next came contact with the health department.

Brian Hlavacek, the director of environmental health at the Tri-County Health Department, issued a statement to 9NEWS that said:

“Tri-County Health Department is working closely with EPA, CDPHE and SACWSD to identify the extent and source of contamination. TCHD is working to identify private drinking water wells in the initial area of investigation in order to sample for PFC’s. Sampling could begin as early as next week as we identify any wells. Residents who receive their water from a private drinking water well, are near this area, and are concerned about PFC levels can call Tri-County Health Department at 303-288-6816 or email questions to ehwater@tchd.org.”

#AnimasRiver: Truck hauling sludge from the Cement Creek water treatment plant crashes and spills into Cement Creek

From The Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The driver wasn’t severely injured, but about 9 cubic yards of waste sludge spilled into the creek.

The sludge is a byproduct of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency treatment plant that is cleaning up water draining from the inactive Gold King mine. The EPA has said the sludge is not hazardous.

Authorities say it doesn’t appear the truck spilled any fuel.

@USGS: Water Use Across the United States Declines to Levels Not Seen Since 1970

Here’s the release from the USGS (Mia Drane-Maury, Cheryl Dieter):

Reductions in water use first observed in 2010 continue, show ongoing effort towards “efficient use of critical water resources.”

Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in 45 years. According to a new USGS report, 322 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the United States during 2015.

This represents a 9 percent reduction of water use from 2010 when about 354 Bgal/d were withdrawn and the lowest level since before 1970 (370 Bgal/d).

“The downward trend in water use shows a continued effort towards efficient use of critical water resources, which is encouraging,” said Tim Petty, assistant secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. “Water is the one resource we cannot live without, and when it is used wisely, it helps to ensure there will be enough to sustain human needs, as well as ecological and environmental needs.”

Total water withdrawals by State, 2015 [1 Bgal/d = 1,000 million gallons per day].

In 2015, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 states (in order of withdrawal amounts): California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Arkansas, New York, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and Nebraska.

Total water withdrawals by category and by State from west to east, 2015 [1 Bgal/d = 1,000 million gallons per day].

California accounted for almost 9 percent of the total withdrawals for all categories and 9 percent of total freshwater withdrawals. Texas accounted for about 7 percent of total withdrawals for all categories, predominantly for thermoelectric power generation, irrigation, and public supply.

Florida had the largest share of saline withdrawals, accounting for 23 percent of the total in the country, mostly saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power generation. Texas and California accounted for 59 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining.

“The USGS is committed to providing comprehensive reports of water use in the country to ensure that resource managers and decision makers have the information they need to manage it well,” said USGS director Jim Reilly. “These data are vital for understanding water budgets in the different climatic settings across the country.”

For the first time since 1995, the USGS estimated consumptive use for two categories — thermoelectric power generation and irrigation. Consumptive use is the fraction of total water withdrawals that is unavailable for immediate use because it is evaporated, transpired by plants, or incorporated into a product.

“Consumptive use is a key component of the water budget. It’s important to not only know how much water is being withdrawn from a source, but how much water is no longer available for other immediate uses,” said USGS hydrologist Cheryl Dieter.

The USGS estimated a consumptive use of 4.31 Bgal/d, or 3 percent of total water use for thermoelectric power generation in 2015. In comparison, consumptive use was 73.2 Bgal/d, or 62 percent of total water use for irrigation in 2015.

Water withdrawn for thermoelectric power generation was the largest use nationally at 133 Bgal/d, with the other leading uses being irrigation and public supply, respectively. Withdrawals declined for thermoelectric power generation and public supply, but increased for irrigation. Collectively, these three uses represented 90 percent of total withdrawals.

  • Thermoelectric power decreased 18 percent from 2010, the largest percent decline of all categories.
  • Irrigation withdrawals (all freshwater) increased 2 percent.
  • Public-supply withdrawals decreased 7 percent.
  • Trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015.

    Trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015.

    A number of factors can be attributed to the 18 percent decline in thermoelectric-power withdrawals, including a shift to power plants that use more efficient cooling-system technologies, declines in withdrawals to protect aquatic life, and power plant closures.

    As it did in the period between 2005 and 2010, withdrawals for public supply declined between 2010 and 2015, despite a 4 percent increase in the nation’s total population. The number of people served by public-supply systems continued to increase and the public-supply domestic per capita use declined to 82 gallons per day in 2015 from 88 gallons per day in 2010. Total domestic per capita use (public supply and self-supplied combined) decreased from 87 gallons per day in 2010 to 82 gallons per day in 2015.

    The USGS is the world’s largest provider of water data and the premier water research agency in the federal government.

    Testing plan for PFCs in the works in W. Boulder County

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    Local, state and federal officials told residents in the western Boulder County area served by the Sugarloaf Fire Protection District they will meet soon to create a plan for future testing, as needed, for perfluorinated compounds in area well water.

    Those intentions were shared with about 50 homeowners in the Sugarloaf area who attended a Tuesday evening board meeting of the Sugarloaf district at its Station 2.

    The session was attended by, in addition to the concerned residents, representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Boulder County Public Health and the fire protection district.

    Inquiries by homeowners, according to county health department spokeswoman Chana Goussetis, included questions about “type B” firefighting foam, which has been discussed as a potential cause of the well contamination; how to select a lab for testing of private well water; recommendations for reverse osmosis filters to make water safe; and future testing plans…

    Representatives from all of the agencies will meet soon to create a plan, “which will include where additional sampling is needed,” Goussetis wrote in an email. “This will involve looking closely at the geology of the area to identify homes that most likely will be impacted.”

    […]

    Well water at both Stations 1 and 2 have now been tested, and they each tested positive for perfluoroocatanaic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulphate (PFOS) at levels far exceeding the EPA’s advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

    That prompted the district to test wells of 10 homeowners living within 1,300 feet of Station 1.

    Sugarloaf volunteer John Winchester said that of those 10, six had no detectable PFCs, and the other four had “various” levels. He said specific data would not be released out of respect for homeowners’ privacy.

    However, the Boulder County Health Department has said that only one of the 10 showed levels above the EPA advisory levels. That homeowner has not returned calls from the Camera seeking comment on the situation.

    Goussetis on Wednesday reported that no other homeowners to date have been found to have wells showing contamination above the EPA advisory level. However, she added, there may be homeowners who had ordered tests whose results are not yet known.

    Future testing, she said, “will likely” also include homes near Station 2, due to the levels of PFCs already detected there.

    County health officials are recommending that mountain area residents test their well water not only for PFCs, but also for heavy metals, E. coli and other bacteria to fully understand the status of their water.

    Meanwhile a report finds that PFCs are more toxic than originally thought. Here’s a report from Ellen Knickmeyer writing for The Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:

    The chemicals are called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl. They were used in such goods as fire-suppressing foam, nonstick pans, fast-food wrappers, and stain-resistant fabric and carpet, but are no longer used in U.S. manufacturing. Water sampling has found contamination in water around military bases, factories and other sites.

    Exposure at high levels is linked to liver damage, developmental problems and some forms of cancer, among other risks.

    A draft of the report, by the Department of Health and Human Services’ toxicology office, had set off alarms within the Trump administration earlier this year. A January email from a White House official, released under the Freedom of Information Act, referred to the findings as a “potential public relations nightmare.”

    The draft went under months of government review before Wednesday’s publication, but the key finding — that the chemicals are dangerous at specific levels much lower than previously stated — was not changed.

    The EPA, which scheduled a series of hearings on the chemicals, said last month that it would move toward formally declaring the two most common forms of PFAS as hazardous substances and make recommendations for groundwater cleanup, among other steps.

    U.S. manufacturers agreed in 2006 to an EPA-crafted deal to stop using one of the most common forms of the chemical in consumer products.

    The findings will likely lead state and local water systems with the contaminant to boost filtering.

    “The more we test, the more we find,” Olga Naidenko, a science adviser to the Environmental Working Group nonprofit, said Wednesday.

    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.

    #AnimasRiver: @EPA requests comments for interim plan for SW #Colorado mine clean up

    The Animas River in Durango, in Apri, 2018. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

    The interim plan concentrates on controlling or removing contaminants at 26 sites including campgrounds, mine waste piles, ponds and rivers. It will cost about $10 million and take up to five years, the agency said.

    Five of the locations are recreation sites where people could be exposed to arsenic or lead, the agency said.

    “EPA is interested in expediting cleanup so that we can show improvements in water quality wherever possible,” said Christina Progess, manager of the Superfund project…

    The Gold King is not on the list of 26 sites chosen for interim work. The EPA said that’s because a temporary treatment plant was installed two months after the spill and is cleaning up wastewater from the mine.

    The Superfund cleanup will eventually cover 48 mining sites, but the EPA said it chose 26 for interim work to reduce human and environmental risks while a long-term solution is studied.

    The EPA said the 26 sites have elevated levels of aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead or zinc.

    Two of the recreation sites on the list are campgrounds and three are parking areas or locations where people meet for tours, the EPA said. The plan calls for covering mine waste piles and contaminated soil with gravel or plant growth to reduce human exposure and keep the contaminants from being kicked into the air.

    The other work includes dredging contaminated sediment from streams and from ponds near mine openings, and digging ditches and berms to keep water from flushing contaminants out of waste piles and into streams.

    The EPA is seeking public comment on the plan. The deadline for comments is July 16.