Pueblo Water’s decision comes after four states and Denver’s municipal water agency accused the Arizona agency — the Central Arizona Water Conservation District — of undermining Lake Powell elevations by manipulating the complicated supply-and-demand rules that govern water orders.
“Given our recent knowledge of the actions taken by [CAWCD] we cannot, in good conscience, participate in the program,” Seth Clayton, Pueblo Water’s executive director, wrote in the letter.
The letter, dated April 18, comes as the Arizona agency is set to meet next week with negotiators for the Upper Basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The Colorado River is split into two basins with two main reservoirs. The Upper Basin stores water in Lake Powell and the Lower Basin stores water in Lake Mead, 30 miles outside of Las Vegas.
The Arizona agency at the center of the controversy, CAWCD, has kept quiet in recent days, despite increasing media attention, so as not to affect the outcome of those discussions.
The Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada are also scheduled to meet on May 2, although that meeting had been scheduled before the letters to CAWCD were reported last week. The commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation had been invited to that meeting.
The Pueblo letter confirms what Upper Basin water managers feared — that Arizona’s actions would dissuade water users from joining the conservation program. The program, which is in its pilot phase, pays water users to conserve. The hope is that the conserved water, by not leaving the system, will boost the elevation of Lake Powell. The Arizona agency has said it wants to maximize the amount of water it gets from the Upper Basin, which stores water in Lake Powell.
“[Upper Basin water users] do not want to be putting water into Lake Powell if it gets immediately pulled down to feed this policy that the district is trying to advance,” said James Eklund, who represents the state of Colorado on the Upper Colorado River Commission.
CAWCD has said its strategy is to help Arizona prepare for shortage, noting that its actions are permissible under current Colorado River rules. In a statement last week, a spokesperson said: “We have been reaching out to our partners in the Upper Basin, hoping to clarify apparent misunderstandings, and to facilitate in-person, collaborative discussions aimed at finding solutions that will benefit the communities and environment served by this mighty river.”
Now, after 18 years on the city’s Board of Water Works, Jim Gardner, 85, won’t be seeking reelection…
“I’m old,” Gardner said with a laugh. “But I can shoot my age in golf and I want to spend more time going that.”
When a vacancy on the water board opened up in 1999, Gardner was appointed by City Council to fill the slot.
He said frequent conversations with a friend — well-known civic activist and longtime water board member Bud Whitlock — helped spur his interest in water and related issues.
“Mr. Whitlock would talk about it all the time as being very important,” Gardner said. “And water is an engineering type thing and I’m interested in that kind of stuff.”
After his appointed term ended in 2000, Gardner chose to run for the seat and was successful in obtaining it — a pattern he repeated for three terms.
Along the way, Gardner said he “really got to know Alan Hamel,” the longtime executive director at Board of Water Works of Pueblo. “And he was a good guy to work with.
“One of the first things I remember is working with Alan to reduce the cost of operation in the water department. I thought we were spending too much money on the buildings and so forth. And we got that done.”
Another cause Gardner championed was the filling of key department positions with local, rather than out-of-the-area, talent.
“People were retiring, especially from important sections,” Gardner explained. “And Alan came to a meeting one day and said, ‘We will have do a big search for a financial director,’ and so forth.
“And I said, ‘You know Alan, I think we can find them all right here in town.’ And Alan did just that — he never went outside out of town again.
“It’s important that they use local people who are qualified,” he said.
Now that he is stepping down, Gardner has offered his endorsement to Sandy Gutierrez, who just announced her intention to run for the open board seat.
“I’ve known her over the years to be a level-headed person,” he said. “And she will learn a lot working with the board.”
A board, by the way, that Gardner praised as being top shelf.
“I’m proud to say that we worked to get a good board and today we have a first-class board. It’s very cohesive,” Gardner said. “They all have good heads. No one carries an agenda to the board. They listen to the staff, which I also will say is first-class.
“It’s amazing how well we work together.”
One of the major acquisitions Gardner played an instrumental role in is the purchase of the Bessemer Ditch.
“That goes back years ago, during the drought of 2001, 2002,” Gardner said. “And I was worried about the Western Slope curtailing our water through the mountains.
“And I said, ‘We’ve got to buy more native water.'”
And the city did just that, securing 32 percent of the Bessemer Ditch.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money but it’s native water, and the federal government can’t mess with us. Now, we’ve got a lot of water but we need security.”
On all levels, Gardner’s tireless efforts on behalf of the board are appreciated and will long be remembered.
“Jim got on the board shortly after I started working,” said Alan Ward, Pueblo Water’s water resources division manager. “So pretty much my whole career he’s been on the board.
“And he’s led us through some big capital projects like the purchase of the Bessemer Ditch. He’s dedicated a lot of years to us and he will be missed, I can tell you that.”
As an architect and principal in HGF Architects, Inc., Gardner’s elaborate handiwork can be seen throughout the region — from Buell Children’s Museum/Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center to Pueblo Community College’s Academic Center and Learning Facility to the Pueblo City-County Health Department building.
[A] contentious battle over a proposed gravel pit at Badger Hills between Avondale Boulevard and 40th Lane came to an end with a granted permit from the Pueblo County Planning and Development Board.
If appealed, the decision would go to the Pueblo County commissioners.
The company has been granted a special-use permit for a 1,500-acre mineral and natural resource extraction and mining operation.
Those in opposition of the proposal have complained about the amount of truckloads that would travel along 36th Lane to U.S. 50 in front of Vineland Elementary School and Vineland Middle School.
The opponents said they do intend to appeal the decision. They have 10 days to do so.
Earlier, there even was contention on the vote. The permit passed 5-1. Donald Thorne voted no. Then he resigned from the commission. He said he was not happy with some of the decisions the planning commission has made recently.
Fremont Paving has an existing gravel pit on 36th Lane. If the commissioners allow the permit, a private road would connect the existing gravel pit to the new operation. The haul route from there would continue on 36th Lane.
John Paul Ary, of Fremont Paving, said his company is limited to 70 trucks a day from the new site to the existing one. Those in opposition said there would be 200 plus trucks a day when added to the truckloads already coming from the older operation.
Those in opposition also have said the operation would cause environmental concerns in the area and thick dust.
At the El Pomar Fountain in the shadow of the Union Avenue bridge, Christopher Burke, vice president of Colorado Utility Operations for Black Hills Energy, officially transferred ownership of water rights and water diversion infrastructure to officials representing Pueblo Water, the city of Pueblo and Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo.
The water rights, appraised at $280,000, were donated to Pueblo Water. To the city were given water diversion infrastructure — head gates, tunnels, diversion dams, ponds, etc. — and the pipeline that carries water from the Arkansas River to the HARP channel.
Formerly, this system was used to transmit cooling water to the now-decommissioned power plant but now has become an essential part of the operation of HARP’s water course.
While the water infrastructure is nearly a century old and is fully depreciated, the hypothetical cost of replacing these assets critical to properly operate the water flows would be substantial
The “Get the Lead Out” program creates a partnership between property owners and Pueblo Water to help eliminate lead service lines in the community. Pueblo Water soon will begin replacing older lead residential water service lines — the pipe connecting each residence to the water main in the street or alley — with Type K soft copper tubing, at no charge to the property owner.
Pueblo Water officials believe the lead lines in Pueblo’s service area comprise a very small percentage of the 40,000-plus customer connections…
Pueblo Water officials said the best protection for residents with lead service lines is to remove the potential sources of lead. Known lead service lines will be replaced as quickly as service schedules allow, minimizing any inconvenience to residents.
Should any service interruption be necessary during line replacement, residents will be given as much advance notice as possible.
In addition to the lead service line removal project, Pueblo Water has begun a physical inventory of service lines of unknown composition in neighborhoods where the known lead lines exist, in an effort to discover if there are any additional lead lines that have not yet been documented.
If and when additional lead lines are discovered, they will also be replaced at no charge to the customer.
Here’s an excerpt from the The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Wednesday morning to keep the water in the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo by approving the transfer of Black Hills Energy’s water rights for its old Downtown power station to the Pueblo Board of Water Works and the city of Pueblo.
The transfer guarantees there will be an adequate flow of water in the HARP channel. The utility is giving the water rights to the Pueblo water board and all the gates and channels to the city…
In its response to Vaad and Epel, Black Hills officials said the water rights that were used to cool the old Power Stations 5&6 were so limited that the best use was to give them to the Pueblo water board to help support HARP.
The spill, which Air Force officials said they’re investigating, happened as the Air Force increasingly faces scrutiny as a source of groundwater contamination nationwide.
The surge of waste containing elevated perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — used at military airfields to douse fuel fires and linked by federal authorities to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, low birth weights and other health problems — flowed through a Colorado Springs Utilities wastewater treatment plant before crews could try to block it. Then it trickled into Fountain Creek.
“Even if we would have been able to head it off at the plant, we’re not equipped. I don’t know of any wastewater plants in the country equipped to remove PFCs,” utilities spokesman Steve Berry said. “We would not have been able to remove that chemical before it was discharged back into the environment from our effluent.”
Fountain Creek flows south toward Pueblo and into the Arkansas River.
Pueblo Board of Water Works spokesman Paul Fanning said Pueblo didn’t hear about the spill until reporters made inquiries Tuesday.
“We don’t use any groundwater or surface water from Fountain Creek. We use water from the Arkansas River taken upstream from where Fountain Creek flows in,” Fanning said. “But it is not a good thing to have those contaminants anywhere in our water. There are some reported health effects. It is in our interest to protect our public.”
The PFC-laced waste was held in a tank at a firefighter training area on the base, located at the southeastern edge of Colorado Springs. PFCs are a component in the aqueous film-forming foam used to extinguish fuel fires.
Air Force officials said in the statement that they discovered the spill Oct. 12 during an inspection. They notified Colorado Springs Utilities the next day. The tank was part of a system used to recirculate water to a firefighter training area…
In Colorado, government well test data show PFCs have contaminated groundwater throughout the Fountain Creek watershed, nearly as far south as Pueblo, at levels up to 20 times higher than that EPA health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion.
Public-water authorities in Fountain, Security and Widefield have scrambled to provide enough alternative water. Security has been purchasing millions of gallons of diverted Arkansas River water from Colorado Springs, installing new pipelines and minimizing pumping from contaminated municipal wells. Since Sept. 9, Security has not pumped any water from wells, water and sanitation district manager Roy Heald said. “This spill does not affect us immediately,” Heald said. “Our only concern would be the long-term effect on Fountain Creek and the Widefield Aquifer.”
Some parents south of Colorado Springs began paying for bottled water — to be safe. A contractor delivers emergency bottled water to at least 77 households.
The Air Force has contributed $4.3 million to help communities deal with the contamination.
Colorado Springs utilities crews will work with the military “to keep PFCs out of our system. That is the goal,” Berry said. “How do we protect our customers and our system from this chemical? That is the focus. It goes beyond the Air Force. It is any industrial process that may use that chemical.”
El Paso County Public Health “takes this discharge seriously and will coordinate with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment to collect water samples along Fountain Creek, if warranted,” spokeswoman Danielle Oller said.
CDPHE has been informed, agency spokesman Mark Salley said, adding: “It is under investigation by the Air Force, and the department is waiting for information. … The Air Force has demonstrated its commitment to identifying and addressing PFC contamination at Peterson Air Force Base and facilities nationwide.”
FromThe Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder and Jakob Rodgers):
The release last week posed no threat to Colorado Springs drinking water.
The base said the release was discovered Oct. 12. The cause hasn’t been determined, but Fred Brooks, Peterson’s environmental chief, said the holding tank was designed to be difficult to discharge.
“It’s not a direct connection,” Brooks said. “This tank would have to have numerous valves switched to actually discharge.”
Was it intentional?
“That’s a possibility,” Brooks said…
An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the discharge, said Col. Doug Schiess, who commands Peterson’s 21st Space Wing, in the statement.
Colorado Springs Utilities said the chemical-laden water passed through the utility’s Las Vegas Street sewage treatment plant and was released into Fountain Creek. The plant does not have the capacity to remove the chemical.
“There was no risk to the drinking water,” said Steve Berry, a Utilities spokesman. “This did not impact the drinking water, the finished water system, in any way. It went directly into the wastewater system.”
While Peterson notified Colorado Springs, base officials didn’t warn others downstream. Brooks said the base isn’t required to issue a wider notification, noting that the chemical is “unregulated” – a term used for substances that haven’t drawn enforceable drinking water standards…
Peterson had scheduled a public firefighting demonstration on Oct. 12, the day the discharge was discovered. The fire training exercise was canceled, with a spokesman at the base blaming the delay on a “bad valve”
Brooks, the base environmental officer, said two mechanical valves and an electric one must be switched to allow water to flow out of the tank, which held the outflow from fire training exercises dating back as far as 2013.
He said the water wasn’t tested for levels of the firefighting chemical.
A second tank on the base holding fire training residue wasn’t discharged.
The Air Force banned use of the foam outside fire emergencies last year and last month announced a plan to replace the product at all of its bases around the globe. Brooks said the foam at Peterson will be replaced in about two weeks.
The water contamination in Security, Widefield and Fountain has drawn a pair of lawsuits against the manufacturers of the firefighting foam alleging they sold it to the Air Force despite its toxic risks.
Although downstream, no drinking water supplied to Pueblo residents by the Pueblo Board of Water Works comes from Fountain Creek, said Paul Fanning, the agency’s spokesman. The Pueblo Reservoir does not pull from Fountain Creek.
The Widefield Water and Sanitation District is the only water system immediately downstream of the treatment plant now using the Widefield Aquifer, which leaches water from Fountain Creek, where the chemicals flowed.
Widefield officials have previously said they plan to shut off their wells by sometime in October.
Other communities have shut off their wells to the tainted aquifer.
All the water flowing to homes supplied by the Security and Fountain water systems now comes from the Pueblo Reservoir – meaning that last week’s spill should not affect those communities.
“The long-term effects would be concerning,” said Roy Heald, Security water district’s general manager. “But short-term immediate effects – there wouldn’t be any for us.”
The EPA said it wasn’t involved with the spill.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave the Air Force a vote of confidence despite the chemical discharge.
“The Air Force has demonstrated its commitment to identifying and addressing (perfluorinated compound) contamination at Peterson Air Force Base and facilities nationwide,” the state agency said.