From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):
After representatives of an annual environmental contest spoke at Greeley Central High School in 2019, sophomore Jorge Rubio started looking around for opportunities to reduce water waste.
When he went to wash his hands in a restroom at the school, the answer hit him.
“So much water was coming out,” Jorge said. “We do not need this much water to wash our hands.”
Jorge, 16, set out to replace his school’s water faucets, which use 3.5 gallons per minute. That’s more than twice the maximum volume of water per minute allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program. Faucets that qualify for the WaterSense marker use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute.
Jorge took his idea to his chemistry teacher, Amy Bekins, who supported it and gave Jorge some advice on how to proceed. They met with the building manager and district officials who would install the new faucets. Jorge went to home improvement stores and began researching faucets.
Caring for Our Watersheds is an annual environmental contest challenging students to find ways to care for their local water resources. The contest is sponsored by Nutrien, an agricultural producer and distributor with a location in Loveland. The individual or team whose project wins first place is awarded $1,000 for their school.
Limited by that $1,000, Jorge began by looking at replacing the faucets on the first floor of the school. He estimated they would save 30,000 gallons of water per year by changing out the faucets on the first floor. After submitting his proposal, Jorge’s project was selected as a top 10 finalist out of 491 projects from 650 students in northern Colorado.
Before he knew he was selected as a finalist, Jorge started dreaming a little bigger. He decided he wanted to replace faucets for all three floors.
Aimee Nance, Jorge’s seminar teacher and a marketing teacher at Greeley Central, offered help to find creative funding opportunities for the project’s expansion. Whether that means working with local businesses or crowdfunding, Nance told Jorge it never hurts to ask for help…
Jorge has started a GoFundMe with a $1,000 goal to fund replacing the faucets on the second and third floors of the school. He hopes to have the project implemented by the end of March before going in front of judges in May.
From Biz West Media/Boulder Daily Camera (Dan Mika) via The Fort Morgan Times:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave approval to efforts to build the Northern Integration Supply Project, or NISP, securing one of three final permits the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District needs before it can start on the $1.1 billion water project.
In a letter to Northern Water earlier this week, officials said the state has “reasonable assurance” the project would comply with all required water quality standards at the state levels.
The letter said while the project wouldn’t directly discharge pollutants into water sources, it has “the potential to cause or contribute to long-term water quality impacts.” It is requiring member cities to monitor 21 locations along the NISP for water conditions needed to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems, and to watch for bacteria, sediment and runoff material that could harm humans in contact with the river…
NISP member cities and organizations include the Fort Collins Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Erie, Lafayette, Windsor, Frederick, Firestone and Dacono…
Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla said the state’s approval is a major milestone for the project as it approaches the final few months of getting required permits.
“This is something we’ve been working on for years to submit the required data, and we’re pleased to see this response from the state,” he said.
Northern Water requires two more permits before it can start construction on the project. A final decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected by June, while the utility next month plans to file for a “1041 local powers” permit with Larimer County. Residents would then have 90 days to offer feedback before county commissioners make a decision.
From The Mountain Ear (Patrice LeBlanc):
The council looked over Resolution No. 19-32: A resolution approving a General Fund purchase of Development Fee Credits from the Water Enterprise Fund for issuance to a City Economic Development Incentive Program. The City loaned funds over a number of years from the General Fund to the Water Fund for operational and capitol expenses.
The current fiscal year end balance on the loan is $819, 205. The City intends to establish a program that can provide economic incentives to the development projects.
City Manager Daniel Miera explained the process to the Council. The payback plan will change from 20 years to 11 years. Mayor Fey asked Miera if the City is forgiving the balance of the loan from the Water Fund. Miera replied that the Water Fund will still be owed to the City, but it will come in a different form.
Alderman Aiken wanted to know if the City charges interest on the loan, and Miera reported that no interest was charged. Alderman Hidahl thought this was a creative solution and an advantage for the City to encourage development. Mayor Fey agreed and felt the incentive program should be used for the core of the city rather than exterior development. The Resolution passed 5-0…
Miera was asked if the water budget was too high. [Daniel Miera] responded the budget shows a positive operating fund, for which the city has been striving for many years. It has been in the negative in years’ past.
From Colorado Politics (Mary Kay Provaznik):
Dominion, a wholesale district, has the vision to develop a renewable water and centralized wastewater system for northwest Douglas County. Dominion’s system provides options where none have existed before.
To create a water system that is built to last, we leveraged location, infrastructure and partnerships to create a regionally integrated network. As we grow, our values remain the same: dependability, water quality, environmental stewardship and innovation.
Dominion began this journey by partnering with other water providers to leverage regional assets to most economically and efficiently serve our customers. We continually engage our regional partners and prioritize cooperation within the water and wastewater community.
Currently, we have agreements with South Metro WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficient Partnership), Aurora and Castle Rock for renewable water. These agreements, along with Dominion’s other water supplies, give us the flexibility to provide water to Sterling Ranch and potentially new customers within our 33,000-acre service area.
Dominion will continue to grow and strengthen its portfolio. In addition to our water supply agreements with regional partners, in 2019, Dominion’s board approved the purchase of 500 acre-feet of storage in the Chatfield Reallocation Project from the state of Colorado. With this storage, shared with nine other water providers, Dominion will expand its ability to efficiently utilize its renewable water.
In 2020 Dominion’s long-term investments will connect northwest Douglas County to the largest water providers in Colorado. At the heart of Dominion’s system is the new Eastern Regional Pipeline that will bring 1,325 acre-feet of renewable WISE water to our region and add to Dominion’s already robust and reliable water supply portfolio.
This pipeline is the key to bringing renewable water to northwest Douglas County, giving those on unsustainable groundwater an exciting opportunity. The pipeline will not only carry the WISE supply but also future supplies to serve prospective customers and firefighting capabilities for much of the region. The new pipeline is nearly complete and is expected to connect this summer, completing a loop the south metro water providers have been working toward for over a decade.
Dominion also continues to stay in the forefront of innovative solutions to support and develop water technology, sustainability and management. We are developing rainwater harvesting through the only state-approved pilot project. In late 2019, thanks to a long-running relationship between Vanderbilt University and Sterling Ranch, Dominion, Aurora and South Metro partners are working with Vanderbilt on water-treatment technologies that would address water quality challenges faced broadly by Colorado and nationwide.
From The Colorado Independent (John Herrick):
In response to proposed PFAS regulations, cities and water managers are raising concerns over their financial liability
In the summer of 2018, Lucy Molina, a 45-year-old mother of two who lives in Commerce City near the Suncor oil refinery, said a city council member told her that her tap water was contaminated with toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, also known as PFAS. At the time, she said, she didn’t know what the chemicals were. It was just one more reason to not drink the water in the heavily industrial north Denver area…
The city’s water utility, South Adams County Water and Sanitation District, put out a news release in July 2018 saying the water was safe to drink because the PFAS concentrations fell below the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion. One part per trillion is about equal to one grain of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
But in the wake of growing public concern over PFAS, a group of chemicals used in a range of products, including firefighting foam, non-stick cooking wear and Gore-Tex waterproof outdoor gear, Colorado’s health agency is questioning whether that concentration limit is in fact safe.
“If I ask the state toxicologist and I ask experts in the field, they will never use terms like ‘safe’ with respect to PFAS,” said John Putnam, the director for environmental programs at the Department of Public Health and Environment. “Because we don’t really know, since there are limits to all these studies.”
New research has linked exposure to PFAS to health issues including cancer and immune, reproductive, and hormonal dysfunction. But the EPA’s advisory level, which is not enforceable, hasn’t changed since 2016 and seems unlikely to be revised any time in the near future. The Trump administration’s EPA has been rolling back water protections. And Congress has failed to pass comprehensive PFAS regulations, in part because Republicans, including those in Colorado’s delegation, have concerns about how much it will cost cities and water managers to comply. Compliance could include more frequent testing of water supplies costing thousands of dollars per week and upgrades to water treatment facilities that could cost millions of dollars.
That’s left Colorado in the unprecedented position of scrambling to set a drinking water standard — and then trying to enforce it. Putnam said this is a task the state doesn’t have the money or staff to handle yet. And any effort it takes to cut corners to hold polluters accountable or mandate cleanup could be challenged in court by cities, water managers and other groups concerned about their own financial liabilities…
But some residents in Colorado are tired of waiting. Since 2016, the state has known the toxic, mostly non-biodegradable “forever chemicals” have been found in Colorado’s drinking water supplies above the federal advisory limit. The chemicals have been found in groundwater within fire districts in Boulder County and near Front Range military bases, airports and other industrial sites that use PFAS-laced foam to extinguish fires. The cities of Security, Widefield and Fountain, which share a watershed with military bases and the Colorado Springs Airport, are ground zero for PFAS contamination in Colorado. A well at the Peterson Air Force Base tested at 88,000 parts per trillion for a PFAS compound. El Paso County, home to the three cities and four military sites — Air Force Academy, Fort Carson Army Base, Peterson Air Force Base and the Schriever Air Force Base — was selected by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as the site to take blood samples from residents and study the health effects of PFAS. The chemicals are less likely to be found in high levels in water supplies in other areas of the state, but given the chemicals’ omnipresence in modern life, they’re likely found in nearly everyone’s blood…
In response to public demand and inaction at the federal level, Colorado’s health department is asking the state legislature for legal permission to write drinking water standards for PFAS and is working on separate rules that could hold water polluters accountable by setting a groundwater standard and new permit permit requirements for how much PFAS is allowed to be released into the water.
A bipartisan bill, [HB20-1119, State Government Regulation Of Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances: Concerning the authority of the state government to regulate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances], would allow the state for the first time to set a hard limit on how much PFAS is allowed in drinking water supplies. Water managers also could be on the hook for testing their water supplies more frequently. Worried about the cost of compliance, water utilities will likely lobby to narrow the scope of the legislation to place limits on how often the state can require monitoring and how low a drinking water standard it can set…
The bill also could require fire departments and facilities that use PFAS to inform the state how much they have stockpiled, and if used, require that the PFAS be captured and disposed of properly.
Separate from the bill authorizing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to write drinking water standards, the health department’s Water Quality Control Commission has been working on a new PFAS policy that would allow the state to regulate the chemicals through updated groundwater rules. The regulations could also set new conditions on water pollution permits.
Denver is among the cities raising concerns about the proposed regulations. The city has fire departments that use PFAS chemicals and owns the Denver International Airport, which is required by Federal Aviation Administration to use PFAS in its firefighting foam for safety certifications, and it faces financial liability for any regulations adopted. In a written comment to the state’s PFAS Action Plan, a representative for Denver said the state could be legally liable if it moves too fast with PFAS regulations, citing Colorado’s Administrative Procedures Act.
To set such standards under the state’s Administrative Procedures Act and other laws, the state will have to study health research, exposure potentials, and the cost-effectiveness of requiring utilities to meet such guidelines. That will take time and money, Putnam said. In many ways, Putnam said, Colorado’s law was written to slow the pace of regulation…
In September, lawmakers approved $500,000 so that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment could subsidize drinking water testing and pay a third party to analyze the samples. As of Jan. 16, of the 891 water providers and private well owners the state notified, 132 have applied for funding to test their supplies. In the 2020-2021 state budget, the department is requesting $250,000 to hire two new toxicologists to help study PFAS exposure and another $500,000 to continue the drinking water testing program.
It’s unclear whether lawmakers will approve the additional money…
Some environmentalists and water utility managers say polluters should be paying the price for cleanup and monitoring. States like New York have sued companies like DuPont and 3M, which manufacture PFAS chemicals. Scott, of the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District, said the state should focus on identifying the source of the pollution “so the cost of having to do the treatment is not passed on to our customers.”
Scott said PFAS contamination in his district could be coming from any number of industrial sources in the area. Suncor, an oil refinery located along Sand Creek, has acknowledged it has released PFAS into the water. The facility uses firefighting foam to put out petroleum-based fires…
Commerce City resident [Lucy] Molina said people should at least be given more information about their water quality. She said many of the area’s residents, nearly half of whom are Latino, speak only Spanish. The latest water report is in English. And it doesn’t mention the cancer risks of PFAS exposure.
From The Boulder Daily Camera (John Spina):
Despite the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently proposing several segments of Boulder County’s waterways as impaired, data collected by the Keep It Clean Partnership, which coordinates water quality monitoring for seven municipalities in Boulder County show the region’s water quality has remained relatively stable over the last five years.
“There were no notable issues with temperature, we saw significant decreases in levels of nitrogen and arsenic, E Coli levels remained stable, and we saw some increases in phosphorous but it remained below the state standard” Kevin Peterson, project coordinator of the Keep It Clean Partnership, said following the organization’s release of its 2018 Water Quality Report. “That’s a success, especially considering the population growth in the area.”
While Peterson refrained from directly citing a cause for this trend, he gave a nod to all the work the County and the various cities and towns have done to improve their handling of stormwater and treatment of wastewater, as well as to reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture.
The state’s decision to designate the section of Boulder Creek from 13th Street east to its confluence with South Boulder Creek as impaired, he said, was in large part the result of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment changing how it measures E Coli…
Meghan Wilson, a spokesperson for the City of Boulder, agreed.
“We’re aware that the methodology has changed in terms of designating stream segments as impaired,” she said. “My understanding is the condition has not changed, rather how they are designated has changed.”
While Peterson said ridding E Coli from a waterway is exceptionally difficult in urbanized areas, Cristina Ramirez, the Keep It Clean Partnership’s outreach specialist, noted there are several ways people can help reduce levels, including picking up dog waste, properly maintaining your home’s septic system, limit the amount of fertilizer applied to lawns and ensure irrigation systems aren’t overwatering and sending excess water into the gutter.