#Colorado, #Wyoming Move Forward with #ColoradoRiver Diversions — Public News Service #COriver

Fontenelle Reservoir and Dam, at Green River. Kemmerer, WY - USA March 12, 2016. Photo credit ruimc77 via Flickr.
Fontenelle Reservoir and Dam, at Green River. Kemmerer, WY – USA March 12, 2016. Photo credit ruimc77 via Flickr.

From The Public News Service:

Wyoming has moved one step closer to getting more water for ranching, agriculture and industrial development.

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources has advanced a bill that would allow the state to take an additional 125,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River at the Fontenelle Dam…

State officials say expanding the Fontenelle is necessary for farmers and ranchers who need a reliable water supply to keep crops and livestock healthy.

They feel the measure would also be an economic incentive for new businesses to grow and create jobs in southwestern Wyoming…

[Gary Wockner] notes Wyoming isn’t the only state trying to get more water from a shrinking source.

He points to a proposal by Denver Water to expand the Gross Dam that would remove an additional 5 billion gallons annually from the Colorado.

While upper-basin states may technically have rights to the water, Wockner says the challenges of a changing climate and 16 years of drought can’t be ignored.

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

EPA probes toxic Colorado mine tunnels, investigates possible harm to human health — The Denver Post

On April 7,  2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Crews are debating whether to try to contain toxic mine drainage or funnel it out and clean it perpetually at huge expense

Colorado and federal authorities want to resolve the issue as soon as possible because today’s untreated flow into Animas headwaters — averaging 3,750 gallons a minute — may be hurting not only the environment but human health, officials said recently.

All it would take inside this abandoned Red and Bonita Mine tunnel is a turn of the blue screw on that bulkhead plug to stop hundreds of gallons of the [acid mine drainage] from leaking. But if the EPA crew does turn that screw, shutting a valve, the blockage could cause new toxic blowouts from other mountainside tunnels, veins, faults and fissures.

So, for now, the feds are letting Animas River mines drain, tolerating the massive toxic discharge that equates to more than a dozen Gold King disasters every week.

“We don’t want to discount the Gold King spill, but it is good to keep it in perspective,” said EPA project chief Rebecca Thomas, who’s managing cleanup at the now-stabilized Gold King Mine and 47 other mining sites above Silverton.

“Think about the millions of gallons draining each day. It’s something we should be paying attention to as a society – because of the impact on water quality,” Thomas said.

The environmental damage from contaminants such as zinc and aluminum (measured at levels up to tens of thousands of parts per billion) already has been documented: fish in Animas headwaters cannot reproduce. But questions remain about harm caused by lead in water at exceptionally elevated levels up to 1,800 parts per billion, cadmium at up to 200 ppb, arsenic at up to 1,800 ppb and other heavy metals.

The EPA this month intensified an investigation of possible effects on people at 15 U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, American Indians whose traditions take them to high valleys, and vehicle riders who churn dust along roads.

Lead contamination at the Kittimack Tailings, a popular 8-acre course for off-road riding, has been measured at 3,800 parts per million, which is 7.6 times higher than the federal health limit. EPA scientists, collecting water and dirt samples this month, planned to interview campground hosts, all-terrain vehicle tour guides and southern Ute tribe members — assessing possible exposures.

If people inhale or ingest contaminants around any of the 48 mine sites, cleanup at that site would be prioritized, EPA officials said.

The federal Superfund cleanup of toxic mines across 80 square miles in southwestern Colorado is shaping up as one of the EPA’s largest mining legacy projects, contingent on Congress and agency chiefs lining up funds. EPA restoration work here is expected to set the standard for dealing with a wide western problem involving tens of thousands of toxic mines contaminating streams and rivers, for which total cleanup costs have been estimated at more than $20 billion.

In the past, cleanup work at toxic mines in Colorado stalled because of technical difficulty, lack of will and scarce funds. No work has been done for years at the collapsing Nelson Tunnel above Creede, where millions of gallons of some of the West’s worst unchecked acid mine drainage contaminates headwaters of the Rio Grande River, despite a 2008 federal designation as a Superfund environmental disaster.

But EPA officials are pushing for this post-Gold King cleanup including 48 Animas sites, concentrated around Bonita Peak above Silverton, because an EPA-led team in August 2015 accidentally triggered a blowout — setting off a 3 million-gallon spill that turned the river mustard-yellow in three states and sent contaminants nearly as far as the Grand Canyon.

This month, EPA project leaders, bracing for winter snowfall that limits what they can do until summer, anticipated a mix of different solutions at the various sites — each unique with different conditions. They’re considering construction of water treatment plants, like the temporary plant set up to neutralize and filter drainage from the Gold King Mine.

That plant has cleaned 273 million gallons of water over the past year before discharging it into Cement Creek, one of three main headwaters creeks flowing into the Animas River. Meanwhile, six surrounding toxic mines along Cement Creek drain an untreated sulfuric acid flow measured at 1,476 gallons per minute to 7,590 gallons.

A water treatment plant can cost up to $100 million with annual operational costs as high as $1 million.

EPA officials said they’ll combine installation of water treatment systems with bulkhead plugs to hold acid muck inside mountains. And the feds also are exploring use of “bio-treatment” systems using plants and plastic devices to filter and remove contaminants.

The overall cleanup is expected to take years.

“Ideally, we would come up with a way to take care of the water that did not involve a lot of very expensive, in-perpetuity water treatment,” Thomas said.

There are questions dogging hydrologists and toxicologists as they embark on remediation studies.They want to know how mining tunnels, dozens of natural fissures and faults, and mineral veins are connected.

“That is a big puzzle piece,” Thomas said, because subsurface links will determine whether bulkhead plugs safely can be used to contain toxic muck without raising water tables and triggering new blowouts.

They want to know how much acid water is backed up in major tunnels, including the American Tunnel and the Terry Tunnel, and in the Sunnyside Mine. The Sunnyside was the largest mine in the area and the last to close in 1991. EPA officials said natural faults or fissures may connect acid water backed-up Sunnyside water in the American Tunnel, where bulkheads have been installed, with the Gold King Mine.

Canada-based Kinross Corp., which owns Sunnyside, is considered a potentially responsible party, along with Gold King owner Todd Hennis, liable for a share of cleanup costs.

And EPA officials say they are monitoring underground changes that may be affecting flows from at least 27 draining tunnels — called adits — that contribute to contamination of Animas headwaters. The state-backed installation of plugs over the past decade may have triggered the rising groundwater levels that documents show the EPA and state agencies have known about for years.

For example, orange sludge oozed from a grate at the Natalie Occidental Mine — one of the worst sources of untreated mine waste — north of the Silverton Mountain ski area.

EPA on-scene coordinator Joyel Dhieux inspected it this month, hiking beneath snow-dusted mountain peaks. The backed-up sludge obscured a culvert installed years ago by state mining regulators. A huge tailings heap, leaching contaminants into a creek, suggested significant underground tunnels.

“The sludge could create a blockage in the mine that could increase the risk of a blowout. … This will require thoughtful planning,” Dhieux said. “Kittimack could be easy. You go in and remove the mine tailings. This one, it could be a more complex solution because of the risk. … This is an ‘unknown unknown.’ I honestly don’t know what the mine works look like behind this grate.”

And then there’s the problem inside that Red and Bonita Mine tunnel where a bulkhead plug is installed but not closed. Dhieux and her crew determined the plug, installed in 2015, 15 feet thick and framed in steel, appears solid.

If the EPA closes the bulkhead, she and other EPA officials said, it will be done very slowly. They’re considering a partial closure, as a test, next summer. The plan is for dozens of researchers to fan out across green mountain valleys, while contractors inside the tunnel turn the screw, watching for sudden orange spurts.

Lyons residents on flood recovery process: ‘We’re just starting to get it together’ — The Boulder Daily Camera

Bohn Park was flooded by the St. Vrain River in Lyons, CO September 18, 2013 via Getty Images
Bohn Park was flooded by the St. Vrain River in Lyons, CO September 18, 2013 via Getty Images

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Amelia Arvesen):

As Lyons entered its fourth year of reconstruction following the devastating September 2013 flood, the FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stopped by to seize documents and computers to probe the handling of federal flood-recovery funding.

Communities savaged by the rushing waters have been receiving fund allocations, totaling millions of dollars from several federal sources, such as HUD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Late Friday, Mayor Connie Sullivan released a statement on behalf of the town’s Board of Trustees, stating that the FBI had concluded its portion of the investigation and would not be proceeding with a case.

Also posted to the town’s website was a copy of a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, stating that a focus of its investigation was documents relating to negotiations and grant services contracts between Lyons and Longmont-based Front Range Land Solutions.

National #Drought Resilience Partnership launches

US Drought Monitor October 4, 2016.
US Drought Monitor October 4, 2016.

Here’s the release from President Obama’s office:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct the following:

Section 1. Purpose. Our Nation must sustain and expand efforts to reduce the vulnerability of communities to the impacts of drought. Every year, drought affects millions of Americans and poses a serious and growing threat to the security and economies of communities nationwide. Drought presents challenges to the viability of agricultural production and to the quantity and quality of drinking water supplies that communities and industries depend upon. Drought jeopardizes the integrity of critical infrastructure, causes extensive economic and health impacts, harms ecosystems, and increases energy costs. In responding to and recovering from past droughts, we have learned that focused collaboration across all levels of government and the private sector is critical to enable productive and workable solutions to build regional resilience to drought.

Among other actions, this memorandum institutionalizes the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), which builds upon the National Integrated Drought Information System, an interagency program led by the Department of Commerce. The NDRP was outlined in the President’s Climate Action Plan to better coordinate Federal support for drought-related efforts, help communities reduce the impact of current drought events, and prepare for future droughts. In sustaining this focused collaboration, the NDRP will provide the Federal Government with a lasting platform that enables locally and regionally driven priorities and needs to guide coordinated Federal activities.

Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the Federal Government to coordinate and use applicable Federal investments, assets, and expertise to promote drought resilience and complement drought preparedness, planning, and implementation efforts of State, regional, tribal, and local institutions. In addition, where appropriate, the Federal Government shall seek partnerships with such institutions and the private sector in order to increase and diversify our Nation’s water resources through the development and deployment of new technologies and improved access to alternative water supplies. Agencies shall also work with State, regional, tribal, and local institutions to support their efforts to maintain and enhance the long-term health and resilience of working lands and ecosystems. In carrying out this memorandum, executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall continue to recognize the primacy of States, regions, tribes, and local water users in building their resilience to drought.

Sec. 3. Drought Resilience Goals. (a) The heads of agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law and to the maximum extent possible, carry out the policy described in section 2 of this memorandum by implementing policies and taking actions to achieve the following drought resilience goals:

(i) Data Collection and Integration. Agencies shall share data and information related to drought, water use, and water availability, including data on snowpack, groundwater, stream flow, and soil moisture with State, regional, tribal, and local officials to strengthen decisionmaking to support more adaptive responses to drought and drought risk.

(ii) Communicating Drought Risk to Critical Infrastructure. Agencies shall communicate with State, regional, tribal, local, and critical infrastructure officials, targeted information about drought risks, including specific risks to critical infrastructure.

(iii) Drought Planning and Capacity Building. Agencies shall assist State, regional, tribal, and local officials in building local planning capacity for drought preparedness and resilience.

(iv) Coordination of Federal Drought Activity. Agencies shall improve the coordination and integration of drought-related activities to enhance the collective benefits of Federal programs and investments.

(v) Market-Based Approaches for Infrastructure and Efficiency. Agencies shall support the advancement of innovative investment models and market-based approaches to increase resilience, flexibility, and efficiency of water use and water supply systems.

(vi) Innovative Water Use, Efficiency, and Technology. Agencies shall support efforts to conserve and make efficient use of water by carrying out relevant research, innovation, and international engagements.

(b) The NDRP, as described in section 5 of this memorandum, shall facilitate, coordinate, and monitor the implementation of the actions conducted to achieve these goals.

Sec. 4. Drought Resilience Actions. In furtherance of the policies and goals described in this memorandum, I hereby direct agencies to take, subject to the availability of appropriations, by December 31, 2016, the following actions:

(a) Data Collection and Integration.

(i) The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall:

(A) improve the integration of all relevant drought-related data and information, and facilitate the use of such data, in coordination with the National Integrated Drought Information System, by State, regional, tribal, and local officials in drought planning and decisionmaking; and

(B) identify and use data formats that will allow these datasets to be incorporated into existing geospatial data platforms.

(ii) The Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy shall coordinate the implementation of the activities described in section 4(a)(i) of this memorandum.

(b) Drought Planning and Capacity Building.

(i) The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall:

(A) provide technical and scientific information to State, regional, tribal, and local officials concerning the integration of drought planning, hazard mitigation, and preparedness planning; and

(B) ensure that local and regional officials are aware of drought-related planning activities and similar initiatives occurring in their region, which will avoid duplication of effort and prompt peer-to-peer collaboration.

(ii) The Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Homeland Security shall coordinate the implementation of the activities described in section 4(b)(i) of this memorandum.

(c) Communicating Drought Risk to Critical Infrastructure.

(i) The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall:

(A) support information gathering and analysis to assess the risk of drought to critical infrastructure; and

(B) use the assessment described in section 4(c)(ii) of this memorandum to inform agencies and to better communicate accurate, science-based information about drought, and the risks of drought to communities, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and other drought resilience stakeholders.

(ii) The Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security shall coordinate the implementation of the activities described in section 4(c)(i) of this memorandum and jointly publish an assessment describing the risk that drought poses to U.S. critical infrastructure.

(d) Coordination of Federal Drought Activity.

(i) The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall:

(A) coordinate and use Federal programs and investments to better support drought resilience through improved information sharing and collaboration, building on existing place-based and program coordination efforts; and

(B) develop tools, guidance, and other relevant resources to ensure drought-related support to State, regional, tribal, and local officials occurs in an effective and efficient manner.

(ii) The Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and the Army shall coordinate the implementation of the activities described in section 4(d)(i) of this memorandum.

(e) Market-Based Approaches for Infrastructure and Efficiency.

(i) The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall:

(A) identify and share effective practices with State, regional, tribal, and local water users on the use of innovative financing opportunities to facilitate the construction, maintenance, rehabilitation, or restoration of drought-resilient infrastructure;

(B) test innovative financing opportunities, to the extent permitted by law, to attract private investment into underserved and drought-sensitive rural water infrastructure; and

(C) where appropriate, provide technical assistance to support State and local efforts to develop strategies for more flexible water management, including through market-based mechanisms.

(ii) The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall coordinate the implementation of the activities described in section 4(e)(i) of this memorandum.

(f) Innovative Water Use, Efficiency, and Technology.

(i) The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall:

(A) engage with foreign partners in order to establish mechanisms through which to implement relevant research, monitoring, and technical assistance to support transfer and adaptation of more water-efficient practices and technologies domestically;

(B) facilitate the development of new technologies and practices or the expansion of existing technologies and practices to mitigate the consequences of drought; and

(C) promote expanded use of technologies that allow the use of produced, reused, brackish, recycled, or other alternative water sources where possible and appropriate.

(ii) The Secretaries of State, Agriculture, Energy, the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency shall coordinate the implementation of the activities described in section 4(f)(i) of this memorandum.

Sec. 5. National Drought Resilience Partnership.

(a) Establishment and Function. There is established the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) as an interagency task force that is responsible for enhancing coordination of Federal drought resilience policies and monitoring the implementation of the activities and goals described in this memorandum.

(b) Administration of the NDRP. The NDRP administrative functions will be housed within the Department of Agriculture, which shall provide funding and administrative support for the NDRP to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.

(c) Membership. The NDRP shall consist of representatives, serving at the Assistant Secretary-level or higher, from the following:

(i) the Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense-Policy;

(ii) the Department of the Interior;

(iii) the Department of Agriculture;

(iv) the Department of Commerce;

(v) the Department of Energy;

(vi) the Department of Homeland Security;

(vii) the Environmental Protection Agency;

(viii) the Office of Management and Budget;

(ix) the Office of Science and Technology Policy;

(x) the National Economic Council;

(xi) the Council on Environmental Quality;

(xii) the National Security Council staff;

(xiii) the Army; and

(xiv) such other agencies or offices as the agencies set forth above, by consensus, deem appropriate.

(d) NDRP Co-Chairs. The NDRP shall have two Co-Chairs. The Secretary of Agriculture, or the Secretary’s designated representative, shall continuously serve as the first Co-Chair of the NDRP. The Secretary of Commerce, or the Secretary’s designated official, shall serve as the second Co-Chair for a period of 2 years. The NDRP members shall rotate the second Co-Chair responsibility every 2 years based on majority vote among the Departments of Defense, the Interior, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Members serving as the second Co-Chair shall not serve in that role over consecutive periods. The NDRP shall meet at minimum on a quarterly basis, with additional meetings as needed.

(e) Charter. Within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, the Co-Chairs of the NDRP shall, with consensus of the members, complete a charter, which shall include any administrative policies and processes necessary to ensure the NDRP can satisfy the functions and responsibilities described in this memorandum.

(f) Reporting Requirements and Action Plan. Within 150 days of the date of this memorandum, the Co-Chairs of the NDRP shall submit a report to the Co-Chairs of the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience established by Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013. The report shall describe the activities undertaken and progress made concerning the implementation of this memorandum and shall include, to the extent necessary and applicable, information from all NDRP participants. Thereafter, the Co-Chairs of the NDRP shall provide updates on the implementation of the goals described in section 3 of this memorandum to the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience following the NDRP’s quarterly meetings, and annually in the National Preparedness Report, established in Presidential Policy Directive-8 or other appropriate annual reports submitted to the President.

(g) Long-Term Drought Resilience Action Plan. The NDRP Co-Chairs, with consensus of the NDRP agencies, shall maintain the Long-Term Drought Resilience Federal Action Plan (the “Action Plan”) and update the Action Plan as necessary. The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall implement the Action Plan, or any successor plan or strategy promulgated by the NDRP to guide how agencies achieve the six drought resilience goals set forth in section 3 of this memorandum.

Sec. 6. Regional Coordination and Implementation.

(a) Regional Capabilities. The heads of agencies participating in the NDRP shall establish, and utilize through their regional and field offices, cross-agency methods to coordinate Federal assistance provided to States, regions, tribes, and localities facing drought challenges. These capabilities shall be integrated with existing regional planning and coordination initiatives, including with appropriate resiliency efforts conducted by State, regional, tribal, and local drought stakeholders.

(b) Regional Engagement Coordination. In regions where complementary drought resilience activities are implemented by multiple Federal agencies, those agencies shall coordinate regional outreach strategies. Further, these agencies shall collectively coordinate regional outreach and engagement efforts with the goal of reducing duplication of effort for State, regional, tribal, and local stakeholders.

Sec. 7. Definitions. (a) “Agencies” means any authority of the United States that is an “agency” under 44 U.S.C. 3502(1), other than those considered to be independent regulatory agencies.

(b) “Critical infrastructure” has the meaning provided in section 1016(e) of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (42 U.S.C. 5195c(e)), namely, systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.

(c) “Drought” has the meaning provided in section 2(1) of the National Integrated Drought Information System Act of 2006 (15 U.S.C. 313d note), namely, a deficiency in precipitation that leads to a deficiency in surface or subsurface water supplies (including rivers, streams, wetlands, groundwater, soil moisture, reservoir supplies, lake levels, and snow pack); and that causes or may cause substantial economic or social impacts or substantial physical damage or injury to individuals, property, or the environment.

(d) “Drought resilience” means the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to the anticipated consequences of drought conditions, particularly long-term or extreme drought.

(e) “Resilience” means the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions.

Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable laws, including international treaties, agreements, and obligations, and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to a department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(d) The Secretary of Agriculture is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

From The Public News Service:

The Obama Administration is calling for national coordinated action to address the growing threats to food supplies and local economies from widespread drought.

James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, is also Gov. John Hickenlooper’s representative for the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers. He says western states experiencing a 16-year drought can use the help.

“We’re seeing the effects of drought on an annual basis, if not a monthly and daily basis,” says Eklund. “And so, we’ve got to make sure we’re addressing what can be summarized as a natural disaster that just moves very, very slowly.”

A memo sent this week outlined the need for coordinated action, part of the first White House National Water Summit in the nation’s capital.

The event officially launched the National Drought Resilience Partnership, a multi-agency program rolled out as part of the administration’s climate-change agenda.

Eklund notes Gov. Hickenlooper, as chair of the Western Governors Association, helped lead the charge to coordinate state work on water with federal agencies.

Eklund says those efforts shaped the new plan that will help some 13 agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency, pool their resources to focus on drought.

“To date, they’ve been largely siloed; they don’t work together, especially to tackle drought,” he says. “And what this memo signals is a willingness to really look at making sure that they’re coordinated.”

Eklund says Colorado’s priority going forward is to intensify water conservation efforts.

He says by deploying cutting-edge technologies, it isn’t “pie in the sky” for the state to save 400,000-acre-feet of water by the year 2035 through conservation alone.

Attorneys in Widefield water lawsuit want state to pay for blood tests — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Several residents in the Security, Widefield and Fountain communities last month sued the manufacturers of a toxic chemical fouling their drinking water – each seeking expensive blood tests for themselves and their neighbors.

Now, the attorneys for those residents want the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to create and fund its own blood testing program, and quick.

“We think it’s a public health problem,” said Mike McDivitt, an attorney.

The call for a state-run blood testing program comes as the litigants gear up for a lengthy court battle against the companies that made and sold firefighting foam suspected of contaminating the drinking water of thousands of people across southern El Paso County.

Two federal lawsuits seeking class action status were filed in September over the tainted Widefield aquifer. Each lawsuit claimed manufacturers knew chemicals in the firefighting foam were toxic, but nevertheless neglected warning anyone while the foam was used at Peterson Air Force Base.

The lawsuits seek damages to pay for residents’ medical costs. But they also demand manufacturers fund blood tests for the Security, Widefield and Fountain communities. Those tests can cost up to $700, McDivitt said.

On Wednesday, McDivitt and several partnering attorneys called for the state and local health departments, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office and Colorado lawmakers to spearhead expedited testing.

“Every one of these folks has to be blood tested,” McDivitt said…

Leon acknowledged the tests cannot indicate whether the chemicals caused specific health effects, or whether they will cause someone to get sick in the future. However, he said the tests still let people know if they have above-average levels in their bodies.

Intermountain West Climate Dashboard: New Briefing Available — Western Water Assessment

Upper Colorado River Basin September 2016 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center.
Upper Colorado River Basin September 2016 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the briefing (Jeff Lukas, Ursula Rick, Ami Nacu-Schmidt, Klaus Wolter). Here’s an excerpt:

Highlights:

  • September was much drier than normal for Colorado, southeastern Utah, and southeastern Wyoming. The rest of Utah and Wyoming was much wetter than normal. Statewide, Colorado was in the 30th percentile for precipitation, while Utah was in the 91st percentile, and Wyoming, the 89th percentile.
  • Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal for Water Year 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.
    Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal for Water Year 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.
  • For Water Year 2016 that ended on September 30, all three states ended up slightly wetter than average, with Utah in the 69th percentile (105% of the 1981-2010 normal), Colorado was in the 69th percentile (103% of normal) and Wyoming was in the 55th percentile (103% of normal). Temperatures were unusually warm across the region, continuing the overall warming trend. Wyoming was in the 96th percentile for the water year, Colorado was in the 95th percentile, and Utah was in the 93rd percentile.
  • Since early August, drought conditions have eased in northeastern and north-central Wyoming, eastern Utah, and southwestern Colorado, while worsening and/or expanding in northwestern Wyoming, northwestern and central Utah, and north-central Colorado, with little overall net change for the region over the past two months.
  • Despite below-average inflows to Lake Powell for Water Year 2016, total Colorado River system storage as of September 30 was the same as one year ago, at 51% of capacity. Lake Powell was at 12.82 MAF, 53% of capacity. Lake Mead was at 9.63 MAF, 37% of capacity, and flirting with the 1075′ level that is a trigger for declared Lower Basin shortage.
  • While sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific have recently cooled to weak-La Niña territory, the official ENSO status remains ENSO-neutral. ENSO model forecasts have shifted away from the previous consensus towards a La Niña event, with more than half of the models now forecasting ENSO-neutral conditions through the winter.