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.”

Eagle turns dirt on second water treatment plant

The water treatment process

From The Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

A groundbreaking ceremony saw the first shovels of dirt turned Tuesday, July 10. Excavation should continue through the summer, and concrete should follow in the fall.

Water is scheduled to begin flowing in the fall of 2020…

The town’s current and only water treatment plant runs at 90 percent capacity during peak demand, and some days it’s higher, said Brandy Reitter, Eagle town manager. The new plant will generate as much as 2.5 million gallons of water per day and can be expanded to 5 million gallons per day. It should fulfill the town’s projected growth needs for the next 20 years.

“The town must accommodate its existing users. We also want to accommodate new customers and growth. We cannot consider new development unless we have the water to serve,” Reitter said. “Now is the time. The demands have increased significantly and we cannot wait any longer.”

This new water plant will be on the Eagle River. The current plant is on Brush Creek and is the town’s only source of water.

The town has good water rights on the Eagle River, thanks to tireless work by former town manager Willy Powell, Reitter said.

Bryon McGinnis, Eagle’s public works director, said the second water plant will help the town preserve those hard-won water rights…

A second water plant is also a public safety issue, McGinnis said, pointing out the many wildfires burning around Western Colorado.

The Lake Christine fire near Basalt hit that town’s watershed and strained its system. However, Basalt has a system of wells near the Roaring Fork River, and that second water source kept the water flowing, McGinnis said.

The town of Eagle saved $10 million and used it as a down payment on the new plant.

“Development has, for many years, paid its own way. The town has collected and saved fees to help pay for this,” Reitter said.

The remaining cost will be covered by a low-interest, 20-year loan from a state revolving fund.

Broomfield-based MWH Constructors will build the plant.

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District hopes to act as agent for Water Supply Reserve Fund Proposal

Illustration shows water availability, in blue circles, compared with demand at various places along the South Platte River. The yellow area is the study area. (Illustration by Stantec).

From. The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District will submit a proposal to act as fiscal agent for the Water Supply Reserve Fund Proposal being drawn up by the South Platte Regional Opportunities Working Group. That decision came during Tuesday’s meeting of the district’s Executive Committee.

The $390,000 project, described in the nearly impenetrable technical language of water experts, is essentially the next step after the South Platte Storage Study, which was completed late last year.

The study, authorized by the Colorado General Assembly in House Bill 16-1256, looked at the stretch of the South Platte River between Kersey and the Nebraska state line in an attempt to find water storage to fill a crippling water gap that is just 12 years away. According to the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, by 2030 the need for water in Colorado will exceed supplies by 560,000 acre feet, or 182 billion gallons per year, and most of that is here in the South Platte River Basin.

Joe Frank, general manager of the LSPWCD, said the study is good at indicating what can or should be done to meet the growing water gap, but it says nothing about how to do it or by whom. And it’s the “by whom” part that needs to be addressed next, Frank said, because without an entity to fund an promote projects, nothing gets done.

Drawing pipelines and pumps is the easy part, for me, because I’m an engineer,” Frank said. “But we have to figure out who we are, and that’s the hard part. The institutional structure is what we still have to figure out, and that’s a big part of this (new project.)”

The new project first establishes a fiscal agent and project sponsors, initially SPROWG members, to prepare a funding proposal and a work plan. It’s that fiscal agent part that Frank asked his executive committee to consider. LSPWCD was the fiscal agent on the South Plate Storage Study; the job entails making sure funds are paid to the right people at the right time and are properly accounted for.

According to an Outline of Proposed Tasks, the next task – and the one Frank thinks will be most crucial – is to identify or create an organization to support “the development, operation, financing, ownership and governance of the South Platte Basin regional water development concept …”

Three year Prewitt Reservoir project improves spring habitat conditions and hunting opportunities

Hunter in fog at Prewitt Reservoir via Colorado Open Lands

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate via The Fort Morgan Times:

Ducks Unlimited completed a three-year project on the Prewitt Reservoir State Wildlife Area in December, and officials are waiting to see whether the new concept works in the coming year.

Jason Roudebush, a water resource specialist with DU, briefed members of the South Platte Basin Roundtable on the project during the roundtable’s April meeting in Longmont on Tuesday.

Roudebush said DU installed a water-control structure on a marsh below the reservoir’s dam in 2016.

Last summer DU installed a series of terraces near the inlet to the reservoir. The terraces will allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers to control water levels and create more open water in the marsh, improving spring habitat conditions and hunting opportunities.

Jim Yahn, manager of the Prewitt, said after the presentation that the project doesn’t necessarily enhance the irrigation benefit of the reservoir, but it definitely improves the value as a recreation area. He said the Prewitt is now in a 25-year lease to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife as a state recreation area.

“Any enhancement that we can make to make it a better recreation area, that makes it more valuable to Prewitt water users in the future,” he said. “And if we can get those improvements at no cost (to the reservoir company) then it makes it just that much more valuable for recreation and hunting.”

Yahn said the building of terraces in the reservoir is a new concept and it will take a season of irrigating to make sure the concept works.

“They’re underwater now, so we’ll see how they hold together after we start irrigating,” he said. “It seems like it will work, but it’s still new. If it works, it could be done in other places. It might not work everywhere, but it could be incorporated into any new reservoir that’s built.”

The project is in an area of the reservoir open to public hunting. According to Roudebush, the goal of the Prewitt project is to enhance more than 450 acres of habitat, including cattail-choked marshes below the reservoir’s dam and wetlands near its shore.

On the Ducks Unlimited web site, DU regional biologist Matt Reddy said the terracing helps put water where it’s most useful to wildlife.

“If you think of the reservoir as a big bath tub, you have to fill the bottom of the tub before the water can get up to the top where the best duck habitat is,” Reddy said. “We are putting the terraces in at the top of the reservoir so we don’t have to add as much water to flood habitat where wildlife can use it.”

The project is part of DU’s Prewitt Reservoir Partnership with a goal to restore all of the waterfowl habitats in reach of the reservoir. To date, the partnership has spent more than $1 million conserving nearly 5,000 acres of habitat associated with Prewitt. Partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the North American Wetlands Council, the Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Open Lands and the Prewitt Reservoir Company.

Westminster is creating a digital tour of their waterways

Westminster

From The Westminster Window (Scott Taylor):

The data [Duke] Douglas collects between June 25 and the end of July will be collected into public database online — not just 360 degree panoramic photographs but stream temperatures, salinity, pH balance and other factors.

“Its terabytes of data,” said Andrew Hawthorn, senior engineer for the City’s utility department. “It’s going to be 30 full days of data collection with a half-dozen or so different data points as sources that will all be sorted through and assembled into a package in post-production. That will give us a data product that will look like Google’s Street view but in the stream.”

The city has contracted with Littleton-based Enginuity Engineering Solutions to perform the survey. Project Manager Colin Barry said it’s the first time a Colorado municipality has performed this kind of stream-side survey.

Setting future projects

The survey tell city officials which waterways are in need of maintenance, like stabilizing a shore, removing trash or vegetation or seeking out pollution sources, according to Sharon Williams, Westminster’s stormwater utility manager.

“Some of this is about water quality but most of it is about observing the banks themselves and looking for what areas need maintenance,” she said. “But it can also tell us if there are sources of pollution we need to be look for, like someone dumping motor oil in a storm sewer or leaking containers somewhere.”

It’s been 11 years since the city last surveyed its stormwater drainages. That includes 63 miles miles of ditches, concrete conduits and canals feeding into broader creeks and streams, like the Big Dry Creek.

But rather than flowing from mountain snow stockpiles, many of these drainages start from within the city itself — running off when people water their lawns or wash their cars in their driveways or from rain funneling through roadside drains. Whatever is on the lawns, the driveways or the roads gets swept down the drains.

“That can mean soap or phosphates from fertilizers getting washed into the steams and into lakes, eventually,” Williams said.

That can encourage algae to grow in blooms, which can ruin a waterway and lead to dead fish.

Digital survey

It’s the kind of thing the survey is meant sniff out, and it involved staffers walking the area and inspecting it in 2007.

Today’s effort is much more high-tech — and heavy. Douglas, a Colorado School of Mines environmental engineering graduate student, shoulders the bulk of the equipment, carrying a 30-pound rig bristling with antennas, sensors and gadgetry.

“Our goal is to give them new imagry and views of the creek they have not had before,” Barry said. “The more we can get in the creek and in the middle, the better.”

A key part is a GoPro Omni quad camera that captures panoramic photos every few feet Douglas walks, linked to GPS system. Not only does it record as many as 4,000 high-resolution photographs per day, it links them to a map.

Eventually, Williams said, city officials will be able to inspect the drainages from the comfort of their own desk, looking at the photos Douglas’ rig captures they way they might Google Street View.

“It’s really helpful because we get an instantaneous snapshot of what’s happening at that place and at that point in time,” Williams said. “It’s different from what we would typically see and have to evaluate the condition.”

Douglas also carries water quality sensors, designed to test for temperature, pH balance, salinity and electrical conduction as well as an optional depth finder.

“It’s basically a lab,” Williams said. “He’s carrying a little water quality lab on his back.”

The rig can also be hooked to a fish camera that can be mounted to the bottom of the walking stick Douglas carries. It’s not necessary for shallow puddles but can show water quality in deeper waterways, like the Dry Creek.

“We did the river by the course and that’s deeper we got some great pictures and the fish,” Barry said.

Golf balls

It certainly draws attention, they said. It’s not everyday you see two men walking down the middle of creek.

“We were up in a by the Hyland Hills golf course and the golfers all wanted to know if we had scuba gear with us, and could we go diving golf balls,” Barry said.

They saw plenty of golf balls, but didn’t collect them.

“But only the bright white ones are really easy to see,” Barry said. “But we saw plenty of fish.”

Barry follows along with a handheld GPS unit, making notes and observations about the condition of the drainage. He notes when it drops down, when other drains join in and when it widens or narrows.

All that information is logged into a computer at the end of each day and will eventually become a comprehensive digital model of the city, showing where they might be problems with pollution, erosion or places that might be in need of maintenance.

“We expect a pretty constant temperature and pH balance throughout the stream, so if we see a significant drop or increase at one point it’s a clue that we need to do a little more investigation in the area,” Williams said.

City staff will use that information to plan maintenance work around the city’s watershed for the next decade. In all the project is costing $238,000 and is being paid from the city’s stormwater utility funds.

The survey won’t only aid city planners, but it’ll be available for the public to look at, too. Westminster is the first Colorado municipality to create this kind of study, but Enginuity has created similar digital tours for waterways in Texas and Washington State and around Key West in Florida.

“They can go to fishviews.com and see those sites and get a better idea of what we are hoping get,” Hawthorn said.

Douglas and Barry found examples of high phosphates almost the moment they got started, in the form of thick green algae covering the sides of the concrete Ketner tributary, the narrow concrete ditch that runs alongside the walking path that started at Oak and 102nd.

Williams said that algae is common along suburban drainages, encouraged to grow by fertilizers common to suburban lawns.

“It causes problems down streams, so if we can do something to treat our urban runoffs, we can improve the quality of natural streams down the line,” Williams said.

Aspen signs deals with @AmericanRivers, Trout Unlimited to move Castle/Maroon dam rights — @AspenJournalism

Berries in the meadow near the Maroon Bells that would be flooded by a Maroon Creek Reservoir. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

American Rivers and Colorado Trout Unlimited are the latest of 10 opposing parties to sign agreements with the city of Aspen stating that the city will move its conditional water storage rights out of the upper Castle and Maroon creek valleys to five other locations.

“This is a significant victory for rivers in Colorado,” said Matt Rice, the Colorado River basin director for American Rivers, in a statement issued jointly with Colorado Trout Unlimited on Tuesday.

The alternative potential locations to store water from Castle and Maroon creeks include the city’s golf course, on open space near the Burlingame neighborhood, on open space at Cozy Point at the bottom of Brush Creek Road, on undeveloped land in Woody Creek next to the gravel pit and in the gravel pit itself.

David Nickum, the executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said in the statement, “We appreciate the city of Aspen making this commitment to meet its water-supply needs while protecting these much-loved valleys and creeks, and the wild trout that call them home.”

City officials also expect to soon receive a signed agreement from Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co., the owner of an estate in the lower Maroon Creek valley, according to Margeret Medellin, a utilities portfolio manager for the city of Aspen.

As of May 29, the city had reached earlier settlements with Pitkin County, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, Double R Cross Ltd and Asp Properties LLC in the two cases.

Medellin said Tuesday she understands the U.S. Forest Service also is prepared to sign an agreement and is working toward that end.

And at a June 26 status conference, Craig Corona, the attorney for Larsen Family LP, the last of the 10 opposing parties, told the court he and his client were making progress toward settlement with the city.

City officials have previously said none of the agreements are valid unless all 10 parties sign them.

Reached on Tuesday, Corona said he could not discuss the case.

A water court official has given the opposing parties who have not reached agreement with the city until July 10 to respond to the city’s latest proposal.

The city then has until Aug. 7 to get back to the opposers and the next status conference in the two water court cases is set for Aug. 21.

A map showing the location of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir.

1965 filing

The city’s conditional water storage rights date back to 1965, when the city first filed maps with the state declaring its intent to build the two dams.

One water right is tied to a 155-foot-tall dam that would be located just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks, within view of the Maroon Bells, to hold back 4,567 acre-feet of water in the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir.

The other is tied to a 170-foot-tall dam on Castle Creek 2 miles below Ashcroft that could store 9,062 acre-feet in the potential Castle Creek Reservoir.

The city’s water rights carry a 1971 priority date and since then the city has periodically told the state it still intends to build the dams and reservoirs someday, when necessary.

In its latest periodic diligence filings with the state, in October 2016, the city again declared its intent and drew opposition from the 10 opposing parties.

The dam site of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir, in the Roaring Fork River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Key issues raised during the process include whether the city has been diligently making progress toward building the dams and if the city needs the water.

However, sufficient diligence and need are in the eyes of a water court judge and remain unresolved questions.

In their statement issued Tuesday, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited pointed out that “Aspen’s own 2016 water availability report clearly stated that the city did not need the two dams for municipal water supply or climate resiliency.”

Since that 2016 report the city has conducted a “risk analysis” study that found it could perhaps need about 8,000 acre-feet of storage in a hotter and drier world.

And a recent engineering study that identified five alternative locations where the city could potentially store the water.

“We explored alternatives for water storage and we believe we’ve come up with the best solution for prudent water management that serves the needs of our water customers and speaks to our environmental values,” Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said in March, when the city spent $2.68 million on 63 acres of vacant land as a potential water storage site.

Under the terms of the settlements being signed with the city, the opposing parties are conceding that the city has been diligent, or perhaps diligent enough, and are taking a neutral stance, at least with the court, on the question of whether the city needs that much water.

“American Rivers agreed to diligence for the City of Aspen because we thought this was the best opportunity to reach a settlement with the city that would permanently remove the water rights for the two dams from the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys, not because we believe the city needs more water storage or has been diligent in developing the projects,” Rice, of American Rivers, told Aspen Journalism. “Our priority has always been the health and protection of Castle and Maroon Creeks. “

The signed agreements to date say that the parties will not oppose a forthcoming application from the city to relocate up to 8,500 acre-feet of its 13,629 acre-feet of conditional water storage rights to potential storage facilities at the five locations outside of the high valleys.

Other parties, not in the Castle and Maroon creek cases, can still oppose the city’s efforts in water court to move the water rights, and their 1971 decree date.

If it is unsuccessful in its efforts to move the rights, the city has said, in the agreements it has signed to date, that it will not seek to maintain the Castle and Maroon rights in their original locations.

The signed agreements to date say that the parties will not oppose a forthcoming application from the city to relocate up to 8,500 acre-feet of it’s 13,629 acre-feet of conditional water storage rights to potential storage facilities at the five locations outside of the high valleys.

Other parties, not in the Castle and Maroon creek cases, can still oppose the city’s efforts in water court to move the water rights, and their 1971 decree date.

If it is unsuccessful in its efforts to move the rights, the city has said, in the agreements it has signed to date, that it will not seek to maintain the Castle and Maroon rights in their original locations.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times on coverage of rivers and water. The Times published this story on July 4, 2018.

City of Aspen moves closer to settlements on Castle and Maroon creeks water rights cases — @AspenJournalism

The dam site of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

The city of Aspen continues to make progress on reaching settlement agreements with 10 different parties over its water rights on Maroon and Castle creeks, and a water referee set deadlines that could lead to a resolution before the end of summer.

At a status conference [July 26, 2018], both the city and its opponents said progress is being made toward resolving the cases.

“I feel optimistic we are moving toward a settlement,” said Cindy Covell, a water attorney for the city who is with Alperstein and Covell in Denver.

So far, five of the 10 parties who oppose the city’s efforts in water court to maintain conditional storage rights tied to potential dams on Maroon and Castle creeks have signed settlement agreements. Still left to sign are American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service, Larsen Family Limited Partnership and Roaring Fork Land & Cattle Co.

Attorney Paul Noto, who represents American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co., said his clients will likely settle soon.

“I think we are all enthused about how it all ended up,” Noto said. “We are excited about the protections afforded to Castle and Maroon creeks.”

That leaves two other parties that are further away from settling, Larsen Family LP and the U.S. Forest Service.

Attorney Craig Corona of Aspen, who represents the Larsen family, told water court referee Susan Michelle Ryan on Tuesday that he and the city are “definitely” making progress toward finalizing a settlement. The U.S. Forest Service has been difficult to reach lately, according to Covell.

Upper Castle Creek, about two miles below Ashcroft, where the city holds conditional water storage rights tied to the potential Castle Creek Reservoir, which would be formed by a 170-foot-tall dam. The city is moving closer to reaching settlement agreements with the ten parties opposing the city’s effort to hang on to the water rights, and the settlement includes moving the city’s rights out of the Castle and Maroon creek valleys.

Response deadlines

Ryan set a deadline of July 10 for the remaining opposing parties to respond to the city’s settlement proposal. The city must respond to those responses (if a response is necessary) by Aug. 7. The next status conference is scheduled for Aug. 21.

The cases are being heard in Division 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs. The new deadlines mean the cases will extend past the 18-month deadline of disposition, but Ryan decided to keep them on her docket since progress toward a resolution is being made.

Potential reservoirs

Since 1965, the city has owned conditional water rights for reservoirs on Maroon and Castle creeks. In October 2016, the city filed a diligence application to maintain the water rights, which are tied to potential dams.

The potential Maroon Creek Reservoir would hold 4,567 acre-feet of water and include a 155-foot-tall dam, which would flood part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The potential Castle Creek Reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet behind a 170-foot-tall dam 2 miles below Ashcroft.

The possibility of two new reservoirs and dams didn’t sit well with 10 parties, who filed statements of opposition to the two water rights cases in December 2016.

Under the agreements, the city will seek to transfer its conditional water storage rights to other potential reservoir sites, including a gravel pit near Woody Creek, with a maximum storage capacity of 8,500 acre-feet. As part of the deal, the opposing parties have agreed not to fight the city’s efforts to move the water rights to new locations for 20 years.

The five parties that have already signed the agreements include Pitkin County, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates and two private property owners in Castle Creek Valley.