“Colorado water law…there is not such a thing as absolute certainty” — Eric Wilkinson

Windy Gap and C-BT Granby area facilities
Windy Gap and C-BT Granby area facilities

From The Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonucci):

Officials in charge of the Windy Gap Firming Project are checking to make sure that a Dec. 7 Colorado Supreme Court decision won’t adversely affect the $387.36 million transmountain water diversion project that will benefit the Front Range…

…in December, the Colorado Supreme Court sided with western slope interests against Aurora in case that had to deal with pumping western slope water across the continental divide and storing it on the eastern slope. Aurora had a one-half interest in the Busk-Ivanhoe Diversion Project in western Colorado.

Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River District, said the case relied on storage rights for the water.

“The big crux of the Aurora case is that they didn’t have the storage rights for the transmountain water that they took,” Pokrandt said. “So I’m sure what a lot of folks are doing is looking at their water decrees and seeing if they actually have decreed storage rights for transmountain water. That’s the question for the Windy Gap Firming Project.”

Pokrandt said that in the Colorado River District’s view, the court made the right decision.

“Our position is that water law is water law and under ordinary water law, you need a water right to store water. And Aurora argued that transmountain water didn’t need an exact water right to store it,” Pokrandt said. “But, no you do need that because water law is water law and there’s nothing special about transmountain water.”

The municipal subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is leading the Windy Gap Firming Project.

Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the municipal subdistrict, said they have staff researching to make sure the Aurora decision is unique to the case and to verify that the Windy Gap Firming Project is on legally stable ground moving forward.

“The Busk-Ivanhoe decision has a very significant application statewide … what the (Colorado) Supreme Court decision did is apply, in essence, 2016 water rights administration and laws to a decree that is dated 1928,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson added that staff are verifying that they have the water decrees to store Windy Gap water on the within the basin of use, which would be on the western slope.

Northern Spokesman Brian Werner said they are fairly certain the Colorado Supreme Court decision shouldn’t have major impacts on the Windy Gap Firming Project, which has been in the works since 2004.

“I want to emphasize that intent to store, we’ve had that all along with the Windy Gap Firming Project,” Werner said. “So if you’re asking what the impact (of the decision) is on the Windy Gap Firming Project, I can tell you there shouldn’t be any.”

Wilkinson added that with Colorado water law, nothing is certain forever.

“That’s the intent of our research to get to that point (of certainty),” Wilkinson said.

“But in Colorado water law and some of the interpretations that come out, there is not such a thing as absolute certainty. This Busk-Ivanhoe decision introduced some change in thought that didn’t exist before so say ‘here’s how it will be always and forever in absolute certainty’ is probably unreasonable, but we’re trying to get to a reasonable amount of certainty.”

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Coyote Gulch contributor Brent Gardner-Smith took a deep dive into the decision to extract a summary of the water court process for a change of use. Below is his email:

John,

You might appreciate this. In the midst of the Busk opinion is summary of the factors that go into changing a water right. I’ve stripped it of the legal references, but otherwise, it’s the court’s words. Thought you might appreciate it. Not sure what else to do with it yet.

BGS

Under Colorado’s doctrine of prior appropriation, a water right is a usufructuary right that affords its owner the right to use and enjoy a portion of the waters of the state.

One does not “own” water, but owns the right to use water within the limitations of this doctrine.

The touchstone of Colorado’s prior appropriation doctrine is beneficial use. That is, an appropriator perfects a right to use water by applying a specified quantity of unappropriated water to a beneficial use.

“Beneficial use” is “that amount of water that is reasonable and appropriate under reasonably efficient practices to accomplish without waste the purpose for which the appropriation is lawfully made.”

Colorado water law has long recognized the right of water users to make changes to the terms of their decrees—including changes to the type, place, or time of beneficial use; changes to the points of diversion; changes to storage; and changes from direct flow to storage and subsequent application and vice versa.

Permanent changes to a water right must be decreed through the adjudication process established by the legislature … and … parties wishing to change the use of a water right must obtain a water court decree allowing the change in use.

It is inherent in the notion of a ‘change’ of water right that the right itself can only be changed and not enlarged.

This is a basic predicate of water law dating to the nineteenth century; a change application merely continues the rights decreed in the original appropriation in a new form and may not expand the amount of water actually used under the original decree.

In other words, “the right to change a water right is limited to that amount of water actually used beneficially pursuant to the decree at the appropriator’s place of use.”

Thus, in order to determine that a requested change of a water right is merely a change, and will not amount to an enlargement of the original appropriation, the court must quantify the historic use of the right to some degree of precision.

Quantification of the amount of water beneficially consumed pursuant to the decree guards against rewarding wasteful practices or recognizing water claims that are not justified by the nature or extent of the appropriator’s actual need.

An absolute decree confirms that a right of appropriation has vested; the decree entitles the appropriator to use that right through its decreed point of diversion in a specified amount, usually expressed as a flow rate (for a diversion right) or in acre-feet of water (for a storage right).

The term “historic use” refers to the “historic consumptive use” or “historic beneficial consumptive use,” attributable to the appropriation of that quantity of water historically consumed by applying the water to its decreed beneficial use.

However, because “the period and pattern of use are not known with certainty at the time a water right is adjudicated,” the decreed flow rate at the decreed point of diversion is not the same as the matured measure of the water right.

Rather, over an extended period of time, “a pattern of historic diversions and use under the decreed right for its decreed use at its place of use” will become the true measure of the mature water right for change purposes, typically quantified in acre-feet of water consumed.

Crucially, proper analysis of the historic consumptive use of a water right measures the amount of water both actually and lawfully used in accordance with the decree.

Because beneficial use defines the genesis and maturation of every appropriative water right in this state, every decree includes an implied limitation that diversions are limited to those sufficient for the purposes for which the appropriation was made.

Importantly, the actual historic diversion for beneficial use may be less than the decreed rate because, for example, “that amount has simply not been historically needed or applied for the decreed purpose.”

Indeed, we have often observed that when an appropriator exercises the right to change a decreed water right, he runs the real risk that the right will be requantified at an amount less than his original decree, based on the actual historic consumptive use of the right.

In short, an initial change application reopens the original decree for determination of the true measure of the appropriative right’s consumptive use draw on the river system.

In sum, “the fundamental purpose of a change proceeding is to ensure that the true right — that which has ripened by beneficial use over time — is the one that will prevail in its changed form.”

The decision is actually a page-turner for water wonks.

@CWCB_DNR: Next Water Availability Task Force, January 19, 2017

The Flatirons from Wheat Ridge photo via Wheat Ridge 2020
The Flatirons from Wheat Ridge photo via Wheat Ridge 2020

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

The next Water Availability Task Force meeting will be held on Thursday, January 19, 2017 from 9:30-11:30am at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver in the Red Fox Room.

#Animas River: @EPA releases final analysis for #GoldKingMine spill

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]
This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company.

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Christie St. Clair):

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted the final fate and transport report for the Gold King Mine (GKM) release. The report focuses on understanding pre-existing river conditions, the movement of metals related to the GKM release through the river system, and the effects of the GKM release on water quality. The research supports EPA’s earlier statements that water quality in the affected river system returned to the levels that existed prior to the GKM release and contamination of metals from the release have moved through the river system to Lake Powell.

“This report is a comprehensive analysis of the effects on water quality from the Gold King Mine release,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “While data indicate that water quality has returned to pre-event conditions, EPA is committed to continue our work with States and Tribes in the river system affected by the Gold King Mine release to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.”

The area affected by the Gold King Mine release consists of complex river systems influenced by decades of historic acid mine drainage. The report shows the total amount of metals, dominated by iron and aluminum, entering the Animas River following the release — which lasted about nine hours on August 5, 2015 –was comparable to four to seven days of ongoing GKM acid mine drainage or the average amount of metals carried by the river in one to two days of high spring runoff. However, the concentrations of some metals in the GKM plume were higher than historical mine drainage. As the yellow plume of metal-laden water traveled downstream after the release, the metal concentrations within the plume decreased as they were diluted by river water and as some of the metals settled to the river bed.

There were no reported fish kills in the affected rivers, and post-release surveys by multiple organizations have found that other aquatic life does not appear to have suffered harmful short-term effects from the GKM plume. The concentrations of metals in well-water samples collected after the plume passed did not exceed federal drinking water standards. No public water system using Lake Powell as a source of drinking water has reported an exceedance of metals standards since the release.

Some metals from the GKM release contributed to exceedances of state and tribal water quality criteria at various times for nine months after the release in some locations. Metals from the GKM release may have contributed to some water quality criteria exceedances during the spring 2016 snow melt. Other exceedances may reflect longstanding contributions of metals from historic mining activities in the region and natural levels of metals in soils and rocks in the area. EPA will continue to work with states and tribes to interpret and respond to these findings.

Results from this analysis will inform future federal, state and tribal decisions on water and sediment monitoring. EPA will continue to work with states and tribes to ensure the protection of public health and the environment in the river system affected by the Gold King Mine release.
Read the final report, “Analysis of the Transport and Fate of Metals Released From the Gold King Mine in the Animas and San Juan Rivers”: https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_file_download.cfm?p_download_id=530074

Read the report’s executive summary: https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_file_download.cfm?p_download_id=530075

More information on the Fate and Transport analysis: https://www.epa.gov/goldkingmine/fate-transport-analysis

More information on the 2015 Gold King Mine incident: https://www.epa.gov/goldkingmine

Cement Creek aerial photo -- Jonathan Thompson via Twitter
Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

From The Durango Herald (Luke Perkins):

The 2015 Gold King Mine spill deposited nearly 540 tons of metals over a 9-hour period into Cement Creek, which feeds into the Animas River, the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday in it final report on the scope and ongoing effects of the spill.

The EPA estimated that roughly one percent of the metals, mostly iron and aluminum, contained in the spill came from the mine, with the rest coming from the waste piles on the hillside below the mine adit and the stream bed of Cement Creek.

The study states “the volume of the GKM release was equivalent to four to seven days of ongoing GKM acid mine drainage,” or “one to two days of high spring runoff.”

But, as indicated in previous tests, the river returned to pre-spill levels.

There have been no reported fish kills or significant impacts on other aquatic life, but the EPA will continue to monitor the waterways impacted by the spill, the agency said Friday in a release.

The study also looked at water quality in the Animas to see if it had returned to pre-event conditions and if the impacts of the spill itself had long-term detrimental ramifications on the river given the history of mining in the region…

“The research supports EPA’s earlier statements that water quality in the affected river system returned to the levels that existed prior to the GKM release and contamination of metals from the release have moved through the river system to Lake Powell,” the release said.

Following Aug. 5, 2015 spill, the concentration of contaminants exceeded water quality standards in multiple locations impacted.

This necessitated the building of an interim water treatment plant at Gladstone that was mandated to operate through November 2016, said Cynthia Peterson, community involvement coordinator for the Bonita Peak Mining District. The EPA concluded a public comment session on Dec. 14 regarding the future of the treatment plant, and will release a final decision by the end of January, Peterson said. But the EPA has a preferred course of action.

“EPA’s preferred plan for the water treatment plant is for its continued operations and to look at additional options in the future as we understand more about the nature and spread of the contamination,” she said.

The agency also is conducting remedial investigation to understand the impact of the 48 sites in the mining district, which was named a Superfund site in September, on river contamination, Peterson said. This represents the first step before clean-up operations can begin.

From the Associated Press (Matthew Daly) via The Farmington Daily Times:

Agency says only 1 percent of the metals came from inside the mine and the rest were “scoured” from waste piles on nearby hills and stream beds

Health and environmental officials in San Juan County are evaluating the Animas River after roughly 1 million gallons of mine waste water were released Wednesday. August 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy San Juan Basin Health Department)
Health and environmental officials in San Juan County are evaluating the Animas River after roughly 1 million gallons of mine waste water were released Wednesday. August 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy San Juan Basin Health Department)

Nearly 540 tons of metals — mostly iron and aluminum — contaminated the Animas River over nine hours during a massive wastewater spill from an abandoned Colorado gold mine, the Environmental Protection Agency said today in a new report on the 2015 blowout that turned rivers in three states a sickly yellow.

The total amount of metals entering the river system was comparable to levels during one or two days of high spring runoff, although the concentration of metals was significantly higher at the spill’s peak, the report said.

In February, the EPA estimated the amount of metals in the release at 440 tons. The agency said additional data and improved analysis resulted in the higher final estimate.

The EPA said its research supports earlier statements that water quality in the affected river system has returned to pre-spill levels…

The EPA said in its report that only 1 percent of the metals came from inside the mine, while 99 percent were “scoured” from waste piles on nearby hills and stream beds. The iron and aluminum reacted with the river water to cause the eye-catching mustard color that was visible for days as the plume traveled down the river system into Lake Powell, the EPA said.

Besides iron and aluminum, the spill released manganese, lead, copper, arsenic, zinc, cadmium and a small amount of mercury into the river, the EPA said…

New Mexico Environment Secretary Butch Tongate accused the EPA of using the taxpayer-funded report to try to defend its actions. The state has sued the agency over the spill.

Colorado officials said they had no comment on the report. Utah officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

From The Denver Post (Jesse Paul):

“While data indicate that water quality has returned to pre-event conditions, EPA is committed to continue our work with States and Tribes in the river system affected by the Gold King Mine release to ensure the protection of public health and the environment,” Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s science adviser and deputy assistant administrator in its office of research and development, said in a statement…

The disaster, which turned the Animas River a toxic-looking yellow-orange, prompted concern and anger downstream, particularly in the Navajo Nation and New Mexico, where officials have been continually complaining about the spill’s water-quality impacts and have filed lawsuits against the EPA. The concentrations of some metals in the Gold King mine plume were higher than historical mine drainage, the EPA said in a news release announcing the report’s findings, but the impacts on water quality were not long lasting as some had worried…

There were no reported fish kills in the Animas or San Juan rivers, and the EPA says surveys have round that other aquatic life does not appear to have suffered any short-term impacts…

Also, the agency says the concentrations of metals in well-water samples collected after the 3 million-gallon spill’s plume passed through areas did not exceed federal drinking water standards. No public water system using Lake Powell as a source of drinking water has reported an exceedance of metals standards since the release, according to the EPA.

“Some metals from the GKM release contributed to exceedances of state and tribal water quality criteria at various times for nine months after the release in some locations,” the release said. “Metals from the GKM release may have contributed to some water quality criteria exceedances during the spring 2016 snow melt.”

However the EPA says other metal-level exceedances may reflect the longstanding mine drainage from the region’s historic sites as well as natural levels of metals in southwest Colorado’s soils and rocks. Silverton and its surroundings are now slated to get a federal cleanup of their leaching, historic mines under the EPA’s Superfund program.

The mines and mining sites in Silverton’s surroundings — including the Gold King — pour an estimated 5.4 million gallons of metal-laden waste into the Animas’ headwaters each day.

“Results from this analysis will inform future federal, state and tribal decisions on water and sediment monitoring,” the EPA release said, though it did not immediately elaborate.

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.
Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

@americanrivers: A New Year’s Resolution Challenge to Protect the #ColoradoRiver

Colorado River headwaters tributary in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.
Colorado River headwaters tributary in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.

From American Rivers (Fay Augustyn):

Here in Colorado, rivers and streams are the lifeblood of our livelihood and economy, and this past year we celebrated the first anniversary of the signing of the Colorado Water Plan, a first of its kind plan to protect and conserve water in Colorado.

Like many other Coloradans, each January 1st, I like to set resolutions to restart in the New Year. Probably like you, my resolutions are usually focused on self-improvement – like eating healthier or making time for the gym – other times its adding simple acts of kindness to my daily routine. The holidays have a way of reminding us to do and be better, not just for ourselves or those close to us, but also for each other and the planet we depend on.

Clearly, water plays a critical role in our lives. Not only do we all need clean drinking water, but it also fuels agriculture, manufacturing, and recreation that support our way of life. Like many of you, I love my local rivers and streams and look forward to every chance I get to enjoy them.

Here in the Colorado River Basin, rivers and streams are the lifeblood of our livelihood and economy, with Colorado River and its tributaries contributing to a $26 billion economy. This past November, we celebrated the first anniversary of the signing of the Colorado Water Plan, a first of its kind plan to protect and conserve water in Colorado. While this milestone is something to celebrate, implementation thus far has been slower than anticipated. But new opportunities lie ahead in 2017 as the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) pledged to secure $55 million in funds for implementation. These funds include money dedicated towards creating stream management plans on rivers statewide, which will develop methods to manage rivers and streams in Colorado – keeping them healthy for both nature and people.

How much water reaches the Westwater stretch of the Colorado River, and then Lake Powell, is taking on increasing importance to Colorado water officials. A new study is underway to look at much more water is available to develop on the Western Slope, and it's caught the attention of east slope water officials. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
How much water reaches the Westwater stretch of the Colorado River, and then Lake Powell, is taking on increasing importance to Colorado water officials. A new study is underway to look at much more water is available to develop on the Western Slope, and it’s caught the attention of east slope water officials. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Implementing larger conservation initiatives like the Colorado Water Plan are critical for not only the rivers of Colorado, but for the entire Colorado River Basin. However, large initiatives aren’t the only thing that will make a difference in conserving our rivers. As an individual, it may be challenging to determine how you can make a difference in your water use. There are a number of “resolutions” you can add to your list that will not only conserve water and protect local rivers, but reduce your impact on the local environment as well.

This year, I’m determined to do a better job of conserving water in my house and reducing my impact on our rivers. In addition to my usual resolutions, I’m adding a few to protect the rivers I love and depend on – join me! Here are a few of the resolutions I’m adding to my list this year:

WATERING THE GARDEN AND LANDSCAPE EARLY IN THE MORNING.
Here in Colorado, the sun is hot! I recently moved into a new house and this summer I’m planning to plant native species that require less water and can survive sunny conditions. In order to reduce evaporation and help water reach their roots, I will water my plants and vegetables early in the cool mornings to reduce waste. Another added benefit – watering early in the day can help reduce unwanted garden pests like slugs!

EATING LOCAL AND SHOP AT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET.
Sustainable farms and ranches help protect open space and clean water supply. This year, I’m going to make an effort to eat more locally and visit my neighborhood farmers market. In Colorado, many local farmers and ranchers have worked with local land trusts and open space programs to protect water rights and important riverside lands, keeping more water in the river. Eating locally also helps reduce energy used for transporting those goods to market, which in turn, reduces the amount of water needed to create fuel. Shopping at the farmers market is fun too – especially when I bring my friends and family to enjoy it with me!

water tap

COMMITTING TO SHORTER SHOWERS AND CHECKING FOR LEAKY PIPES AND FAUCETS.
I will cut down on my shower time by washing my hair every other day to reduce time, and remind my husband to turn off the water while he shaves. A four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water (depending on your shower head). Not to mention, a small drip from an old, leaky faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. In addition to conserving water, you could see some significant water savings right away on your monthly bill.

USING MY DISH AND CLOTHES WASHER ONLY WHEN THEY ARE FULL.
While it can be more convenient to run your washer when you need it, I will only run my dish and clothes washers when they are full. Not only is this more energy efficient, but running a full dishwasher instead of handwashing dishes can save more than 10 gallons per load. And before I do a load of laundry, I’ll be sure to check its size before pressing start to make sure the dial is adjusted to match the amount of clothes in the machine. And, I think about whether I could wash this load in a cooler temperature – hot water accounts for a dramatic increase in my energy bill, and turning the dial down from hot saves energy. Every drop counts!

CALLING MY STATE AND FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES AND ADVOCATE FOR WATER CONSERVATION.
We can make a difference. By calling my representative I am letting them know that the water and rivers in Colorado are important to me and I want to see them protected. Stay up to date on water conservation initiatives by signing up for local e-Newsletter where information is included about water conservation. Check out Denver Water’s Conservation Newsletter or the Denver Botanic Gardens newsletter to learn more. Additionally, take time to learn more about important initiatives like the Colorado Water Plan and what it means for local rivers. This innovative plan is critical for the protection of rivers in Colorado. In order to see our rivers protected, we need to continue implementation of the conservation strategies set forth in the plan. First and foremost, I plan to call my representatives and let them know that I want them to approve the budget for the Colorado Water Plan set forth by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Join me and let your representatives know that the Colorado River is important to you and you want it protected.

These are a few things I’m committed to doing in 2017 – leave a comment below about what resolutions you are making to protect the Colorado River!

Big snow for Fort Collins

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map via the NRCS.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

It never looked like a blizzard outside, but three straight days of snow landed Fort Collins with upwards of 9 inches in the city’s northern reaches and at least 7 inches everywhere else by the end of Thursday. That makes it the biggest snow storm Fort Collins has seen this season and pushed the city above its average for this time of year.

EPA delays in-situ uranium rule

uraniuminsitu

From the Associated Press (Mead Gruver) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Federal officials withdrew a proposed requirement for companies to clean up groundwater at uranium mines across the U.S. and will reconsider a rule that congressional Republicans criticized as too harsh on industry.

The plan that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put on hold Wednesday involves in-situ mining, in which water containing chemicals is used to dissolve uranium out of underground sandstone deposits. Water laden with uranium, a toxic element used for nuclear power and weapons, is then pumped to the surface. No digging or tunneling takes place.

The metal occurs in the rock naturally but the process contaminates groundwater with uranium in concentrations much higher than natural levels. Mining companies take several measures to prevent tainted water from seeping out of the immediate mining area.

Even so, underground leaks sometimes occur, though most of the mines are not near population centers. No in-situ uranium mine has contaminated a source of drinking water, the industry and its supporters assert.

Along with setting new cleanup standards, the rule would have required companies to monitor their former mines potentially for decades. The requirement was set for implementation but now will be opened up for a six-month public comment period, with several changes.

Those include allowing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or states to determine certain cleanup standards on a site-specific basis. The EPA decided to resubmit the rule and seek additional public input after reviewing earlier comments, agency spokeswoman Monica Lee said.

Wyoming’s Republican U.S. senators, John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, praised the EPA’s decision to reconsider, saying the rule was unnecessarily burdensome for the uranium industry.

Wyoming has five active in-situ uranium mines and is the top uranium-producing state. Other mines are active in Nebraska and Texas.

“In-situ uranium recovery has been used in the United States for decades, providing valuable jobs to Wyoming and clean energy to the nation,” Enzi said in a news release. “I rarely say this about the EPA, but the agency made the right decision.”

Environmentalists and others say uranium-mining companies have yet to show they can fully clean up groundwater at a former in-situ mine. Clean groundwater should not be taken for granted, they say, especially in the arid and increasingly populated U.S. West.

“We are, of course, disappointed that this final rule didn’t make it to a final stage,” said Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council. “It was designed to address a very real and pressing problem regarding water protection at uranium mines.”

The EPA rule is scheduled for further consideration in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

In-situ uranium mining surged on record prices that preceded the 2011 Japanese tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Prices lately have sunk to decade lows, prompting layoffs.

BLM, Park County monitor water quality at former Fairplay landfill

aspenssouthpark0909

From the Bureau of Land Management via the The Chaffee County Times:

The Bureau of Land Management and Park County have discovered the presence of dioxane, an industrial chemical, within a closed municipal landfill and on surrounding public lands approximately one mile south of Fairplay.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, the chemical exceeds regulatory limits but would not cause harmful health effects based on detected levels of exposure.

Currently, the dioxane has been detected only on public lands. The BLM and Park County will conduct additional monitoring efforts to determine the nature and extent of contamination.

The BLM leased 20 acres of public land to Park County in 1974 for use as a landfill under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. Park County operated the landfill from the early 1970s to the early 1990s.

The BLM Royal Gorge Field Office has been working with Park County and CDPHE to bring the landfill into compliance.

As part of this effort, the BLM installed two groundwater monitoring wells earlier this year to evaluate water quality.

If you are concerned about your health, you can drink and cook with bottled water to limit your exposure. BLM is notifying adjacent landowners directly.

Local landowners can contact Sheila Cross, Park County, at 719-839-4272 or scross@parkco.us to arrange groundwater testing or for more information on monitoring efforts.