The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors and the #Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) Board of Directors joint work session recap — The Pagosa Springs Sun

Pagosa Springs. Photo credit: Colorado.com

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Pagosa Springs Town Manager Andrea Phillips began the meeting by providing an update on the pumps the PSSGID recently purchased for the pipeline running from downtown to the PAWSD Vista wastewater treatment plant. She added that the project has experienced additional costs since its installation in 2015, including spending on odor-control devices, an underground storage vault to store overflow waste and the new pumps, which had cost PSSGID approximately $800,000. Utilities Supervisor Lucian Brewster also provided an update on the pumps, indicating that the system has been fully switched over to the new pumps and the pumps have been running well.

Phillips added that she anticipates that the PSSGID will have to perform an additional $500,000 in pretreatment screening upgrades to ensure the new pumps continue to perform effectively throughout their lifetimes. She also stated that the PSSGID is working on an emergency liner for one of the previously used lagoons by Yamaguchi Park to provide additional wastewater storage, an addition that would likely cost another $100,000…

PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey then gave an update on PAWSD’s efforts to acquire a delay on a state-mandated upgrade to the Vista wastewater plant that was originally mandated to be completed by 2025 and would cost approximately $20 million. He indicated that PAWSD is hop- ing to get the deadline for the implementation of certain nutrient- filtering upgrades delayed to at least 2027, although the delay had already been requested and rejected once by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)…

The group then moved on to discuss the possibility of construct- ing a joint sewer plant for the PSS- GID and PAWSD, which Ramsey suggested could be a solution to PAWSD’s difficulties in upgrading the Vista plant.

End in sight for city’s sewer interceptor project, culvert rehab begins — #SteamboatSprings Pilot & Today

City of Steamboat Springs. Photo credit: American Rivers

Click the link to read the article on the Steamboat Springs Pilot & Today website (Spencer Powell). Here’s an excerpt:

Native Excavating installed 2,265 linear feet of 24-inch sewer pipe and eight manholes this year alone. Excluding lateral connections, about 71% of the main sewer line is complete and the crews are about one week ahead of schedule. Crews will install service connections into the new sewer main while abandoning the existing main, then they’ll test and inspect the new manhole connections and sewer main.  Then, the private irrigation systems that were impacted by the construction will be repaired or replaced, such as the systems at City Market Fuel and The Village at Steamboat…

Elsewhere, starting this past week, culverts in four areas of town are being rehabilitated as part of a separate project seeking to upgrade critical water infrastructure. 

Pump replacement for town’s sanitation district remains a success, staff ‘cautiously optimistic’ — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt:

At its Sept. 6 meeting, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) Board of Directors heard an update about the district’s major pump replacement project that relayed that the pumps are, so far, a success. The project, which began during the last week of June, was meant to address a history of broken parts and inefficiencies within the system. At this point, the new pumps are achieving flows “near to what is desired,” the agenda brief explains. However, the project has come with costs, with a total cost to date of $780,000, according to the brief. Town Manager Andrea Phillips explained that the project “may be slightly over budget” due to having to order some additional parts and retrofits.

However, the town will seek reimbursement from a $400,000 grant from the state, Phillips explained…

Some of these improvements include additional pretreatment that “may be needed in order to ensure that the longevity of the pumps continue,” such as a grit removal system or moving to an automated bar screen, Phillips explained.

Wastewater Treatment Process

Hot Take: This renewable energy project will make you love that dirty water — @ColoradoStateU #ActOnClimate

Credit: Colorado State University

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado State Univesity website (Coleman Cornelius):

AT THE NATIONAL WESTERN CENTER, an unparalleled system is mining dirty water for clean energy. It’s the largest sewer-heat recovery project in North America.

You’re not alone if you read the word “sewer” and thought, “Wait, what?”

Yes, this green energy relies on raw sewage from thousands of homes and businesses in Denver – a great gush of wastewater expelled from dishwashers, washing machines, sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. Sewage often is associated with its fecal content, but it contains something far more relevant to sustainable energy. That’s heat. Consider: An 8-minute shower typically uses a whopping 20 gallons of water at roughly 105 degrees Fahrenheit. With each load of laundry, a high-efficiency washing machine could gulp 13 gallons of water at up to 130 degrees. And, with each cycle, a dishwasher might use 4 gallons of water at 140 degrees. That’s a lot of water – and a lot of heat – down the drain.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Americans send the equivalent of 350 billion kilowatt-hours of energy down our drains each year – enough to power about 32 million U.S. homes.

“It really is just wasted heat,” said Leslie Fangman, a civil engineer and vice president of corporate development for CenTrio. CenTrio is part of a consortium called EAS Energy Partners, which was selected by the National Western Center Authority and the city and county of Denver to finance, design, build, operate, and maintain the sewer-heat recovery system.

The sewer-heat recovery system extracts heat from wastewater in the wintertime and uses it to warm buildings. In the summertime, the system reverses and rejects heat to cool buildings. Illustration: National Western Center Authority

The project relies on technology that is more than a decade old but has not been widely adopted, largely because of infrastructure complexities and high upfront costs. Yet, the concept is straightforward: During wintertime, extract heat from sewage and recycle it to warm a network of buildings, called an energy district; during summertime, use the same system to reject heat and cool the buildings. In so doing, dramatically reduce use of natural gas and electricity, which power furnaces and air conditioners.

After several years of planning and construction, the sewer-heat recovery system is poised to become a highlight of sustainability at the National Western Center. The center comprises 250 acres near I-25 and I-70 in north Denver. It is a $1 billion redevelopment, transforming the historic grounds of the National Western Stock Show into a year-round site for entertainment, education, and innovation. CSU Spur is the center’s educational anchor, with three new buildings dedicated to public education, research, and community outreach around the critical topics of food, water, and animal and human health.

“When I first heard about this system, I remember thinking, ‘Holy cow, there’s a lot of thermal energy capacity that’s going downstream that we could capture,’” said Brad Buchanan, chief executive officer of the National Western Center Authority, which contracted with EAS Energy Partners to build the sewer-heat recovery system. “It really grabbed my attention because we decided to hold a very high bar for sustainability. It seemed to be the perfect fit if we were really going to walk the talk of reducing carbon emissions.”

eslie Fangman, vice president of corporate development for CenTrio, has led project development on behalf of a business consortium hired for the job.
Denver, CO – April 21, 2022
Leslie Fangman, a civil engineer and vice president of corporate development for CenTrio Energy is arranged for a portrait at the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Photographer: Matthew Staver
303-916-6155
http://www.matthewstaver.com
mattstaver@hotmail.com

The heat recovery system took 18 months to design and build. It is projected to fill 90 percent of heating and cooling needs in seven buildings encompassing more than 1 million square feet. That makes the system the largest of its kind in North America. With buildout of the National Western Center’s initial phases, the heat recovery system is expected to save 2,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year – equivalent to eliminating 6.6 million vehicle miles from roadways. And it has capacity to expand even beyond the center’s first planned phases of construction.

The system began operating in April. For now, it serves the Vida and Terra buildings on the CSU Spur campus, as well as the nearby HW Hutchison Family Stockyards Event Center; they are the first new buildings at the National Western Center. Soon, the Hydro building will open at CSU Spur, becoming the fourth building in the energy district.

“It’s a great way to recover resources that we usually think about as waste,” said Jocelyn Hittle, who has led development of CSU Spur for the Colorado State University System. “I love the idea of Spur being able to help advance the state of the art by using nascent technology that is novel at this scale.”

The system diverts sewage from a 72-inch pipeline that runs along the western border of the National Western Center. The pipeline carries wastewater from tens of thousands of homes and businesses to the Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility, which is operated by Metro Water Recovery on the city’s northern edge. It is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the Rocky Mountain West.

The side stream of dirty water enters the Central Utility Plant at the National Western Center and runs through a grinding system to break down solids before wastewater goes through a heat exchanger and then flushes back to the sewer. During cold months, an industrial plate-and-frame heat exchanger draws warmth from the dirty water and transfers it to clean water that constantly circulates through the energy district in a closed loop. Clean water never touches dirty water as it runs through this “ambient loop.” When warm water arrives at each building, equipment again transfers heat – this time, from the ambient loop to a forced-air system, which then cycles warmth through building air. Back at the Central Utility Plant, dirty water returns to the sewer; it is enclosed in pipes, so the sewage does not emit odors.

During warm months, the process reverses: The system extracts heat from air in district buildings and transfers it to the ambient loop, then on to sewage – thereby rejecting heat from the energy district. Wastewater again runs to the Hite Treatment Facility, while cool, clean water runs into the energy district. At each building, cooler temperatures then are pulled from the ambient loop and cycled through building air.

In both cases, heat pumps are needed to extract and exchange thermal energy, and water is the medium sharing that energy. In this way, the sewer-heat recovery system may warm or cool buildings. If clean water in the ambient loop isn’t the desired temperature, boilers give it a boost in cold months, and cooling towers reduce it in hot months.

“You wouldn’t even be aware it exists, but the system really is revolutionary. It really represents a lot of the city’s goals toward resiliency, and it’s a great example of how we can do something creatively and innovatively,” said Mike Bouchard, program director for the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center. The city and county of Denver owns National Western Center land and several center facilities; the office spearheaded the procurement process for the heat recovery system, coordinated efforts with center partners, and constructed the ambient loop.

he Delgany Interceptor pipes run along the border of the National Western Center and convey sewage to a treatment plant. The pipes were above ground, shown at left (Photo: Metro Water Recovery). The pipes were replaced and buried, above right, providing a prime chance to build a new green energy system.

The system saves significant energy in part because sewage maintains a fairly constant temperature, typically ranging between 55 degrees and 75 degrees throughout the year. That means the source already is close to ideal building temperatures, said René Moffet, who managed system engineering and design for AECOM Technical Services Inc., another of the EAS Energy Partners. Saunders Construction of Denver built the system as part of the partnership.

“This system is something we can take a lot of pride in,” Moffet said. “It’s awesome – especially with a project that’s the first of this scope in North America. A lot of people are watching this to see how it will go.”

Top left: Wastewater enters the Central Utility Plant and runs through a heat exchanger, which extracts thermal energy and transfers it to clean water that flows to new buildings in the energy district. Bottom left: If water is not warm or cool enough, boilers or cooling towers adjust water temperature. Right: A closed pipeline of clean water, called an ambient loop, is the medium conveying thermal energy.

The sewer-heat recovery system cost $34 million, financed through a public-private partnership spanning 40 years. At the end of that period, total system costs are expected to be slightly above those of conventional systems, Buchanan, of the National Western Center Authority, said. However, those costs would decrease if the system were expanded to additional construction at the site or if partners were able to capitalize on potential carbon offsets, he said.

“I’m an evangelist for this system,” Buchanan said. “It will be a substantial difference maker with carbon reduction, and it’s pretty easy to get excited about that.”

Brad Buchanan, CEO of the National Western Center Authority, says he is an evangelist for the system.
Denver, CO – April 25, 2022
Brad Buchanan, CEO of the National Western Center Authority is arranged for a portrait along the South Platte River near the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Monday, April 25, 2022.
Photographer: Matthew Staver
303-916-6155
http://www.matthewstaver.com
mattstaver@hotmail.com

The concept emerged in 2015 with Jim McQuarrie, former director of technology and innovation for Metro Water Recovery, Denver’s wastewater utility. The utility pursues sustainability and cost savings at the energy-water nexus. It also has a significant issue to manage: To meet state and federal regulations, effluent – or treated wastewater – must be a sufficiently low temperature, especially during cold months, before it can be discharged to the South Platte River. The guidelines are designed to avoid disrupting river ecology. Cooling effluent is a costly and energy-intensive undertaking, so Metro Water Recovery sought an environmentally sustainable way to do it – one that might have benefits well beyond regulatory compliance.

An opportunity arose during master planning for the National Western Center. Among stakeholder objectives was burial of the Delgany Interceptor sewer lines – two pipes, both 6 feet in diameter, that run along the South Platte River on the west side of the National Western Center. The pipes carry Denver sewage to the Hite Treatment Facility. For years, they were above ground – an eyesore that blocked access to the river. McQuarrie and other leaders thought site redevelopment offered a chance to replace and bury the interceptor lines, while fulfilling additional goals: It would be an ideal time to install a landmark renewable energy project, which would save carbon emissions and reduce wastewater temperatures to help meet effluent guidelines; meantime, pipeline burial would open the riverfront for new trails, open space, and National Western Center programming.

National Western Center. Photo credit: CSU

The new system cuts “thermal pollution” in effluent and contributes to Denver’s climate goals, making it a model for utilities and municipalities nationwide, said Blair Wisdom, who succeeded McQuarrie as director of technology and innovation at Metro Water Recovery. “It’s really a recycling concept that addresses single-use heat,” Wisdom said. “Denver and the state are recognizing that a lot of greenhouse gas emissions are from people heating and cooling their built environments, and that includes household water.”

The project, which involved dozens of National Western Center stakeholders, also demonstrates the power of collaboration, noted McQuarrie, who now leads water projects for Tetra Tech, a global engineering firm. “One of the most striking things about this whole project is the impact that can be created when people partner together and work toward a common goal,” McQuarrie said. “Something like this requires people to think big and challenge themselves about whether adhering to traditional past practices is truly the best thing for future generations.”

The utility plant is an unobtrusive building containing leading-edge technology.
Denver, CO – April 21, 2022
A view of the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Photographer: Matthew Staver
303-916-6155
http://www.matthewstaver.com
mattstaver@hotmail.com

Early in the planning process, McQuarrie discussed the concept of a sewer-heat recovery system with Ken Carlson, a Colorado State University professor who served as McQuarrie’s adviser as he attained a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. Carlson is director of CSU’s Center for Energy Water Sustainability and is an expert on water recycling technologies. He agreed the heat recovery system might work well at the National Western Center; the two pitched the idea to the CSU System, which, in turn, took it to a larger leadership group. Carlson then asked six undergraduates to study the concept – a move that fit well with CSU Spur’s educational goals.

The students – calling themselves “the Sustainulators” – evaluated sewer-heat recovery systems as part of a senior design project, a capstone for CSU students in civil and environmental engineering. During 2015-2016, with the guidance of senior research manager Asma Hanif, the student team gathered reams of data; their meetings, site visits, and final report generated information and enthusiasm leading into formal planning for the heat recovery system. In fact, the CSU team recommended pipeline burial and system installation much like that later accomplished.

Natalie Thompson led the student team. In May 2016, she earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, with a minor in global environmental sustainability, and went on to attain a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. The CSU project heightened her interest in designing water and wastewater systems, Thompson said. Now, she’s doing that engineering work as part of international development projects throughout Uganda.

“Our project was such an exciting time to see how you can incorporate sustainability into design, while also making a space more beautiful,” Thompson wrote in an email sent from Kampala, Uganda. “This project opened my eyes to heat recovery, which makes so much sense when thinking about all the hot water we use in America. It made me see that we should not view wastewater as a waste, but as an opportunity. That really shifted my perspective as someone who has always been inspired by sustainability.”

Natalie Thompson, kneeling, led a CSU student engineering team that studied the sewer-heat recovery system; she’s now working on international water projects

Viewing wastewater as an opportunity – and, specifically, as an important source of thermal energy, nutrients, and fresh water – is at the core of a principle called “One Water.” The theory holds that water has value in all its forms and may be managed through integrated systems and technologies that together improve water quality, access, and sustainability on an increasingly thirsty planet. The sewer-heat recovery system at the National Western Center exemplifies the One Water concept, and university students and researchers will continue to study the system and its benefits, Hittle said. In the forthcoming Hydro building at CSU Spur, researchers with CSU’s One Water Solutions Institute also will advance the One Water idea by testing new technologies for the treatment and use of wastewater, stormwater, and roof runoff.

The combination of big ideas and technical challenges inspired the engineering students who first evaluated the sewer-heat recovery system, Thompson said. “It really ignited my passion for working with communities, understanding needs, and then designing,” she wrote. “I love the idea that sustainability is not just a buzzword, but a lifetime of serving a community.”

Do You Have a Septic System? Be aware of Larimer County Requirements — The North Forty News

Septic system

Click the link to read the guest column on the North Forty News website (Blaine Howerton). Here’s an excerpt:

Larimer County’s rules for selling a property with a septic system have been in place for one year now but few are aware of the new requirements. While it has always been customary for a seller to have the septic system pumped and inspected prior to closing, now it is mandatory. Why the change? The county is trying to protect buyers and uncover unhealthy systems. According to Larimer County’s website, Colorado counties operating similar programs found repairs were needed in approximately 20% of septic systems that were inspected.

A seller must use a Larimer County certified 3rd party inspector to pump and inspect the septic. If the system is in good working order, the inspector will submit documentation to Larimer County for review. A seller must then obtain an Acceptance Document from Larimer County and provide this to the buyer.

If the system fails, the seller must repair it. If the seller is unable or unwilling to repair the system, the buyer accepts responsibility and must obtain a permit and repair the system within 180 days of purchase.

We have seen the cost of inspections under this new system double. Prior to implementation, the cost for a septic pump and inspection was around $350 – $400. Now sellers are paying between $750 – $850 for the extra effort of providing documentation to the county.

Need more details? Visit http://www.larimer.org and enter Septic System Transfer of Title.

#AnimasRiver #water quality is improving in #Durango, study shows — The Durango Herald #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Upgrades made to the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility have improved water quality in the Animas River. Reduced nutrients and E. coli make the river safer for recreationists and limit impacts on aquatic life. (Courtesy of Mountain Studies Institute)

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Aedan Hannon). Here’s an excerpt:

A study by Mountain Studies Institute, the city of Durango and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released late last year has revealed that upgrades made to the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility from 2017 to 2020 have improved water quality in the Animas River. The improvements have decreased the nutrients and bacteria the reclamation facility discharges into the Animas River, creating a healthier ecosystem for aquatic life and making the river safer for recreation…

The improvements were extensive and included new headworks, which is where the wastewater enters the plant, secondary processing infrastructure and an ultraviolet disinfection system. They completely changed parts of the water treatment process at Santa Rita. From 2017 to 2020, the city, CDPHE and MSI conducted a study to quantify the water quality improvements in the Animas River from the facility’s upgrades as a part of CDPHE’s Measurable Results Program. They took water samples above and below Santa Rita, as well as at the point where the facility discharged treated water back into the river, and measured the concentrations of nutrients and E. coli.

The changes were significant.

The study found the upgrades reduced phosphorous by 93%, nitrogen by 59% and E. coli by 90% in the water the treatment plant releases into the Animas. Santa Rita’s May 2020 permit allowed for 100 mg/L of nitrogen in the water it released. After the improvements, it was releasing 7.16 mg/L. For E. coli, the facility’s permit allows 1,756 mpn/ml. With the new UV system, it now releases less than 10 mpn/ml, Elkins said. Mpn/ml stands for most probable number per milliliter and is a measurement of the concentration of bacteria in water.

“That should give you an idea of how well we’re doing,” Elkins said.

Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District update — The #PagosaSprings Sun

The springs for which Pagosa Springs was named, photographed in 1874. By Timothy H. O. Sullivan – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17428006

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike):

At the April 14 Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board of directors meeting, District Manager Justin Ramsey updated the board on the situation concerning the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID).

Ramsey highlighted that he had met with the Town of Pagosa Springs and PSSGID and that they had together developed an emergency plan if the pumps moving sewage from downtown to the PAWSD Vista Treatment Plant fail. Ramsey also explained that the town is “really frustrated” by the current pumping arrangement and is considering developing a new wastewater treatment facility near the proposed Yamaguchi South Park, which he estimated might cost the town $10 million to $20 million. Meanwhile, Ramsey added, PAWSD is planning state-mandated improvements to the Vista Wastewater Treatment Plant at the cost of $20 million to $30 million.
Ramsey then suggested the possibility of the town and PAWSD cooperating on developing a plant by Yamaguchi South and reversing the current pipeline from that area to Vista to transport sewage downhill from Vista to the new plant. However, he added that, even if this plan is approved, it would likely be at least eight years before the project would be completed.

The Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District Board of Directors authorizes more emergency expenditures — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Wastewater lift station

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt:

At its April 6 meeting, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District Board of Directors authorized up to $120,000 to be spent out of the sanitation fund reserve for additional emergency expenditures, most of which are meant to safeguard the system from an emergency as the sanitation system’s issues continue to worsen. The system has two pump stations. Each pump station is meant to have two pump trains and four pumps, and each is down to a single pump train with two pumps, Manager Andrea Phillips reminded the board on Wednesday.

U.S. mining sites dump 50 million gallons of fouled #wastewater daily — PBS

Settling ponds used to precipitate iron oxide and other suspended materials at the Red and Bonita mine drainage near Gold King mine, shown Aug. 14, 2015. (Photo by Eric Vance/EPA)

Click the link to read the article on the PBS website (Matthew Brown). Here’s an excerpt:

Every day many millions of gallons of water loaded with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press has found. That torrent is poisoning aquatic life and tainting drinking water sources in Montana, California, Colorado, Oklahoma and at least five other states.

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

The pollution is a legacy of how the mining industry was allowed to operate in the U.S. for more than a century. Companies that built mines for silver, lead, gold and other “hardrock” minerals could move on once they were no longer profitable, leaving behind tainted water that still leaks out of the mines or is cleaned up at taxpayer expense.

Using data from public records requests and independent researchers, the AP examined 43 mining sites under federal oversight, some containing dozens or even hundreds of individual mines. The records show that at average flows, more than 50 million gallons of contaminated wastewater streams daily from the sites. In many cases, it runs untreated into nearby groundwater, rivers and ponds — a roughly 20-million-gallon daily dose of pollution that could fill more than 2,000 tanker trucks. The remainder of the waste is captured or treated in a costly effort that will need to carry on indefinitely, for perhaps thousands of years, often with little hope for reimbursement…

Perpetual pollution

Problems at some sites are intractable.

Among them:

  • In eastern Oklahoma’s Tar Creek mining district, waterways are devoid of life and elevated lead levels persist in the blood of children despite a two-decade effort to clean up lead and zinc mines. More than $300 million has been committed since 1983, but only a small fraction of the impacted land has been reclaimed and contaminated water continues to flow.
  • At northern California’s Iron Mountain Mine, cleanup teams battle to contain highly acidic water that percolates through a former copper and zinc mine and drains into a Sacramento River tributary. The mine discharged six tons of toxic sludge daily before an EPA cleanup. Authorities now spend $5 million a year to remove poisonous sludge that had caused massive fish kills, and they expect to keep at it forever.
  • In Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, site of the Gold King blowout, some 400 abandoned or inactive mine sites contribute an estimated 15 million gallons (57 million liters) of acid mine drainage per day.
    This landscape of polluted sites occurred under mining industry rules largely unchanged since the 1872 Mining Act.
  • #SouthPlatteRiver restoration project awarded $350 million in infrastructure bill funds — #Colorado Newsline

    Ducks patrol the South Platte River as construction workers shore up bank. Oct. 8, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith

    A long-planned project to restore healthy ecosystems along the South Platte River and two other waterways in central Denver got a major boost from the federal government this week, in the form of $350 million in funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    The funding for the South Platte River Project, spearheaded by Denver and Adams counties, will cover nearly two-thirds of the $550 million that civic leaders plan to spend restoring wetland habitats, improving recreation and mitigating flood risk along a 6.5-mile stretch of the river, along with Weir Gulch and Harvard Gulch.

    The funds awarded Tuesday by the Biden administration are part of the $17 billion appropriated by a new federal infrastructure law to the Army Corps of Engineers to support flood mitigation projects across the country.

    GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

    “I’m delighted to welcome funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill for the South Platte River and surrounding communities after years of urging Washington to support this project,” Sen. Michael Bennet said in a statement. “For decades, the neighborhoods bordering the South Platte River have experienced environmental hardship. This project is an important part of Denver’s efforts to protect communities and businesses from flooding, build resilient infrastructure, and help ensure that anyone who wants to live and work in Denver is able to.”

    The Army Corps of Engineers finalized a feasibility and impact study on the project in 2019, concluding more than a decade of planning and environmental reviews. In addition to restoring aquatic, wetland and riparian wildlife habitats along the South Platte, supporters say the plan will create more than 7,000 jobs and protect hundreds of homes and other structures from flood risk.

    In December, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock convened a coalition of two dozen interest groups that signed a memorandum of understanding on the project in order to secure federal funding. Signatories included the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Denver Water and multiple environmental and conservation organizations — as well as business and real-estate groups like the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Revesco Properties.

    Revesco is the developer behind the massive, multi-billion-dollar River Mile project, which aims to redevelop 62 acres along the Platte south of Confluence Park over the next 25 years, adding homes for new 15,000 residents and ultimately displacing the Elitch Gardens amusement park. The river restoration project, too, is likely to take decades to complete, with city officials estimating in 2018 that the project could be finished in 10 to 20 years.

    “The restoration and conservation of the South Platte River ecosystem is a phenomenal opportunity,” Hancock said in a statement. “Infrastructure investments like this do more than just improve our waterways, they build lives, they build communities and they build futures.”

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    Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

    El Paso County opens #water and #wastewater infrastructure grant application — The #ColoradoSprings Business Journal #ArkansasRiver

    Summer greenery of El Paso County. By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11331849

    Click the link to read the announcement from El Paso County on the Colorado Springs Business Journal website:

    El Paso County is accepting applications for its American Rescue Plan Act Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Grant funding opportunity. According to a news release, “[t]he county has allocated $20 million in ARPA funding for necessary investments in water and wastewater infrastructure, to include improvements to drinking water infrastructure, upgrading facilities, managing sewage and other eligible uses.”

    “The community has expressed great interest in this particular grant, and it truly is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many communities and projects,” Commissioner Holly Williams said in the release. “This grant will have a monumental impact for decades to come, as it increases peoples’ access to clean drinking water, and replaces many aging infrastructures.”

    According to the release, “[a]ll levels of infrastructure have seen increased demands during the pandemic, and our water and wastewater infrastructures are no exception. This $20 million allocation will help El Paso County preserve and be better stewards of our most precious and scarce resource, and is an investment directly allowed under ARPA guidance.”

    The application opens Monday, March 28, 2022, and will remain open through 5 p.m. Friday, April 22.

    Application Eligibility:

  • All projects must meet federal eligibility requirements, which include 17 project categories under guidelines published through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
  • Projects must be located in El Paso County.
  • The entire allocation for this funding is $20 million and the county expects to fund several projects, the release said, adding a portion of the funding will be reserved specifically for smaller communities and projects.

    El Paso County will be hosting a pre-application webinar at 11:30 a.m. on April 4 to answer specific application related questions. To participate in the webinar, join using this link. Participants are encouraged to send questions ahead of time to ARPArequests@elpasoco.com. If you require accommodations or need a translator, send an email to JyotsnaKhattri@elpasoco.com by March 30.

    The application is a fillable PDF available here and on El Paso County’s ARPA page. All completed applications and supporting documentation must be submitted electronically to ARPArequests@elpasoco.com. For more information, visit http://admin.elpasoco.com/arpa.

    #Wellington Makes a Decision on #Water and #Wastewater Rates — The North Forty News

    Looking west on Cleveland Avenue in Wellington. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47841975

    Click the link to read the article on The North Forty News (Annie Lindgren):

    Wellington residents and business owners will not be seeing an increase in water rates at this time. The Town has decided to maintain the current rates and tiers established in October of 2020 and January of 2021. They accomplished this through a General Fund transfer of $653,000 to the Water fund, through 2021 Water fund operational savings of $400,000, and through continuing to identify operational efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities. They also decided to use the available $2.6 million American Rescue Fund Act (ARPA) Tranche II funds towards the water fund…

    Sewer base rates and usage rates have remained the same since 2016. That is $20.63 for up to 3,000 gallons and an additional $6.50 per thousand gallons over that. Starting in April of 2022, that base rate will go up to $31, with the additional usage rate of $10 per thousand gallons over 3,000 gallons. An example bill for an average resident using 4,000 gallons of water shows a change from $122.70 a month to $136.57 a month, including water, sewer, and storm fees.

    The plan is for a stepped base and usage rate increase with a 5% annual increase to base and tier rates for the subsequent three years. In 2023 folks can expect another increase to $44 for the base rate and $13 for the amount per thousand gallons over 3,000. However, a utility rate study will happen before this Year 2 projection is finalized. This plan included a $390,000 General Fund transfer to the Sewer Fund, and there will be a shortfall in the Town fund balance reserve that will remedy with time and should be back above the red line in 2026.

    Construction on the Wastewater plant will begin mid-2022. The goals for this project are that the capacity for the Wastewater treatment plant expansion must align with the Water Treatment Plant expansion, and the new Wastewater plant will meet the more stringent compliance standards. The project is set for completion in mid-2024 when the new plant should be ready for processing our sewage.

    The next steps are for the Town is to engage in a comprehensive rate study happening in 2022. Water and Sewer usage rates, impact fees, and indirect costs will be evaluated. The goal is to ensure an equitable impact on residential and non-residential customers and plan annual reviews and updates into the future. In addition, the Town is continuing to support and promote the Hardship Utility Grant (HUG) and the Water Efficiency Program and is looking into other financial solutions…

    The Rate study will look at regional trends and provide a holistic review of the water and wastewater rate needs and implications. It will answer the equity question of how to handle commercial vs. residential rates and share options on how best to proceed with future rate changes. It seems that the affordability of water and utilities is affecting Colorado in general, and it is a hot topic currently with the Colorado Municipal League. This discussion topic is far from over, so stay tuned for further details on the progression.

    A #Wyoming state hydrological study estimates the coal-bed methane gas industry drew down some [Powder River Basin] sandstone aquifers by more than 100 feet — @WyoFile

    Jill Morrison of the Powder River Basin Resource Council and rancher Kenny Clabaugh discuss the impacts of coal-bed methane gas on ranching operations in the Powder River Basin in 2006. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

    From WyoFile (Dustin Bleizeffer) [January 26, 2022]:

    The coal-bed methane gas boom that dotted northeast Wyoming with rigs and workers in the 2000s and left a legacy of bankruptcies and orphaned wells will also have lingering impacts on groundwater for up to 144 years, according to a new study by the Wyoming State Geological Survey.

    Some sandstone aquifers in the Powder River Basin have declined by more than 100 feet due to the industry’s preferred method of pumping large volumes of water from coal seams to release the microbial-formed coal-bed methane gas, according the study, “Groundwater Level Recovery in the Sandstones of the Lower Tertiary Aquifer System of the Powder River Basin, Wyoming.”

    The industry has pumped about 1 million acre-feet of water from coal seams since 2001 and discharged it onto the surface, partially depleting coal aquifers as well as associated sandstone aquifers. That’s enough water to fill Alcova Reservoir to maximum capacity more than five times.

    “The calculated times of recovery, which vary from 20-144 years with a mean value of 52 years, probably represent best-case estimates because the calculations assume that environmental and hydrological conditions will largely remain unchanged from those of the last decade,” the study states.

    This map depicts the location of 39 Bureau of Land Management sandstone and coal seam monitoring well sites in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. (U.S. Geological Survey)

    “Furthermore,” the study continues, “slowing recovery rates commonly observed in some coal seam aquifers may impede the return to predevelopment water levels in the proximal sandstones.”

    The most severely drawn down aquifers are within 20 miles of the Powder River, both north and south of Interstate 90, study co-author Karl Taboga said. That’s also the area where much of the remaining active coal-bed methane wells are located. While the geographic coverage of the monitoring wells used to measure water tables is limited, it’s believed the industry’s impact to aquifers elsewhere in the Powder River Basin is less severe.

    “It appears to be localized,” Taboga said. “In a couple of cases, a little farther east in the Powder River, you may have a site that has a significant groundwater decline, but five or six miles away you have another site where you’re not seeing a significant decline.”

    Ongoing groundwater monitoring in the Powder River Basin provides “a unique opportunity to study long-term groundwater changes,” State Geologist and WSGA Director Erin Campbell said in a press statement. “Understanding how subsurface systems relate to groundwater recovery allow us to best plan future development.”

    But there are perhaps even more critical lessons to learn, according to longtime critics of the industry’s dewatering practice.

    “The big question is: Will we learn the lesson that we live in a high desert and pumping and dumping and wasting water is the height of greed and ignorance?” the Powder River Basin Resource Council’s former Executive Director Jill Morrison said.

    Landowner group: The state was warned

    The massive dewatering of groundwater resources has been a point of contention since the beginning of the coal-bed methane gas play in the Powder River Basin in the mid-1990s. In some cases, it sapped water from wells used for livestock and drinking water for homes. While the practice of discharging the water on the surface provided new stock watering ponds for ranchers, it also flooded critical grazing areas and loaded the surface with salts, wreaking havoc on native grasses.

    The Sheridan-based landowner advocacy group Powder River Basin Resource Council pressured the state to minimize pumping groundwater and discharging it on the surface. Instead, it urged the state to insist on forcing operators to reinject the water “in a staged fashion.”

    Most coal-bed methane wells bring up large volumes of water along with the methane. This 2006 photo shows a water-discharge facility on a Johnson County ranch near the Powder River. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

    But the state didn’t take any actions to limit groundwater pumping and surface discharge until 2007 as the development began to decline.

    There’s no agenda. WyoFile aims to provide you with the tools to make informed decisions by producing independent, unbiased reporting that is free and accessible to all. Donate today to help keep Wyoming empowered and informed.

    “These aquifers took eons to establish and [coal-bed methane] development has significantly dewatered them in less than two decades,” Morrison said Wednesday, adding that she is “not at all surprised” by the report’s findings. “You can’t pump this gigantic volume of water out of aquifers that took eons to be created, and then expect that it’s going to regenerate.”

    The diminished aquifers and long-term recovery rates represent potentially higher costs for rural landowners and agricultural operations to access groundwater, as well as municipalities that might rely on groundwater resources in the future, Morrison said.

    Many in the Powder River Basin have already felt those types of impacts, Morrison added.

    Diagram of a coal-bed methane well. (Wyoming State Geological Survey)

    “The state said industry is responsible and they just have to drill you another water well that’s deeper,” Morrison said. “But that didn’t solve the problem because that [deeper] water isn’t as good, it costs more to pump and they didn’t pay for the extra electricity charges.”

    For years, hydrologists have speculated at the potential rate that both coal and sandstone aquifers might replenish. Early estimates included a rate of 1 inch per year, Morrison said. The new WSGS study estimates a faster rate and notes that recovery rates will vary widely depending on geology.

    “Typically, groundwater levels in the affected sandstone aquifers briefly rise by several feet for a few months after [coal-bed methane gas] production ceases,” according to the study. “But this rapid recovery frequently decreases to one foot or less annually after a year or two.”

    Recharge and climate change

    Climate change may also play a significant role in the rate of aquifer recovery in the Powder River Basin.

    The WSGS study notes that its estimated recovery rates “represent best-case estimates because the calculations assume that environmental and hydrological conditions will largely remain unchanged from those of the last decade.”

    But Wyoming’s precipitation and snowmelt dynamics are quickly changing due to human-caused climate change, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. While much of Wyoming could see more overall precipitation, less of it will come in the form of snow that drives annual springtime melt.

    However, since 2000, the Powder and Tongue River Basins have experienced their longest and deepest droughts compared to the last 100 years, based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, University of Wyoming Department of Geology and Geophysics professor J.J. Shinker said.

    “The increase in temperatures coincides with prolonged and deepening regional drought conditions and the trend of increasing temperatures (globally and regionally) is likely to continue well into the projected recovery timeframe,” Shinker told WyoFile via email.

    Wyoming’s evolving climate conditions make it extremely difficult to predict aquifer recharge cycles, Shinker said.

    WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

    #Water rates increase — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

    The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors recently approved increases in the district’s monthly service and volume charges. The board voted unanimously to approve the increases at its regular meeting held last week on Thursday, Jan. 13.

    The board initially discussed the increases at its regular meeting held on Dec. 9, 2021.
    District Manager Justin Ramsey explained during that meeting that the increases approved were the result of a water rate study that was performed in 2018. That study suggested a 6 percent increase in rates annually through 2022…

    According to documentation attached in the meeting’s agenda, the approved increases included an increase in the monthly service charge from $27.98 to $29.66. Also approved were increases in the volume charges for 2,001 to 8,000 gallons used from $5.02 to $5.32, 8,001 to 20,000 gallons used from $10.05 to $10.65, and over 20,001 gallons used from $12.61 to $13.37. Additionally, the water fill station charge per 1,000 gallons increased from $10.84 to $11.49. Also noted in the agenda documentation is that the wastewater service charge will increase at an annual rate of 2.5 percent beginning in 2024 and ending in 2027…

    Treasurer Glenn Walsh men- tioned the board may consider ad- ditional changes in the water and wastewater fees for next year…

    Accessory dwelling unit fee discussion

    During the same meeting, the board held a discussion on the topic of accessory dwelling units (ADU) and if the district should be charging additional monthly service fees for properties with an ADU that uses the district’s infrastructure. Walsh indicated that the board has held previous discussion on the topic and the consensus was that it would not impose any additional fees.

    #Durango sewer rates to increase $2.22 per month, on average: City Council approves 3% hike to address inflation — The Durango Herald

    Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

    From The Durango Herald (Nicholas A. Johnson):

    Durango City Council on Tuesday approved a 3% rate increase for all customers who use the city’s sewer infrastructure.

    The ordinance passed with a vote of 4 to 1…

    [Jarrod] Biggs said that although there is a surplus in the sewer fund, it won’t last with rising costs outpacing sewer revenues…

    According to Biggs, inflation in the past year has driven up sewer operations considerably. He said the cost of chemicals used to operate the city’s water treatment facility went up 35% in 2021…

    City Manager José Madrigal said the 3% increase will, on average, translate to a $2.22 increase for sewer ratepayers.

    Sewer increases are tied to the base rate charges for residential and commercial customers. Those who go over the base rate of usage will not be charged anything more than they normally would for going over.

    Base rates are determined by the size of a person’s water meter. Most residential homes have a water meter size of five-eights of an inch; the new base rate for homes with that meter size inside Durango city limits will be $23.71 per month…

    Revenue from sewer rates in Durango is about $7.9 million per year, while the operating budget of the city’s sewage infrastructure is $3.6 million. Another $3.4 million is diverted from sewer rate revenue to pay off debt from large projects, such as construction on the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility.

    Over the past three years, sewage revenues left over to pay for capital expenses have been around $900,000 annually. However, the annual cost of capital expenses for the sewer system has been around $2 million. Capital expenses include projects such as sewer line rehabilitation and manhole replacements, Biggs said.

    “If we don’t have adjustments to bring in more revenue, we will have to watch and limit capital improvement projects, and defer maintenance,” he said.

    #Greeley #Water and Sewer announces nearly 10% rate increases — The Greeley Tribune

    Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

    Greeley Water and Sewer customers can expect about 10% rate increases starting this month, as the department funds more than $200 million in investments over the next several years.

    The Greeley Water and Sewer Board recently approved the new rates in a unanimous vote, according to a city news release. On average, residents can expect a utility rate increase of about $10 a month, or about 9.8%.

    The increases take effect this month, but residents may not see the changes until their February utility bills.

    The increases break down as follows, according to the release:

  • Water: An average increase of $4.16 per month will help cover the city’s participation in a new water storage reservoir to provide enough water for more than 4,500 new residents.
  • Sewer: An increase of $4.22 per month will cover the cost of state- and federally mandated sanitary sewer upgrades. The mandates reduce the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous allowed in the city’s treated wastewater discharge to reduce algae growth.
  • Stormwater: An increase of $1.54 per month will help the city resolve downtown flooding issues. The city will upgrade its storm drainage to handle large rain events, such as the one in July that damaged businesses and homes.
  • In the release, Harold Evans, chairman of the water and sewer board, cited the regulatory changes and providing for the city’s rapidly growing population as drivers behind the rate increases.

    Greeley wastewater plant uses the (nitrification) force for sustainability — City of #Greeley

    Wastewater treatment basin construction. Photo credit: City of Greeley

    From the City of Greeley:

    There’s a feeding frenzy going on in east Greeley and it has nothing to do with cows. Rather, Greeley’s “bugs” are chomping away while keeping the city’s wastewater environmentally sustainable.

    These bugs — what our wastewater treatment operators lovingly refer to as the “Nitrifiers” and PAOs — have been happy little workers for decades. But soon, their microscopic lives will change for the better.

    Wastewater treatment basin construction. Photo credit: City of Greeley

    Keeping the bugs happy

    Let’s face it, cleaning wastewater has never been glamorous, but these bugs might as well have a red carpet to an all-star premiere where they will munch away in the all-you-can-eat line at the buffet. Put simply, the city is working to expand their buffet table. In wastewater terms, the city is building new treatment basins where microorganisms that make up the city’s nitrifying force can eat more alongside a lot more friends.

    Removing nutrients to meet new state regulation

    A new regulation, also known as “Reg. 85” by the Water Quality Control Division, mandates that municipalities work even harder to reduce the amount of “nutrients” that are put back into bodies of water such as the Poudre River after treatment at the Greeley Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Facility. There, the waste is cleaned and filtered out, with remaining treated water pumped back downstream of the Poudre River.

    The regulation mandates municipalities reduce nitrogen and phosphorous levels in their effluent (treated wastewater). Nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorous — are byproducts of human and animal waste and common fertilizers. Excess nutrients in water creates blooms of algae, which use up the oxygen in the water that marine life need to survive. Too much algae can kill off an entire food chain in bodies of water such as the growing ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Creating the right conditions for biology to work

    The city’s job is to keep the feeding frenzy going, using biology to keep the algae fuel to a minimum. In the right conditions, monitored 24/7, nitrifiers and PAOs (phosphorous accumulating organisms) feed on the nutrients present in the municipal waste. That leads them through a complex biological process in which the nitrifiers convert ammonia into nitrogen gas, which is released into the atmosphere. PAOs collect phosphorus in the waste and congeals where operators can remove it. That is later applied to agricultural land as fertilizer.

    Construction of new basins to meet regulation

    To meet the new requirements, the city is undertaking a $35.5 million construction project at the WTRF. Greeley is constructing specialized treatment basins that will upgrade the site’s organic treatment capacity. The city also is rerouting the water flow in the basins, allowing the ability to take a basin off line while keeping the bugs happy and complying with the new state regulations. This is the first phase of scheduled plant improvements through 2036.

    What the construction and enhancements do now to remove more nutrients will potentially earn the city extra time before having to implement even stricter nutrient removal guidelines that will come into play in the future.

    Treating wastewater is getting more complicated, but Greeley operators are on top of making the entire process more environmentally sustainable so not only the state but Mother Nature can be happy – just like the bugs.

    Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District meeting recap — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    Pagosa Springs Panorama. Photo credit: Gmhatfield via Wikimedia Commons

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Terri House):

    The perpetual pump problems that have perplexed the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) continue to persist, with two additional pump failures occurring, leaving the district with no operational backup pump on site.

    Should the pumps go down, there is potential for a sewage spill, with the district looking to reduce the possibility of any sewage going into the river.

    The district’s sanitation system includes “three lift stations, and the pumping stations that transport
    the town’s wastewater to Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) for treatment. There are approximately 835 customers using … the collection system,” according to an agenda brief from Tuesday’s PSSGID meeting.

    “In 2016, the GID and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to pump the town’s sewage to the PAWSD Vista Treatment Plant,” explains the brief.

    The board discussed the challenge of securing a backup pump in the event of another pump failure at Tuesday’s meeting.

    “There continue to be unsustainable failures with the pumps,” a June board agenda brief reads.

    The root of the issue is the ability for the district to pump poop uphill from town to the PAWSD ponds west of town.

    “Since the last update to the board, we have experienced two more pump failures,” said Public Works Director Martin Schmidt as part of his update on the pump replacement process and the state of the district’s pump stations. “Staff was able to make the adjustments, and move the pumps around to keep the sewage pumping. We are currently out of spare shufflable pumps.”

    “The pumps failed due to a seal failure and due to an electrical failure,” reads an agenda brief for the meeting. “Both were stemming from issues that we are addressing with the replacement pumps.”

    Schmidt noted that an American Technical team from Farmington came up Tuesday to look at rebuilding a pump…

    Schmidt explained they could get the pump to work with bearings and seal replacements. He also noted that it was an older type of pump that has tended to last longer and had the potential to become a spare for the future redesign.
    The downside, according to Schmidt, is that rebuilt pump would not be at 100 percent of capacity. It would take about a month to rebuild the pump at a cost between $10,000 and $13,000. The district has spent approximately $2,000 on investi- gating the potential of the pump rebuild…

    The rebuild project

    The district is in the process of a re-engineering of the pump system. “A $400,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health Environment has been awarded for replacement of the eight pumps at Pump Stations 1 and 2,” reads an
    agenda brief.

    “The cost of the pump replacement project is $800,000 with a $400,000 grant helping to pay for that project,” Martin explained of the rebuild project.

    “Staff is continuing to work with Pentair-Fairbanks on getting the pump engineering complete and all of the orders submitted. Pentair has assured staff that every element of the construction of the pumps is being expedited and and that the last of the submittals for construction are imminent. Once the submittals are complete, a meeting with all involved parties will be conducted to coordi- nate the planning and replacement of the pumps. This meeting will be critical for the smooth transition to the new pumping system because of the complexity of making the change while we are still receiving sewage at the pump station,” reads the agenda brief. “Staff is cautiously optimistic about getting the pumps changed out before the I&I season in the spring, but at this time there is no set schedule.”

    In response to a question from board president DonVolger, Schmidt clarified that the district will be getting eight pumps from Pentair-Fairbanks.

    “We’re hoping that when we take care of the re-engineering and installation of eight new pumps that our system will be pretty much intact, maybe like it should have been engineered in the first place,” said Volger, with Schmidt confirming.
    Schmidt reminded the board that former employee Gene Tautges wrote a grant and the district built a 250,000-gallon overflow tank.

    “Right now, in a 24-hour period, we are anywhere between about 215,000 and 260,000 gallons,” Schmidt said regarding current sewage flows. “That usually holds

    Steamboat looks to new program to address high river temperatures: Water-quality trading on #YampaRiver and tributaries would create riparian shading — @AspenJournalism

    The far bank of the Yampa near the Flour Mill will get additional vegetation and trees to help cool river temperatures as part of this restoration project that began last week. The city of Steamboat is exploring a water quality trading program that could lower river temperatures and help the city comply with the permit requirements of its wastewater treatment facility.
    CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    The city of Steamboat Springs is exploring a way to help it stay in compliance with state regulations and also cool down chronically high temperatures in an impaired stretch of the Yampa River.

    A program called water-quality trading could allow the city to meet the requirements of its wastewater-treatment facility’s discharge permit from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment by cooling other areas of the river by planting trees.

    The Yampa River flows through downtown Steamboat, where several parks and the Core Trail have been built along its banks. The river, a vital and cherished amenity for the Steamboat community, is popular with tubers and anglers. According to a 2017 survey of citizens, 75% of respondents ranked the management and health of the Yampa as essential or very important.

    But low flows and high temperatures, made worse in recent years by climate change, have impacted the public’s ability to use one of their favorite amenities. In July, the city closed the river to commercial use because of high temperatures — over 75 degrees. The city also recommended a voluntary closure for noncommercial users of the river.

    The entire 57-mile segment of the Yampa from above the confluence with Oak Creek to above the confluence with Elkhead Creek often has temperatures that are too high during the summer months, and in 2016 the segment was designated as impaired for temperature under the Clean Water Act. For July, August, September and November, stream temperatures exceed state standards for a cold-water fishery.

    Because the river is classified as impaired, city officials expect that when CDPHE issues a future discharge permit for the city’s wastewater-treatment plant, it will include more-stringent water temperature standards. The wastewater-treatment plant may not be able to meet these standards unless it cools the effluent before releasing it back into the river. The city’s current discharge permit expires at the end of the year.

    According to CDPHE Marketing and Communications Specialist Eric Garcia, Steamboat’s next permit will likely not have temperature limits, but will have temperature monitoring requirements. The soonest the city would have temperature limits for the wastewater treatment plan is Jan. 1, 2027.

    “These monitoring requirements are included so that we have a full understanding of the temperature issues in the Yampa River and at the plant before we set any temperature limits,” Garcia said in an email.

    #Holyoke City Council work session recap

    Holyoke photo credit dankalal.net.

    From The Holyoke Enterprise (Andrew Nygaard):

    At City Superintendent Mark Brown’s request, Holyoke City Council members held a work session immediately following their Sept. 7 meeting to discuss issues related to the city’s water.

    He told the council that he, Lennie Fisbeck and Jeremy Thompson met with Element Engineering LLC on Friday, Sept. 3, to review ideas to address the issues…

    Brown provided council members with spreadsheets showing nitrate level samples of the city’s different wells from 2002 through the third quarter of this year.

    He said the increasing nitrate levels in the cemetery well are raising concerns. One of the possibilities of the increased levels is that an excessive nitrate plume could be headed in that direction.

    He then discussed the possibility of getting the Stout well set up as a municipal well. This well, along with 318 acres located 2 1/2 miles south of Holyoke, was purchased by the city in 1996 from Clarence and Bernice Stout.

    Brown said there are different options that can be used to bring the Stout well in, it’s just a matter of finding the one that suits the city best.

    One of these options is to blend the Stout well with the cemetery well and come up with an acceptable nitrate limit.

    This would involve connecting the two wells with underground pipes to let the water mix at a suitable distance before it ever gets to the city.

    If the cemetery well gets to the point where it exceeds nitrate levels, allowing water from the Stout well to blend with water from the cemetery well would create an acceptable nitrate limit while still keeping both allocations…

    Flushable wet wipes still causing problems

    Brown then brought up the subject of the city’s wastewater, noting that flushable wet wipes continue to be an issue.

    He outlined two possible scenarios to try to address the problem.

    He said a grinder could be installed in the wet well of the existing lift station in Holyoke, grinding wipes up and pumping them to the lagoons. This would mean the lagoons would have to be dredged much more frequently since the debris would collect in the bottom of the lagoons.

    #Wellington water issues frustrate residents; town asks for patience — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Pat Ferrier):

    Wellington faces a Catch-22, caught between its desire for growth and the water issues that threaten to slow it to a crawl.

    The town of about 12,000 has plenty of water — the lifeblood of any community — to serve thousands of new homes. But the cost of water is rising rapidly and the town currently lacks the capacity to store it, treat it or flush it. Both its water and wastewater treatment plants are overextended.

    Expansions are underway but still three years away from completion.

    It’s not a new problem for Wellington, which earlier this year raised water rates to pay for an expansion of its water and wastewater treatment plants, imposed water restrictions and limited new residential building permits to about 100 per year until the expansions are complete.

    The very measures it’s taking to create that infrastructure have raised water rates to the highest in Northern Colorado, which could, in turn, adversely affect growth as builders consider their options.

    It’s a fragile balance that’s frustrating residents who are now paying about double what they were two years ago and has the town asking for patience.

    Residential water and sewer taps, the largest slice of new development impact fees collected when a building permit is issued, went from $5,500 to $7,500 for a typical home tap and sewer taps increased from $7,500 to $9,700.

    Those fees, which also pay for things like parks, streets, water and sewer lines, are typically passed on to the homebuyer or business, which is one reason the cost of homes is going up in Wellington…

    Continuing to increase impact fees while at the same time limiting the number of residential permits to stay within treatment capacities “could reach a point where developers or buildings are unwilling to build in Wellington,” the town wrote on its website, “and could result in a slowdown or stop to new development, shifting the cost of paying for improvements onto existing residents…

    When treatment plant expansions are done in 2024, they will be able to support Wellington’s expected growth for about 20 years, when the population is expected to double to about 24,000, Town Administrator Patti Garcia said.

    Plant expansions won’t bring rate relief, however, she said. Base water rates were raised $31 — to $66 a month — in January to pay the debt service on the water treatment plant. To get the loan, the town had to prove it could pay it back, Garcia said…

    For comparison, Fort Collins’ base water rate is $18.30 with a charge of $2.83 per 1,000 gallons of water up to 7,000 gallons. Like Wellington, it has tiered rates that go up the more water used. The charge for water over 13,000 gallons is $3.75 per 1,000 gallons.

    That means a Wellington resident using the average 7,000 gallons per month would pay $97.92 per month compared to $38.11 for the same amount of water through Fort Collins Utilities…

    It won’t help rates, but finishing the treatment plant expansions should ease water restrictions and lift the moratorium on building permits…

    Wellington is served by the North Poudre Irrigation Co., whose share costs have risen 40% since 2018, when the town wrote in its resolution to increase rates. That resolution passed in August 2020. NPIC water currently sells for $200,000 or more per share.

    In response to past increases and hedging its bets against future increases, Wellington increased its raw water rates from $19,285.50 to $67,586 for 0.58 acre feet of water — the amount of water it requires for every developed dwelling unit.

    “Once we have capacity in the water treatment plant we will be fine,” Garcia said. “We have plenty of water, the issue is having the capacity to provide it, store it, use it and flush it. We’re looking forward to what 2024 can bring.”

    The Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District accepts grant to repair pumps, awards solution contract — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    Wastewater lift station

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Joe Napolitan):

    During a meeting on June 17, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept a grant award from the Small Communities Water and Wastewater Grant Fund.

    According to the agenda brief, in early March PSSGID, staff informed the board that they had taken the initiative to apply for a grant to repair the lift stations that pump sewage to the Vista Treatment Plant. The grants are specifically for small communities that need funds to protect the water quality in the region.

    “The grant application was for the maximum amount of that grant, $400,000 and the GID of- fered a match of $100,000 for a total amount of $500,000,” said Public Works Director Martin Schmidt. “That amount was determined by what [we] anticipated were the costs for replacing the pumps and pricing at the lift stations.”

    The brief states that the staff made it very clear in the applica- tion that the failing lift stations are a serious problem and must be remedied with a long-term solution.

    On Tuesday, June 7, the staff received a letter informing the district that the application was successful…

    The agenda brief states that the funds will be used for replacement of equipment at Pump Stations 1 and 2, where there continue to be unsustainable failures with the pumps.

    How many “boatable” days does a #Colorado river possess? We’re about to find out — @WaterEdCO #GunnisonRiver

    River rafters, fishermen and SUP users float on the Gunnison River on June 20, 2021. The Boatable Days Web Tool developed by Kestrel Kunz, American Whitewater’s Southern Rockies associate stewardship director, along with the Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District and Trout Unlimited, forecasts flows for an upcoming boating season based on historic wet and dry years and will help river managers better manage rivers in a time of drought and climate change. Credit: Dean Krakel via Water Education Colorado

    From Water Education Colorado (Dean Krakel):

    Kestrel Kunz is surfing, Colorado style, in her kayak among the waves at the Gunnison Whitewater Park a few miles west of town. The waves are more than recreational play for Kunz. Flowing water is an important part of the work she does for American Whitewater as the organization’s Southern Rockies associate stewardship director. For Kunz, the Gunnison River is like a watery crystal ball that gives her a glimpse into a future increasingly threatened by drought and climate change.

    Kunz is the mastermind behind a prototype web tool developed by American Whitewater and the Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District that may change the future of river management across Colorado and eventually the West. The tool, the Upper Gunnison Basin Boatable Days Web Tool, is based on historical wet and dry year flows and other data and gives river users and water managers the ability to check an entire season’s flow forecast.

    The Boatable Days Web Tool, Kunz said, “shows the relationship between river flow and recreational opportunities. With a little research we can use historic flows to project how a dry or wet year, a new diversion project, a climate change scenario, or reservoir operations can positively or negatively impact river recreation opportunities and thus Colorado’s robust outdoor economy.”

    Being able to look ahead is an especially important feature for the state’s fishing and rafting outfitters, Kunz said. “The web tool will give an estimation on what flows are going to look like and how that is going to affect the number of commercial operating days in an upcoming season and help them plan in advance.” If outfitters know they’re not going to have sufficient boatable flows in September and October they might bring employees in earlier or may have to shift the way they do business and when they do it.

    Kunz sees the tool as an opportunity for water managers both locally and at the state level to use the information to better balance flows for recreation with other needs. “This tool provides an important snapshot into how recreation opportunities are going to be impacted by drought. The web tool in no way is going to solve our drought problem, but it’s a critical piece of the puzzle that’s been missing before now.”

    Kestrel Kunz surfs in her kayak at the Gunnison Whitewater Park in Gunnison, Colo. on May 24, 2021. Kunz is American Whitewater’s Southern Rockies associate stewardship director and is the creator of the Boatable Days Web Tool, which helps forecast river flows. Credit: Dean Krakel via Water Education Colorado

    Kunz and American Whitewater are currently working to fit other pieces of Colorado’s river puzzle together by finalizing boatable days studies on the Roaring Fork, Crystal, and Poudre rivers and creating similar web tools.

    “I think the biggest thing the tool does is give us a perspective on how climate change and drought are impacting our rivers,” said Sonja Chavez, general manager of The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. Chavez believes the next step will be to gain a better understanding of how changing river flows affect the local economy.

    “Gunnison has been discovered,” Chavez said. “We have a lot of people visiting and a lot more people on the river.” As river flows drop, rafters, boaters, and other water users are concentrated into certain segments of the river with more frequency, impacting the fishery and wildlife, boat ramps, wetlands and the boating experience. You can see in water short years how that recreation season is shortened and that’s important for a community like Gunnison that is dependent on recreation.

    This web tool is going to be a good model for how communities can come together and identify how their rivers are functioning,” said Trout Unlimited’s Dan Omasta. Omasta was TU’s grassroots coordinator during the development stage of the Boatable Days Water Tool and worked with Kunz and American Whitewater to identify ideal flow ranges for fishing and floating, and the high and low thresholds for navigation.

    “When is the river too low to float for a dory or raft with clients?” said Omasta. “The tool will especially help identify sections of river that become unnavigable at certain flows. The Taylor and Gunnison rivers are seeing a lot of pressure. They get busier every year and one of the ways to tackle that challenge is to spread people out and encourage them to be floating and fishing different sections.

    “More people are recreating on rivers and that’s awesome to see. We just need to be smarter about how we manage it and hopefully this tool can play a part in that,” Omasta said.

    Dean Krakel is a photographer and writer based in Almont, Colo. He can be reached at dkrakel@gmail.com.

    Mount Werner #Water to begin major infrastructure project June 14 — The Steamboat Pilot & Today

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    From Mount Werner Water & Sanitation via The Steamboat Pilot & Today:

    Beginning June 14, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District is making major infrastructure improvements that will install 3,000 liner feet of new sewer pipe as part of the second phase of its sewer interceptor replacement project set to begin Monday.

    “This project brings significant enhancements to the overall system,” said Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District General Manager Frank Alfone in a news release. “While there will be impacts to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic at times, the finished project will benefit the community for decades to come.”

    The interceptor project consists of replacing approximately 5,600 liner feet of existing sanitary sewer trunk collection main and associated structures, approximately 25 manholes and a sanitary sewer junction box. The new pipe material is composed of polyvinyl chloride or PVC.

    This project will require a closure and detour of the sidewalk along the Yampa River Core Trail south of Fetcher Pond to Alpine Lumber. An additional closure of the sidewalk at U.S. Highway 40 and Mount Werner Road will also be implemented in late July. Both set of closures and detours will run through the duration of the work into mid-October.

    The design parameters for the project were provided by Civil Design Consultants. Engineering and design plans were prepared by Landmark Consultants, Inc., and Native Excavating Inc. will serve as the project’s general contractor.

    Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District board meeting recap — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    Pagosa Springs. Photo credit: Colorado.com

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Joe Napolitan):

    During the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District board meeting on Tuesday, May 4, Town Public Works Director Martin Schmidt shared increasing concerns with the town’s wastewater pumping.

    “About a year ago, I came to the board with a report from an engineer from the company that sold us the pumps, Sulzer, and they were very confident in a replacement pump to be put into the lift stations because it would solve our net-pressure suction head issue,” Schmidt said. “It exacerbated issues down the line and acceler- ated some pump failures. That’s a big issue.”

    In his agenda brief, Schmidt states that after the board approved pur- chasing a different pump that was recommended by the supplier, the newer pump exacerbated issues with other parts of the pumping train and inadvertently increased the speed of the pump failures at the lift stations.

    “What we need is a system that will pump sewage and not destroy pumps at the rate they’re destroying them,” Schmidt said.
    Schmidt explained that pumps should be lasting between 15 and 20 years with minor maintenance. Currently, some of them are lasting not even six months.

    “Staff has been working on a solution for this from the very moment we realized the problem has been occurring,” he said. “We worked with them throughout the fall and into the winter and around Christmastime, we realized Sulzer wasn’t coming forward with any reasonable solutions.”

    […]

    During a phone call the follow- ing day, Phillips explained several options for the emergency backups she referred to during the meeting.

    “We do have an overflow vault that is located under the ground next to Pump Station 1, and that is for taking any kind of overflow that the pumps would not be able to handle,” she said. “That would get us maybe about 12 hours of time and if we needed to do more than that, we’ve identified a supplier of a bypass pump that we would utilize.”

    Phillips explained that there are two pump stations with four pumps each in service at any given time. Typically 150,000 to 250,000 gallons per day of wastewater are being pumped. Both pump stations are suffering from issues.

    “We also could utilize the existing old sewer lagoons that are down there, one of which is par- tially lined,” she said. “We could get several days of overflow by utilizing those old lagoons, and in the meantime would be requesting emergency assistance from Sulzer and other suppliers to ship us on an emergency basis additional pumps.”

    “We are waiting on [the engineer’s] report. I anticipated it this afternoon; it will probably be here tomorrow,” said Schmidt during the meeting.

    Water can be wrung out too much — Writers on the Range

    From Writers on the Range (Denise Fort):

    Santa Fe, New Mexico, once was sustained by the waters of the Santa Fe River, which begins in the high country of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, flows through the city and then onward to the Rio Grande.

    But when Western cities grow, they look everywhere for more water, with little regard for the rivers they drain. As the city’s population grew, Santa Fe turned to its groundwater. Later, New Mexico reached across the desert to take water from the Colorado River and deliver it to Santa Fe, Albuquerque and other beneficiaries on the Rio Grande.

    And yet the Santa Fe River downstream was not reduced to a dry and dusty arroyo. In fact, the riverbed is relatively verdant, supporting cottonwoods, willows and sustaining some irrigation in communities downstream. That moisture helps make Santa Fe a beautiful place in the desert.

    That’s because the water that Santa Fe residents use to flush their toilets or pour down the drain ultimately makes its way to the wastewater treatment plant, which returns the treated water to the Santa Fe River. That could soon change.

    The city’s water bureaucrats have fastened on the idea of capturing some of that treated effluent, either to get additional “return flow” credits by returning it to the Rio Grande, or by moving to direct potable reuse, a process derided in California as “toilet to tap.”

    But both of these proposals will also take water out of the Santa Fe River, affecting downstream irrigators, wildlife and even the cultural identity of the region.

    As climate change tightens its grip on the arid West, water managers are focusing on wastewater as a source of “new” water for cities. It’s hard to blame them: Municipalities don’t need new water rights in order to reuse treated effluent.

    Communities dump their treated sewage into rivers, and downstream users draw that water, treat it, and send it to residents’ homes. Orange County and Irvine Ranch in California are pioneers in recycling wastewater. The Bureau of Reclamation now administers a fund for water-reuse projects, and the Environmental Protection Agency has made it a national priority.

    There’s another strategy that Western cities like Santa Fe are exploiting to make use of their wastewater. Instead of sending all of the treated wastewater back into the potable water supply, Santa Fe plans to send some of its wastewater to the Rio Grande via a $20 million pipeline. This would give the city the right to pump additional water from the Rio Grande. Regardless of how the city proceeds, the Santa Fe River will end up losing some of the water that provides for its existence.

    Never forget that Western water law was set up to serve users, not rivers. And under Western states’ laws, cities own their treated sewage, meaning they can use it or sell it downstream as they wish. In fact, wastewater is such a reliable supply that it gets top value at Western water auctions.

    Santa Fe’s webpages overflow with the community’s commitment to sustainability. But these values were disregarded in the city’s focus on squeezing more water out of the system for a growing populace.

    Wastewater has other values and uses, though. How do we draw attention to them? A report by the National Wildlife Federation, the Pacific Institute and the Meadows Institute warns that reusing water can inadvertently “starve natural systems of needed flows and potentially reduce water available to communities downstream.”

    Instead, the groups urge planners to “incorporate actions to protect (and where possible, enhance) river flows downstream for the benefit of people and the environment” https://pacinst.org/publication/healthy-waterways/.

    By now, years of battles over Western water should have taught water managers that while people value reliable water supplies, they also value living rivers, small farms, historic communities and recreation. The report urges water managers to consult with the public before making decisions. It also lays out a blueprint for incorporating the value of living rivers, as well as addressing water supply.

    Wringing more use from water, even wastewater, is a powerful tool in addressing water scarcity. But just like the dams, pipelines and other tools of the Cadillac Desert era, wastewater ought to be approached with respect for all of its values. The proponents of water reuse need to acknowledge this.

    Denise Fort is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to lively conversation about the West. She is professor emerita at the University of New Mexico School of Law and has co-authored three reports for the National Academies on water reuse.

    CDPHE will not lower mercury limits — The #Leadville Herald-Democrat

    Leadville

    From The Leadville Herald-Democrat (Sean Summers):

    Following more than a year of back-and-forth with state regulators, the Leadville Sanitation District has been issued a new wastewater discharge permit that will allow for the same amount of mercury to be present in treated water released into California Gulch.

    The new permit, issued by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), came after outside evaluations and public comments to the state agency called attention to Leadville Sanitation District’s (LSD) inability to meet proposed lower mercury limits without substantial upgrades.

    The previous permit limited acceptable mercury levels in treated water to 0.077 micrograms per liter. Though CDPHE was going to require a lower limit of 0.044 micrograms per liter in the new permit, the limit will remain the same under the recently implemented five-year discharge permit.

    While the new permit maintains the same limits for mercury levels, it requires the sanitation district to monitor for a number of contaminants not previously recorded, including uranium and radium, among others.

    The permit, citing a 1989 report regarding the release of gasoline from underground storage tanks, also calls for new monitoring of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene given the potential for groundwater contamination from the Tabor Grand Hotel service site.

    The permit went into effect on Jan. 1, and requires regular reporting of contaminant levels to CDPHE.

    LSD has had issues meeting the 0.077 microgram-per-liter mercury limit in the past. The district was found to be out of compliance with state-determined mercury limits in 2017, prompting evaluations of the district’s collection system.

    As the organization responsible for receiving, treating and releasing all of Lake County’s wastewater, LSD has since been evaluating the sources of entry for contaminants into the county’s wastewater system.

    While the district has not been able to pinpoint the exact entry point for mercury and other contaminants, evaluations of the district’s aging collection system, made up of pipes and drains throughout Leadville, suggest that the intake system has leaks which may allow for contaminant infiltration and leakage.

    After recording a lower-than-expected amount of incoming sewage based on the number of residences and businesses served in the sanitation district, CDPHE is requiring LSD address the issue under the new permit. In its explanation of the new requirement, CDPHE says the low input may be a result of sewage leaking from the collection system before reaching the treatment facility.

    The new permit requires LSD to meet acceptable mercury limits stipulated in the 2021 permit by September 2023. The district is required to submit a report that identifies sources of cadmium, zinc, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene by Sept. 30 of this year.

    #Dolores #water and sewer rates to increase — The Cortez Journal

    Dolores

    From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    Funds will upgrade plants, replace aging pipelines

    An increase in monthly water and sewer service rates in Dolores will go into effect in January.

    The base water rate will increase by $5 to $30.84 per month, up from $25.84.

    The base sewer rate will increase by $2.50 to $31.16 per month, up from $28.66.

    Rate increases were approved by the town board in March, but implementation was delayed until 2021 because of economic challenges due to the pandemic.

    The last time water and sewer rates were raised was in 2015. The town is reviewing a senior, income-based exemption from the latest rate increase.

    Inflation and the need for infrastructure upgrades are the reasons for the rate increase, said Mayor Chad Wheelus.

    While both the sewer plant and water plant are in good condition, outdated pipelines are deteriorating and need replacement.

    Many water service pipelines are more than 50 years old, and their 4-inch diameter size is insufficient. The undersized pipes puts limitations on fire protection needs.

    Wheelus said the town has replaced aging leaking water and sewer collection lines, more needs to be done…

    Priority needs for the water and wastewater pipeline system in Dolores are estimated to cost $2.7 million, according to a recent assessment from SGM Engineering.

    Rate increases will help cover current and future repairs and upgrades at the water and sewer plants over several years, town officials said during recent budget discussions.

    In the fall, 10 deteriorated water lines passing under Colorado Highway 145 were replaced. The job was a priority because the highway through town is scheduled to be repaved by Colorado Department of Transportation in 2021. An upgrade to the water treatment plant also was completed this year.

    To cover the approximate $800,000 cost, the town secured a $292,363 grant from the Department of Local Affairs, and a $25,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Remaining costs were covered from town reserves and a loan from Dolores State Bank.

    The water rate increase will go toward paying off the loan…

    According to town documents, there are numerous other infrastructure needs pending within the next 5 to 10 years in Dolores. The rate increase will help build up the reserve to pay for future water and sewer upgrade and maintenance projects.

    The increase will also help offset ordinary inflation of costs to operate and maintain water and sewer utilities, officials said.

    Dolores has significant remaining capacity in both treatment plants, they said, and both plants are also meeting state standards for water quality. Regarding water quantity, SGM said water supply, and the water and sewer treatment systems are sufficient, and the plants have capacity to meet growth in town without major repairs or expansion.

    Upper Thompson Sanitation District Plans For The Future — EPNews.com

    From the Upper Thompson Sanitation District via The Estes Park News:

    Upper Thompson Sanitation District (UTSD) was established almost 50 years ago. Since then, they have been silently supporting and growing to meet the increasing water treatment needs of Estes Park. From humble beginnings, the UTSD service operation has expanded to over 4,300 households and 96 miles of collection system infrastructure in the Estes Valley. When the plant was built in 1976, it employed some of the most innovative technologies available and provided the highest level of treatment for sensitive waterways. This technology, coupled with unwavering commitment, has enabled UTSD to continue service even through moments of crisis, from fire to flood.

    Although excellent care has been taken of the decades-old wastewater treatment facility (WWTF), the effects of age, changing building codes, and outdated equipment mean it is nearing capacity to treat wastewater to the high standards that Estes Valley’s sensitive environment requires. In addition, upcoming stringent regulatory treatment requirements related to nutrients, metals and temperature will be impossible to meet with the current facility. District Manager, Chris Bieker states, “The cost of maintaining our current infrastructure is not worth the investment because it will be obsolete nearly as quickly as it’s repaired. We also have the additional challenge of meeting treatment demand during the large fluctuations of peak visitation season in the summer. We are nearing the limits of processing ability now and need to prepare for tomorrow.” To face these challenges, UTSD has been laying the groundwork to relocate and expand the WWTF to a site near the current plant. This new facility will be able to handle community and visitor growth as well as the more stringent regulatory requirements now and well into the future.

    With the large-scale improvements necessary to continue safe and efficient water treatment, additional funding is needed to finance the project. The UTSD sewer rate increase has been assessed at 11% each year over the next three years; 2021-2023, and diminishing increases for subsequent years. In 2021 this translates into an extra $5.33/month for most customers in the District. This fee will vary from customer to customer assessed as a flat rate fee or calculated on metered water use.

    “As residents ourselves, we share this cost and are committed to use the resources we have available as responsibly and efficiently as possible” Bieker said. When completed, the new WWTF will meet upcoming strict water quality standards. The new WWTF will also serve future customer and community demands while continuing to preserve the clean water that preserves wildlife and the natural habitat. “It means we will be able to continue to be good stewards of our environment, continue to protect the headwaters, and ensure our quality of life,” states Bieker.

    “Most people don’t think about the work we do at UTSD, but it is critical to maintaining our most precious resource, our water” says Bieker. “This is our home and we want to treat it right.”

    If you have questions about the upcoming changes please visit UTSD’s website at utsd.colorado.gov.

    Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

    Rifle City water, wastewater study aims to determine rates for the next ‘13-year period’ — The Glenwood Springs Post Independent

    Railroad Avenue in Rifle, looking north. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57475531

    From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Ray K. Erku) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    Following Rifle City Council’s approval Wednesday to hire outside firm JVA, Inc. to conduct water and wastewater studies, which include analyzing potential capital improvements, utility maintenance and infrastructure needs, city manager Scott Hahn said it’s likely residential and commercial rates won’t see a heavy increase.

    “I think you probably won’t see a decrease (in the water rate) unless the council chooses to do so,” Hahn told the Citizen Telegram on Friday. “We’ve got a nice, healthy balance in the water fund. It may need to be higher – I don’t know. But it all depends on the values.”

    Over the next several months JVA will determine where water rates and reserves should be and do a full financial assessment of where city “water and wastewater stands,” Rifle civil engineer Craig Spaudling told city council on Oct. 21. According to the project’s timeline, a final presentation is scheduled for Feb. 22.

    Among the certain areas of assessment, however, chances are wastewater rates will receive the most attention.

    “We’ve got issues with copper that is going through the wastewater plant and going into the river that we need to try and mitigate,” Hahn said. “And I don’t know all the codes that we’ve faced over the last 15 years, but I know from my experience as city manager… that the EPA keeps handing down tighter and tighter restrictions.”

    There are two major causes to certain levels of copper leaching into the Colorado River, Hahn said. One, typical household plumbing systems are made from the red-brown metal. Once water drains through the pipes, it carries small increments of copper, which then collects at the municipal wastewater treatment plant…

    Another reason, natural copper ore is commonly found in the sedimentary rock in the river itself…

    The city’s current water and wastewater master plan is based from 2006, according to JVA’s proposal. Residential and commercial rates have increased annually at relatively low increments – with city code stating no more than a 5% increase each year since 2006.

    #Pueblo wins national award for its efforts to address algal pollution in waterways, saving taxpayers $20m

    Photo credit: The City of Pueblo

    Here’s the release from the City of Pueblo:

    The City of Pueblo was nationally recognized for implementing the first full hydrocyclone/ammonia controlled nutrient removal process in the United States and for improvements to the James DiIorio Water Reclamation.

    The city received the prestigious Water Environment Federation 2020 Project Excellence Award for its pioneering improvements that additionally saved over $20 million for taxpayers and increased capacities.

    “From the continental divide to the Mississippi, our waterways are connected. What happens in Colorado will impact the Gulf’s algae problems and I am happy to announce Pueblo is leading Colorado to reduce algal bloom,” said Mayor Nick Gradisar. “In addition, our wastewater team saved taxpayers over $20 million, which shows our team is doing everything it can to be environmental leaders while being great financial stewards.”

    The City of Pueblo partnered with Brown and Caldwell, an engineering and construction firm, to develop an advanced system of nutrient removal through aeration control and hydrocylone-base wasting process.

    “We want to meet the Water Quality Control Division Discharge Permit requirements without adding additional costs for the citizens,” said Nancy Keller, Wastewater Director for the City of Pueblo. “We have a system now that protects aquatic life and improves the quality of our down stream communities.”

    In 2012, the State of Colorado introduced new standards to reduce the algal growth and aquatic life impairments. The first phase of reductions had to be met by April 2021 and the next phase of reductions will go into effect in 2027.

    “Our success in this project allows the facility to earn credits with the Water Quality Control Division that will delay implementation of the 2027 standards in our discharge permit, allowing technology improvements to occur, hopefully decreasing that large capital expense also,” said Keller.

    With the new system the City of Pueblo’s Wastewater Department was also able to increase the capacity of this process by 50% while reducing electrical and chemical costs.

    Algae blooms deprives waterways of much needed oxygen leading to Hypoxic (dead) zones.

    Hypoxia, or dead zone, occurs when a body of water or waterway has increased levels of nutrient pollution which is primarily caused by human involvement. These increased nutrients cause an overgrowth of algae which when it decomposes, reduces the supply of oxygen.

    The Nutrient Removal Project was expected to cost an estimated $20-25m. The City of Pueblo, with partners Brown and Caldwell, implemented Ntensity enhanced nutrient-removal system in for a total cost under $2 million.

    The DiIorio Facility treats more than 10 million gallons of wastewater per day.

    The latest developments in the Fountain Valley #PFAS contamination saga — The #ColoradoSprings Indy

    Firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals is responsible for contamination in Fountain Valley. Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    From The Colorado Springs Indy (Heidi Beedle):

    Since the 2016 revelation that groundwater in Fountain Valley, which provided drinking water for Security-Widefield and Fountain, was contaminated with toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which include a number of individual chemicals such as PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS and PFHpA, government agencies, residents and community activists have been struggling to come to terms with what is arguably one of the largest ecological contaminations in Colorado’s history.

    On Aug. 4, Chris Reh, associate director of the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), led a virtual information session for residents of Security-Widefield and Fountain regarding its ongoing PFAS exposure assessment. The assessment will randomly select participants and test blood, urine and tap water for levels of PFAS chemicals. According to Reh, the assessment will identify how people might be exposed to chemicals, calculate the extent of exposure and determine if there is a threat to health.

    ATSDR’s exposure assessment is the first part of a process that will continue in 2021 with the Pease Study, a national multi-site study conducted locally by the Colorado School of Public Health that will look at the human health effects of PFAS exposure through drinking contaminated water. While the sites chosen for this study are near Air Force operations, PFAS exposure extends far beyond Air Force bases. Much of the focus in El Paso County is on Fountain Valley, but the Air Force Academy on the city’s Northside also released PFAS chemicals, and residents of Woodmen Valley report health concerns as well, though they are not included in the ATSDR exposure assessment.

    El Paso County is one of eight sites nationwide identified by ATSDR for exposure assessments related to PFAS chemicals. The sites, located in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Washington and West Virginia, are co-located with Air Force bases that used aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a type of chemical used to extinguish fuel fires and that contains PFAS chemicals…

    Since 2016, community activists have been working to raise awareness of this environmental threat, and Colorado legislators have recently passed laws to address PFAS contamination. While much of the blame, and legal consequences, for this massive and widespread contamination have been aimed at companies that produce PFAS chemicals, such as DuPont and 3M, the military has known of the potential dangers of these chemicals since at least 1989.

    The Air Force Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory published a study titled “Biological Analysis of Three Ponds at Peterson AFB [Air Force Base], Colorado Springs CO” in November 1989 that raised concerns about contamination coming from the installation. “A series of three man-made ponds on the golf course at Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs CO were analyzed to determine their current ecological status and future potential for recreational fishing,” notes the report, which goes on to identify that “Pond 3 cannot be recommended for stocking with fish in its current condition. Low species diversity suggests that this pond is being stressed by an unknown pollutant.” The report identifies a nearby storm drain as a “chronic source of pollutants for this pond.” While the Air Force analyzed a number of factors, such as pH and the levels of phytoplankton and zooplankton, it was quick to identify AFFF as a possible problem, noting that it “was accidentally spilled into pond 3 shortly before the first fish kill. A subsequent restocking resulted in a second fish kill.”

    […]

    Stephen Brady of the Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs office commented, “When there is a potential our missions are having, or may have had, an adverse impact on communities, we take appropriate measures to protect it. When PFOS was discovered in the aquifer south of base in 2016, we immediately stopped using the legacy foam during fire response and training. We replaced the legacy foam in our fire response vehicles in November 2016 and in the hangar fire suppression systems in 2018 with a more environmentally responsible foam. Our first responders will only use the new environmentally responsible firefighting foam for emergency life-saving response, and do not discharge it during training. The Air Force takes environmental stewardship seriously, and continuously strives to meet or exceed environmental standards.”

    By the early 2000s DuPont and 3M were facing lawsuits from residents near their plants and increased scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Agency, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the EPA formally issued a health advisory regarding PFAS chemicals and set advisory levels of contamination at 70 parts per trillion (ppt)…

    While Rosenbaum was organizing FVCWC, the Colorado School of Public Health began to study exposure and health effects from PFAS chemicals. The study was named “PFAS Aware.” In 2018 the PFAS Aware team began sampling water in Fountain Valley. Initial results published in December 2018 showed that “total PFASs in untreated well water ranged from 18 – 2300 ppt” and that “PFASs detected are typical of fire-fighting foam-impacted groundwater.”

    On Sept. 18, 2019, the Air Force Academy sent a notice to Woodmen Valley residents, signed by Col. Brian Hartless, the installation commander, warning them that “firefighting foam containing PFOS and PFOA was used for firefighter training at the Academy from the 1970s until 1990, when we began to consolidate all of our training at Peterson Air Force Base. After that time, the equipment used to dispense the foam was periodically tested until approximately 2005.” Hartless did note that “this firefighting foam has never been used to extinguish a petroleum-based aircraft fire at the Academy” and that “the foam now in use at the Academy is a more environmentally friendly formula that we began using in approximately 2017.” Hartless went on to inform residents that the Air Force would begin sampling wells within the Woodmen Valley Fire Protection District.

    According to Hartless, Air Force Civil Engineer Center representatives “identified 37 private wells used for drinking water at homes closest in proximity to the southern base boundary for sampling. To date, 35 of the 37 wells have been sampled.”

    ATSDR contamination assessment area.
    Courtesy ATSDR via The Colorado Springs Indy

    Bill Beaudin, a Woodmen Valley resident since 1978, questions the Air Force’s testing process. “The north border of our property is the south border of the Academy,” he says. “We live on six acres. For many years until 1995 we all used well water. We were offered to go on city water at that time and most of us took that option. About 38 families chose not to go on city water for whatever reason.”

    Longtime residents like Beaudin were concerned about the fact that the Air Force only tested the wells still in use. “The rest of us all drank that water and so did our children for all of those years in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s until we went on city water,” says Beaudin, “and yet the Air Force Academy chose to just do this select group.”

    On March 24, the Air Force announced in a news release, “recent well water monitoring tests on the southeast perimeter of the U.S. Air Force Academy show Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) below the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifetime Health Advisory level of 70 ppt.”

    While the Air Force reported PFOS and PFOA levels below the EPA advisory limits, Rosenbaum says that doesn’t tell the whole story. ”There’s 4,700 different types [of PFAS],” she says, “PFHxS is toxic firefighting foam, which may or may not have PFOA, which is Teflon, or PFAS, which is Scotchgard water-repellent. So when the Air Force Academy said ‘we’re below levels of PFOA and PFAS,’ all of us activists who have been doing this for four years were like, ‘duh.’ You don’t have a Teflon pan company. You don’t have a Scotchgard water-proofing company. You have toxic firefighting foam, so here, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility [PEER] did a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act request] to try to get the PFHxS levels, and they are really high.”

    On March 12, 12 days before the Air Force’s statement, PEER reported that “The Air Force Academy test data of neighboring drinking water wells found levels of two individual PFAS chemicals, PFHxS and PFHpA, at more than 200 ppt in two locations” and “combined PFAS levels at a single well of 503.9 ppt and 537.8 ppt across two separate tests.”

    The consternation over the levels of PFAS chemicals in the water stems from concerns over the health effects of exposure to these chemicals. Heightened levels of PFAS chemicals have been linked to health problems such as increased cholesterol levels, changes in liver enzymes, decreased vaccine response in children and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, according to Rachel Rogers, an environmental health scientist with ATSDR.

    “A neighbor that was four houses away, her husband died of testicular cancer,” says Beaudin. “A neighbor who has since passed away died from both kidney and bladder cancer. They were longtime neighbors of ours.”

    Rosenbaum notes, “The main health issues here are kidney cancers, prostate cancer and a lot of autoimmune diseases.” Autoimmune disease are often difficult to diagnose because symptoms can come from other common conditions…

    Lawmakers in Colorado addressed problems with PFAS contamination during the 2019 legislative session. Tony Exum, D-House District 18; Lois Landgraf, R-House District 21; Pete Lee, D-Senate District 11; and Dennis Hisey, R-Senate District 2, sponsored House Bill 1279, which bans the use of AFFFs that use PFAS chemicals for testing or training purposes. In 2020 the same group of legislators sponsored House Bill 1119, which further regulates the use of PFAS chemicals.

    On July 10, The city of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities, along with the cities of Aurora, Greeley, Fountain and a number of water districts filed a motion to vacate an administrative action hearing by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) in regards to a proposed new policy to address PFAS contamination, referred to as policy 20-1. The motion states, “The Joint Parties recognize the importance of assuring that drinking water supplies are not contaminated by PFAS, and that water supplies contaminated by PFAS are cleaned up. Vacating the administrative action hearing will not preclude the cleanup of PFAS; it will require that regulatory measures imposed by the Water Quality Control Division are properly authorized through a rulemaking hearing.”

    Rosenbaum was confused by the motion. “At first the injunction was pretty difficult to understand,” she says. “Here we are Saturday morning and it came across that they wanted all the PFAS discussions taken out of the meeting. This is our fifth contamination to our water district here. We have to do something completely different and drastic and start writing new policy. The state health department wasn’t making a new law, they were adding language to the policy they already had in place.

    According to Jennifer Kemp, a public affairs specialist with Colorado Springs Utilities, “The reason for our joining several other Front Range entities on the motion to vacate is because we did not agree with the WQCC’s approach to regulating PFAS. Under Colorado’s State Administrative Procedure Act, a policy is a general statement of interpretation that is not meant to be a binding rule. Therefore, we joined other stakeholders in asserting that the regulation of PFAS is so important that it should have been accomplished with a thorough rulemaking process to establish a statewide PFAS standard.”

    On July 14 the WQCC adopted policy 20-1. “What this policy does,” explains Rosenbaum, “is it forces wastewater to test for PFAS. Your drinking water is fine, it’s not contaminated yet, but do you have an industry that’s dumping everything into the wastewater? We have the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, so they’re not dumping in rivers anymore but they’re dumping into wastewater.

    Now we’re making that accountable in our state. Now we’re explicitly stating in writing CDPHE [Colorado Department of Health and Environment] will receive extra funding to help that water district do an investigation of the industries that are connected to the wastewater system to see if they have PFAS. If they do, now they have to filter it at their site. If you own a restaurant, you have a grease trap. You can’t just dump in the wastewater. If you have a dental office, it’s explicitly written that they have to filter mercury. We’re not doing anything different, we’re just directly applying it where they’ve gotten away with no rules because they’ve been allowed to self-regulate.”

    While ATSDR completes their current study, Rosenbaum is planning her next steps. “We need to set maximum contaminant levels in this state,” she says. “What we can do is stop the industry from adding more [PFAS contamination] in. New Hampshire set it at 18 ppt, where the state health department wanted to set it at 700 ppt for PFHxS, which is stupid. The EPA isn’t monitoring PFHxS, they’re just doing PFOA and PFAS, so we brought in evidence from other states saying PFHxs is actually the more harmful one because it’s more prevalent.”

    New Snowmass #wastewater plant almost done — The Aspen Daily News

    Wastewater Treatment Process

    From The Aspen Daily News (Steve Alldredge):

    The district’s new, $27 million-plus wastewater treatment facility is nearing the end of its finishing touches after a three-year construction process. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new plant is tentatively set for Thursday.

    Financed by a mill levy approved by the SWSD’s voters in May 2016, the facility was completed in March, whereupon the old plant was retrofitted to work in tandem with the new plant. Now, both facilities are online and working as designed, according to Hamby.

    Some $23.3 million in bonds were sold for the project; the additional $4 million for the retrofitting of the old wastewater plant was financed through development-fee revenue from Snowmass construction projects, the district manager said.

    In a tour of the new plant last week, Hamby beamed with pride as he described the reasons for the new plant, the complicated construction process of integrating the two plants and how SWSD employees accomplished retrofitting the old plant themselves…

    While the plant took three years to build, the actual work started in 2013 when SGM, the Glenwood Springs-based company of consulting engineers, began talking to SWSD about new regulations that had recently been passed in 2012 in Colorado to reduce nutrient pollution in lakes, rivers and streams.

    Regulation 85 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulates nutrient discharges such as nitrogen and phosphorus and requires wastewater treatment plants to reduce both substances in the water that they discharge.

    In the beginning, SGM and SWSD considered retrofitting the existing SWSD wastewater plant that was originally constructed in 1968 after the Snowmass ski area opened and then modified since then with additional construction.

    A challenge for SWSD and the design and construction companies working on the new plant was the fact that the existing wastewater plant had to remain in operation while the new one was being constructed in order for Snowmass to meet current water regulations.

    Because of this, the project was built in phases over the three-year period.

    “Both plants have to be run in tandem to make this work, so we first had to build this new plant and put it online,” explained Hamby.

    “Once it was constructed, we took the old plant offline, retrofitting it with new equipment, but we also had to remove a lot of the equipment that was over there. Our own people did the retrofitting work so it is really extraordinary to me that the people that maintain the plant also took responsibility to build basically a new plant inside,” he said.

    We need a robust circular economy for #water, our most useful resource — GreenBiz

    El Torno treatment plant. Photo credit: FutureENVIRO

    Here’s an in-depth look at how a circular economy for water would look from GreenBiz (Nick Jeffries & Tansy Fall). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Water is a vital resource that has fueled human progress. It transports solids, dissolves minerals, chemicals and nutrients and stores thermal energy. This “carrier characteristic” allows for countless industrial, agricultural and transport processes that enable our society to thrive.

    But water is also key to life. The water in our oceans is home to phytoplankton that produce 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe. The lakes and rivers, and the groundwater beneath our feet, are our sources of drinking water without which we would soon perish. The food we eat relies on fresh water to grow.

    In nature, water purifies and renews itself endlessly as it flows through the planet’s hydrological cycle. But nature’s capacity to renew on her own is being disrupted. In the last century, intensive industrial activities and urbanization have significantly affected our water supplies.

    To make just one pair of jeans, for example, requires around 1,981 gallons of water and produces difficult-to-clean wastewater. With the number of clothes produced annually doubling from 50 billion to 100 billion units in the last 15 years, industrial water use in the clothing industry alone also has increased dramatically.

    Extrapolating this growth across the economy, and factoring in an expanding population, it is easy to understand why the United Nations estimates that water demand will exceed easily accessible supply by 40 percent in 2040.

    To make things more complex, the evolving climate emergency is leading to more unpredictable rainfall and greater frequency of extreme and unusual weather events. This has manifested as floods in South East Asia, droughts in California and Australia and wildfires in Greenland. The recent U.N. Water Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water is unambiguous on such effects: “The global climate change crisis is inextricably linked to water.”

    Water is never waste

    With more unpredictable weather events and increased demand for fresh water, the ways in which we use and reuse water resources have never been more important. Reimagining wastewater not as a costly problem but as a valuable resource is a good illustration of this.

    One example is the El Torno wastewater treatment plant in Cadiz, southern Spain. Like thousands of similar treatment facilities across the world, El Torno receives wastewater flows from surrounding businesses and homes, which it purifies so the water can be safely discharged into the nearby river. However, an aerial view of the El Torno site shows this plant to be different from the rest.

    Extending from the North West corner of the facility is a pair of very straight emerald green channels, each about 328 feet long. In these “raceways,” algae are cultivated that produce oxygen to fuel the biological treatment of the wastewater, thus almost eliminating the need for an energy supply to the facility.

    To avoid suffocating the water flow, dead algae constantly are harvested and pumped to an anaerobic digester where they are converted into biogas. The gas is then scrubbed of impurities, leaving pure biomethane, which is pressurized and used to fuel a fleet of cars. Results from the full-scale pilot facility indicate that just one hectare of algae can treat the effluent of 5,000 people and produce enough biofuel to power 20 cars driving 18,600 miles a year. Although the burning of biomethane produces carbon dioxide, it releases only the same amount of CO2 that the algae absorbed while it grew. Carbon also remains in the byproducts of this process, which can be returned to the soil of local farms, meaning that the process has the possibility of being net carbon positive.

    When we connect systems such as this and think of them as a whole, it is possible to transform a costly carbon emitting process into both an economic opportunity and a means of addressing a number of global challenges. The implications are significant. Wastewater treatment consumes about 3 to 4 percent of U.S. energy demand. In India, inadequate wastewater treatment, due to unreliable or expensive power, costs the Indian economy more than $50 billion a year. Imagine the positive impact that could be made if all future new wastewater treatment facilities in Africa, for example, were designed as power plants…

    Regenerative action

    Regenerating the environment by redesigning systems is a critical element of the circular economy. It advocates that economic activities should go beyond doing less harm, and strive for a regenerative or net-positive impact on nature. Natural systems provide us with food, oxygen and clean water, regulate our climate, absorb floods, provide recreation and much more. The WWF Living Planet Index estimates these “ecosystem services” provide humans with more than $120 trillion of benefits each year. Our current extractive and polluting economic model drastically diminishes the ability of ecosystems to provide these services.

    No sector of the economy illustrates the potential for circular economy to regenerate natural systems more than agriculture. And, as farming consumes 70 percent of the planet’s freshwater, no part of the circular economy offers more to the conservation of water resources than regenerative agriculture.

    Regenerative agriculture describes a broad set of food production methods with two complementary outcomes: the production of high quality food and the improvement of the natural environment. It recognizes that farms are part of a larger ecosystem, which farming activities must not just extract from, but also support. Farming in this way shifts from monoculture practices heavily reliant on chemical inputs, towards a more holistic way of thinking that cherishes diversity, encourages virtuous cycles of renewal and focuses on the health of the system as a whole.

    The specifics vary, or as soil expert David Montgomery puts it: “What works for temperate grasslands may not work so well in tropical forests.” However, there are common regenerative practices that can be applied across all soil farming. These include the use of cover crops, wider crop diversity, minimizing soil disturbance and, most important, the building up of soil organic matter. For every 1 percent increase in organic matter in the top 7.9 inches of topsoil, 90 metric tons of carbon can be sequestered and an additional 38,000 gallons of water stored. This shows that regenerative agriculture is a powerful tool for climate mitigation and adaptation, while at the same time meeting demand for food.

    Community Agriculture Alliance: What is Reg 85? — Steamboat Pilot & Today

    From Steamboat Pilot & Today (Greg Peterson):

    In 2012, the state of Colorado passed Regulation 85, or Reg 85, which dealt with point source and nonpoint source water contaminants. Point sources, like wastewater treatment plants, were hit with strict measures for managing pollutants. Nonpoint sources, like parks, golf courses and agriculture, were not.

    However, Reg 85 began a 10-year period where the agricultural community is encouraged to do voluntary measures for managing nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Agricultural organizations like the Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Corn Growers Association were involved in those early discussions and pushed back against the assumption that agriculture is the main contributor of nutrients to streams and rivers in Colorado.

    In 2022, the Water Quality Control Commission will determine if the agricultural community needs regulations or if we will continue voluntary measures. The first hearing on Reg 85 is in October, and it is an opportunity for the agricultural community to tell their story and keep Colorado as a voluntary state.

    The main issue is not the voluntary measures. Farms and ranches throughout the state have been changing and adapting their practices constantly. Many practices, which have been implemented to simply keep a farm or ranch efficient or profitable, have also improved the management of nitrogen and phosphorus. Colorado producers will continue to invest and adopt practices that manage nutrients and are compatible with their operations.

    The issue is telling this story to those outside of the agricultural community, and there are multiple opportunities to do just that.

    A team with Colorado State University is conducting multiple edge-of-field studies to show the benefit of specific operations and practices on nutrient management. These studies provide us with valuable data to show the positive benefit of practices on the majority of farms and ranches today.

    Additionally, these studies can help the landowner have a better understanding of their own application rates of nitrogen and phosphorus and how well those are being used by the crop.

    There is also work being done to demonstrate past improvements through programs like EQIP — Environmental Quality Incentives Program —administered by Natural Resources Conservation Services. Every year, millions of dollars in federal and private funding are spent on Colorado farms and ranches that have had positive impacts on managing nitrogen and phosphorus. These studies can show us how much work has been done throughout the state in reducing loads of nitrogen and phosphorus because of new agricultural practices.

    If there is a project that will benefit your farm or ranch and have a positive water quality impact, there is a lot of funding out there. We want to focus that money on projects that are compatible with farms and ranches, making them even better.

    If you are interested in participating in any of these opportunities, want to know more about Reg 85 or are interested in project funding, please contact Greg Peterson at the Colorado Ag Water Alliance at coagwater@gmail.com or 720-244-4629.

    Greg Peterson is the executive director of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance.

    The essential nutrients needed for lucrative agricultural production, nitrogen and phosphorus, have been linked to adverse water quality in streams and rivers. Edge of field water quality monitoring of best management practices (BMP’s), like vegetated filter strips, helps the agricultural industry quantify potential water quality benefits and impacts of BMP’s. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    New #wastewater treatment plant, refined system close to completion — The #Snowmass Sun

    Anaerobic Digester

    From The Snowmass Sun (Maddie Vincent) via The Aspen Times:

    By Sept. 16, the new plant — which started being constructed in 2017 and has now been up and treating local wastewater for more than a month — will be fully working in tandem with the newly renovated current plant, creating a refined wastewater treatment system that goes beyond more stringent state and federal requirements and discharges cleaner water into Brush Creek.

    “To see the water flow from that plant through this and actually go out to the stream, to actually see the clarity of the water that goes out to the stream is very gratifying,” Hamby said.

    As Hamby stood in the sanitation district parking lot looking at the three buildings, he explained that the primary reason for creating this newly refined wastewater treatment system was the need to align with Regulation 85, the state Nutrients Management Control Regulation passed in 2012 to help reduce phosphorus and inorganic nitrogen pollution to Colorado waterways.

    According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Safety documents, Regulation 85 established new limits for how much phosphorus and inorganic nitrogen could be in the clean water discharged from state wastewater treatment plants, new and existing, and put new nutrient monitoring requirements in place.

    All 44 wastewater treatment districts in Colorado must meet these new requirements by specified dates, with Snowmass being one of the first on deadline due to its size and location in a priority watershed, as previously reported.

    Snowmass Water and Sanitation District voters approved a mill-levy tax to help construct the new plant in May 2016 and the district also was able to sell $23.3 million in bonds for the project, Hamby said.

    The total cost for the whole renovated system — including construction of the new plant and renovation of the current plant — is around $27.6 million, Hamby said. The district anticipates it will be about 1% over budget when the project is completed this fall, but will be able to cover the extra cost with system development fee revenue from village construction projects, he explained.

    And once it is fully up and running, the improved wastewater system will be able to filter out phosphorus to 1 milligram per liter and nitrogen down to 11.4 milligrams per liter, Hamby said. This is even stricter than the state’s limit of 1.75 milligrams of total phosphorus per liter at the 95th percentile (or 95% level of all samples taken in a given year) and 14 milligrams per liter of total inorganic nitrogen for new treatment plants.

    Utilizing aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, the wastewater moves between plants through various aeration tanks, clarifiers, filters, UV disinfecting light and eventually out to Brush Creek. The predominately biological nutrient removal process will take around three days from start to finish and have a multitude of automated data collection and monitoring in place along the way to ensure it all runs smoothly.

    “The idea of the process is we go from no air, to very, very little air, to a lot of air … that helps grow different types of bacteria. Different steps get you different nutrient removal,” Fineran explained.

    Fineran and Hamby said the type of treatment plant and refined process isn’t unprecedented, but that the district was able to carry out the $3.5 million worth of improvements to the current plant in-house, or without any outside contractors to do the work — a feat the three men are proud of and a part of the district’s cost-effective philosophy.

    Paper: Multi-objective optimization of water treatment operations for disinfection byproduct control

    Click here to score a copy of the paper (William J. Raseman, Joseph R. Kasprzyk, R. Scott Summers, Amanda K. Hohner, and Fernando L. Rosario-Ortiz). Here’s the abstract:

    This paper introduces a novel decision-making framework for the optimization of water treatment plant operations. Managers at water utilities face increasing tensions between cost, public health risk, public perception, and regulatory compliance. Multi-objective optimization techniques have been developed to generate innovative solutions to environmental problems with competing objectives. By integrating these optimization techniques with water quality scenarios, water treatment modeling, and interactive visualization, our framework enables water managers to choose among an ensemble of optimal treatment operations. By automating the generation of treatment options, this paradigm represents a shift toward exploration and insight discovery in drinking water decision making. To illustrate this framework, we create a disinfection byproduct (DBP) management problem that incorporates the influence of competing risks and cost objectives on decision making. Using data from the Cache la Poudre River—a source water in Colorado with seasonally-varying water quality—and a hypothetical conventional treatment plant, we evaluate the impact of organic carbon increases on the performance of optimal treatment operations. These results suggest that the hypothetical utility should consider infrastructural improvements if organic carbon concentrations increase more than approximately 25% of maximum historical levels. An interactive exploration of the optimization results reveal to what extent there are tradeoffs between solids handling costs, chemical costs, and DBP exposure. A k-means clustering of these data illustrates that the utility can achieve compliance through a variety of treatment strategies depending on decision maker preferences for cost and risk.

    @ColoradoStateU partners with state of #Colorado on #wastewater surveillance project to track spread of #COVID19 #coronavirus

    Samples will be taken at the Drake Water Reclamation Facility in Fort Collins and 19 other sites. Credit: City of Fort Collins

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jayme DeLoss):

    As COVID-19 cases start to climb again in Colorado, public health officials are seeking a scientific gauge to determine public policies and safety measures. Colorado State University researchers Susan De Long and Carol Wilusz will provide the indicator they need through a $520,000 project funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The CSU team will study a readily available source that will give them valuable insights into the infection rate of specific communities: human feces.

    Sampling wastewater is a cost-effective way to test entire communities. By studying the wastewater of communities including Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Estes Park and Colorado Springs, the scientists and engineers can track trends in infection rates over time.

    The proof is in the poop

    Those infected with coronavirus often don’t exhibit symptoms for 10 to 14 days, and some remain asymptomatic. Regardless of their symptoms, or lack of symptoms, within two days, they start shedding the virus in their feces. Detecting the amount of virus in a community’s waste stream can warn of an impending outbreak four days to two weeks in advance.

    “We believe this could be a promising supplemental tool for helping predict an outbreak in a community, possibly a couple of days before, so we can shift additional resources to that area,” said Nicole Rowan, clean water program manager with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    So far, 16 wastewater districts have signed on to the project, constituting up to 65 percent of the state’s population. The districts will take samples twice a week and send them to CSU. All of the testing will be done at CSU’s Molecular Quantification Core facility, with the ambitious goal of delivering data to the state in three days or less.

    “It’s going to be a really important dataset for our community that will help make decisions regarding public health recommendations for distancing status and shutdown status,” said De Long, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

    Wilusz, a professor and RNA biologist in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, pointed out how cost-effective this method will be, with tests costing only a few cents per person.

    “We can test everyone in Fort Collins and it will cost pennies for each person,” she said.

    In the lab at CSU, a technician will filter the samples to remove solids, concentrate the viral particles that are dilute in wastewater, and extract nucleic acids from the viral particles. COVID-19 is an RNA virus, so researchers will extract the RNA and use enzymes to make DNA copies of the target specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Susan De Long works in the lab on a past project. Credit: Karen Rossmassler via Colorado State University

    “Isolating RNA from sewage is something I never thought I’d be doing,” Wilusz said. “I’ve learned a lot more about sewage than I probably ever needed to know.”

    CSU had the specialized technology in place to perform this testing, thanks to purchase of a digital PCR machine in 2015 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and other CSU units, including the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

    “The technology we are using – digital droplet PCR – is ideal for this particular application because it is resistant to the types of inhibitors found in wastewater,” Wilusz said.

    Public health agencies across the state will provide current case data for the project. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will interpret all the data and convey what they’ve found to public health professionals working on the ongoing response.

    The collaborative aims to make this information accessible with the help of Professor Mazdak Arabi, director of the One Water Solutions Institute at CSU. Arabi will create a GIS-based, interactive online map for displaying the data, incorporating socioeconomic insights to give deeper context to the results.

    A grassroots effort

    Wastewater epidemiology is not a novel concept. This method has been used to monitor polio and illegal drug use. In Colorado earlier this spring, some wastewater districts sent samples to an East Coast-based company for coronavirus testing, but it took several weeks to get results, negating any benefit from the data.

    Jason Graham, Fort Collins director of plant operations, water reclamation and biosolids, instead contacted CSU to see if the testing and analysis could be done here. “My interest in bringing CSU in was to have a local partner, reduced costs and quicker turnaround time,” he said. “I always try to partner with CSU if possible.”

    De Long saw an opportunity to expand the scope of the project beyond Fort Collins. If they were going to test local wastewater, why not also do this for the state? She reached out to Jim McQuarrie, director of strategy and innovation at Denver’s Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, and Liz Werth, laboratory support supervisor with Metro Wastewater, who already had organized a group of wastewater districts involved in COVID-19 testing. The CSU team was the solution to the high cost and long turnaround time that came with sending their samples out of state for analysis.

    “This is the kind of thing we should be doing at CSU because we’re a land-grant university and we serve our community,” De Long said. Initially, she didn’t know whether she would be paid for the work or if she would be able to publish findings, but it didn’t matter.

    “There’s a need here that we have the capacity to fill, we’re just going to do it,” she and her colleagues decided.

    De Long and her colleagues put their summer plans on hold and got to work, thanks to $20,000 in seed funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research and donation of a $12,000 ultrafiltration device from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District.

    De Long and Wilusz developed the protocol for this project with GT Molecular, a Fort Collins biotechnology company. GT Molecular will offer this testing service on their own to entities outside Colorado that are not covered by the project, and they are available to back up the CSU team, should the need arise.

    Of the overall $520,000 contract, $490,000 will go to CSU. The rest will go to collaborator Metro State, which will support analyses and process some of the samples.

    The light at the end of the sewage

    Along with being a harbinger of rising COVID-19 cases, this detection method also will inform officials if there is a downward trend in infections.

    “Not only is this an early warning signal for when things are getting worse, it’s a nice signal for when things are getting better,” De Long said.

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Tracking the coronavirus pandemic could soon be a bit easier because of one simple fact: everyone poops.

    Around the world , wastewater plants have become unlikely sentinels in the fight against the virus, allowing scientists to track the disease’s spread at the community level. The practice of testing sewage samples is spreading across Western U.S. states as well, with programs currently running in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.

    Seeing success in large-scale wastewater testing, Colorado public health officials are finalizing the details of a program that will cover upwards of 65% of the state’s population and include more than a dozen utilities, two research universities and private biotech companies…

    People infected with the virus shed it in their stool, often days before they start feeling sick, studies show . That is, if they develop symptoms at all…

    Graham is one of the original partners in a statewide wastewater monitoring program that includes the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado State and Metro State Universities, and wastewater utilities in Fort Collins, Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and Estes Park, among others…

    Because the Colorado program is still in the initial phases, it’s unclear how the collected data will be used. Officials in Utah and in Tempe, Arizona, have set up public dashboards where wastewater testing data is uploaded regularly. How it will inform decision-making at the state and local level is an open question…

    Once Colorado’s program is officially up and running, tests for all the participating wastewater utilities will take place twice a week over the next year.

    Better #wastewater treatment? It’s a wrap — Rice University

    Here’s the release from Rice University (Jade Boyd):

    Rice’s trap-and-zap strategy for antibiotic resistant bugs becomes wrap, trap and zap

    A shield of graphene helps particles destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria and free-floating antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater treatment plants.

    Improved bacterial affinity and reactive oxygen species generation enhances antibacterial inactivation in wastewater by graphene oxide-wrapped nanospheres developed by scientists at Rice University and Tongji University, Shanghai. Antibiotic resistance genes (eARG) released by inactivated antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) in the vicinity of photocatalytic sites on the spheres facilitates their degradation. (Credit: Alvarez Research Group/Rice University)

    Think of the new strategy developed at Rice University as “wrap, trap and zap.”

    The labs of Rice environmental scientist Pedro Alvarez and Yalei Zhang, a professor of environmental engineering at Tongji University, Shanghai, introduced microspheres wrapped in graphene oxide in the Elsevier journal Water Research.

    Alvarez and his partners in the Rice-based Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) have worked toward quenching antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” since first finding them in wastewater treatment plants in 2013.

    “Superbugs are known to breed in wastewater treatment plants and release extracellular antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) when they are killed as the effluent is disinfected,” Alvarez said. “These ARGs are then discharged and may transform indigenous bacteria in the receiving environment, which become resistome reservoirs.

    “Our innovation would minimize the discharge of extracellular ARGs, and thus mitigate dissemination of antibiotic resistance from wastewater treatment plants,” he said.

    A scanning electron microscope image shows a graphene oxide shell around the layered nanoplates that make up the core of a particle that traps and zaps antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the resistance genes they release. The wrapped spheres developed at Rice and Tongji universities proved three times better able to disinfect secondary effluent from wastewater plants than the spheres without the nitrogen-doped graphene oxide. (Credit: Deyi Li/Tongji University)

    The Rice lab showed its spheres — cores of bismuth, oxygen and carbon wrapped with nitrogen-doped graphene oxide — inactivated multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria and degraded plasmid-encoded antibiotic-resistant genes in secondary wastewater effluent.

    The graphene-wrapped spheres kill nasties in effluent by producing three times the amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as compared to the spheres alone.

    The spheres themselves are photocatalysts that produce ROS when exposed to light. Lab tests showed that wrapping the spheres minimized the ability of ROS scavengers to curtail their ability to disinfect the solution.

    The researchers said nitrogen-doping the shells increases their ability to capture bacteria, giving the catalytic spheres more time to kill them. The enhanced particles then immediately capture and degrade the resistant genes released by the dead bacteria before they contaminate the effluent.

    “Wrapping improved bacterial affinity for the microspheres through enhanced hydrophobic interaction between the bacterial surface and the shell,” said co-lead author Pingfeng Yu, a postdoctoral research associate at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering. “This mitigated ROS dilution and scavenging by background constituents and facilitated immediate capture and degradation of the released ARGs.”

    An electron microscope image shows E. coli bacteria trapped by wrapped microspheres developed at Rice and Tongji universities. The spheres were created to disinfect secondary effluent from wastewater treatment plants, a breeding ground for antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes. (Credit: Deyi Li/Tongji University)

    Because the wrapped spheres are large enough to be filtered out of the disinfected effluent, they can be reused, Yu said. Tests showed the photocatalytic activity of the spheres was relatively stable, with no significant decrease in activity after 10 cycles. That was significantly better than the cycle lifetime of the same spheres minus the wrap.

    Deyi Li of Tongji University, Shanghai, is co-lead author of the paper. Co-authors are Xuefei Zhou and Zhang of Tongji and Jae-Hong Kim, the Henry P. Becton Sr. Professor and Chair of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University. Alvarez is the George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a professor of chemistry, of materials science and nanoengineering, and of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of NEWT.

    The National Science Foundation, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Key R&D Program of China supported the research.

    Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University’s Office of Public Affairs.

    Opinion: Fort Collins sanitation district expands reclamation facility — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

    Here’s a guest column from Jim Ling that’s running in the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

    From where I stand, the South Fort Collins Sanitation District (SFCSD) is proud to announce it is nearing the completion of its approximately $35 million wastewater reclamation expansion, which includes improvements to its facility.

    These much-needed improvements, slated for completion by the end of the year, allows us to meet new, more strict requirements from the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in addition to providing additional capacity for future growth.

    With this expansion, SFCSD can delay the implementation of future regulations by up to a decade, providing more time to budget for future requirements. Building now proves more economical than waiting, allowing SFCSD to do more with less.

    We work hard to protect our customers and the environment by trying to stay ahead of the game and prepare as economically as possible.

    The SFCSD serves an area encompassing approximately 60 square miles, including residents in Fort Collins, Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County. These valued customers may rest assured that we will continue to provide excellent service and treatment 24/7, 365 days a year.

    Performing these types of improvement projects proactively helps control costs, further protecting our customers from unnecessary fee increases. Best of all, we continue to offer very high levels of service at reasonable costs for our customers.

    Thanks to careful planning, we expect the project to finish on time according to plans, and under budget.

    Capacity increases are paid by growth through the sale of taps and impact fees collected during development. Costs associated with enhanced treatment needs are funded through monthly wastewater charges to our customers.

    Our staff and board work hard to be good stewards of our constituents’ money. As of now, the district has not had to borrow to finance these important and necessary projects, thus saving money by avoiding interest payments.

    More than 400 miles of collection lines bring wastewater to the water reclamation facility 24-hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year. The current treatment process at the facility is capable of treating 4.5 million gallons of water per day.

    As EPA and CDPHE requirements for water reclamation become more stringent, we must adapt and add processes to continuously improve the quality of water discharged from our plant.

    By sending cleaner water to the Poudre River, we improve the river’s health. Not only will these facility enhancements continue to provide excellent service and treatment, but they will also allow us to handle the population growth that many communities in Northern Colorado are experiencing.

    Water is a finite resource and it needs our protection. We continue to do everything we can to ensure that clean and healthy water is available to future generations.

    To learn more about this plant expansion and follow its progress visit https://fclwd.com/wastewater/about-us/wwtp-expansion/

    Jim Ling is a member of the South Fort Collins Sanitation District board of directors.

    Clarifier up close. Photo credit: The South Fort Collins Sanitation District

    Palisade sewer study completed — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dan West):

    Palisade needs to decommission its aging wastewater lagoons and a new study shows piping the town’s waste to the Clifton Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plant is the most cost effective.

    The Palisade Sewer Study looked at several options for treating Palisade’s wastewater, Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson said. The two main options were to build a new treatment plant in Palisade or send the waste to Clifton.

    “What the city found is that (piping to Clifton) is financially better for the town,” Hawkinson said. “It’s about half the price to take a line to Clifton versus us building our own treatment plant and then decommissioning our lagoons.”

    A brand new plant would cost around $15 million, Hawkinson said, while utilizing Clifton’s existing facility would cost around $7 million. Decommissioning the lagoons will cost around $3 million, she said and will have to be done under either plan, as they will not be able to meet water treatment guidelines…

    Town staff are beginning to research grant opportunities to pay for design and engineering work on the project, which Hawkinson said would cost around $500,000. She said the Department of Agriculture has some grants available and that the town was looking into other funding sources as well.

    Palisade is just east of Grand Junction and lies in a fertile valley between the Colorado River and Mt. Garfield which is the formation in the picture. They’ve grown wonderful peaches here for many years and have recently added grape vineyards such as the one in the picture. By inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/23155134@N06/15301560980/, CC BY-SA 2.0,

    COVID-19: What the public needs to know about water and sanitation — The Pagosa Sun

    Pagosa Springs Panorama. Photo credit: Gmhatfield via Wikimedia Commons

    From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

    At a regular meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors on March 12, District Manager Justin Ramsey noted that COVID-19 cannot be spread through drinking water.

    “It’s very susceptible to chlorine,” Ramsey said. “We do keep chlorine in our water.”

    However, COVID-19 can be found in sewage, Ramsey noted, adding that there are other unhealthy things found in sewage as well…

    The only way PAWSD could be affected by COVID-19 is if too many staff members were to get sick, Ramsey added later.

    According to Ramsey, the state of Colorado has put together a program, called CoWARN [Colorado Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network] that allows PAWSD to “share” equipment and staff.
    “So if PAWSD gets hit real hard with this, I can call Durango and say ‘I need two water operators’ and if they have them available, they’ll send them to us,” he said. “It sets out how we’re going to pay for it and pay them back and so on and so forth.”

    In a follow-up interview on March 17, Ramsey noted that PAWSD is now a part of CoWARN.

    Additionally, Ramsey noted that PAWSD has run into issues with citizens using and flushing items that cause problems with PAWSD’s infrastructure.

    “It is causing somewhat of a problem. It’s not a major catastrophe, but it is definitely clogging some pumps and causing a little bit of issues,” he said.

    On March 17, PAWSD’s administrative offices closed to the public indefinitely, Ramsey explained in an email.

    PAWSD customers will still receive regular water and wastewater service, Ramsey noted.

    Chlorine Could Increase Antimicrobial Resistance — the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

    Mutagens, such as disinfection byproducts, in treated wastewater elicit a colorimetric response in this 96-well plate. Photo credit: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

    From King Abdullah University of Science and Technology:

    Ultraviolet light could thwart antimicrobial resistance by damaging DNA material in wastewater.

    Conventional wastewater disinfection using chlorine could facilitate the spread of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria1. Treating some types of wastewater with ultraviolet (UV) light instead could be part of the solution2, according to a study at KAUST’s Water Desalination and Reuse Center, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

    Bacteria are rapidly developing mechanisms to evade the effects of antimicrobial drugs, and this resistance is increasingly threatening public health. Pharmaceutical compounds and resistant bacteria that reach municipal and agricultural wastewater are partially to blame. Interestingly, the antimicrobial resistance of bacteria in wastewater entering water treatment plants is lower than after the wastewater leaves the treatment plant.

    This may be because during wastewater disinfection, genetic material breaks out of bacteria into the surrounding water. This extracellular DNA can contain antimicrobial resistance genes. “The big question is are these extracellular resistance genes of concern to public health?” says KAUST postdoctoral fellow, David Mantilla-Calderon. “We don’t have an answer to this question yet, but the first prerequisite these genes must fulfill to be of concern is that they need to be harbored within a viable bacterial cell. This is only possible through a process called natural transformation, which allows extracellular DNA uptake and integration into the bacterial chromosome.”

    Mantilla-Calderon and colleagues at KAUST found1 that natural transformation was stimulated in a bacterium commonly found in water and soil, called Acinetobacter baylyi, when it was in the presence of the chlorine byproduct, bromoacetic acid. They found that this disinfection byproduct caused DNA damage in the bacterium, inducing a DNA repair pathway that is known to also increase the integration of foreign DNA into the bacterium’s genome.

    Ph.D. student Nicolas Augsburger next investigated2 the effects of sunlight and one component of sunlight, UV light, on natural transformation. “We wanted to see if there was a safer way to disinfect treated wastewater without provoking an increase in natural transformation in environmental bacteria,” he explains.

    Interestingly, Augsburger and his colleagues found that, similar to bromoacetic acid, treatment with either the full spectrum of sunlight or only with UV light caused increased natural transformation in Acinetobacter baylyi.

    David Mantilla-Calderon (left) and Nicholas Augsburger discuss the results of their UV treatment of the natural transformation they stimulated in a common bacterium when it was in the presence of the chlorine byproduct, bromoacetic acid, casting doubt on commonly used wastewater treatment. Photo credit: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

    “What surprised us was the finding that after treatment with UV light, the bacterium’s genes were damaged to the extent that they were no longer functional,” says Augsburger. “Thus, although treatment with UV light increased the integration of foreign DNA into the bacterium, just like disinfection byproducts and sunlight, it will not be able to express those genes.”

    “Our studies question our current reliance on the use of chlorine as the final disinfection step in most wastewater treatment plants,” says microbiologist Peiying Hong, who supervised the studies. “A disinfection strategy using UV light could be considered for disinfecting low turbidity water. This could help in minimizing wastewater contribution to antimicrobial resistance.”

    Hong’s lab is now investigating how various stressors might interact to affect uptake and integration rates of extracellular DNA into bacteria.

    The Art of Managing Storm and Wastewater Using Data — SmartCoverSystems.com

    From SmartCoverSystems.com (Greg Quist):

    Read the full issue of Water & Finance Management here.

    Stormwater and sanitary sewer systems may be some of the least technologically sophisticated systems in the utility’s arsenal. Most often, these systems are gravity-based and out of sight. As a result, operational assess- ments are limited to the occasional vi- sual inspection when an operator lifts a manhole to check conditions, or worse when called out due to backups, over- flows or odors. With this lack of visibility, operators are left to use their experi- ence, intuition and instincts to operate these vital systems.
    In addition, storm and sanitary sew- er systems are often “build and forget” projects. With no data to support real- time assessments, these systems are as- sumed to be operating to specification unless there is a major problem. Or they are subjected to routine but perhaps unnecessary cleaning programs or other capacity management activities. Both these conditions create the perception of efficiency, and absent an external impetus, such as EPA-enforced consent decrees or significant property or public health impacts, the budgets for fire, police, and roads often command more financial attention than do storm and sanitary systems.

    The relative invisibility of these sys- tems and a lack of continual investment means that the managers of storm and sanitary sewer systems must be able to operate at increasingly proficient levels within the financial constraints of their budgets. In the past this was based on experience. Today, these managers have a powerful tool at their disposal to achieve this: information. Through the use of data-driven analytics and remote sensing and communication tools, the operators of storm and sanitary sewer systems can elevate the performance of their systems even in the face of scarce financial resources.

    In some ways, we could call this the Sewerball equivalent of the Moneyball. For those not familiar with the book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Un- fair Game,” by author Michael Lewis takes the reader on a journey to discov- er how the Oakland Athletics maximized the potential of their undercapitalized team by focusing on data. Sabermetrics, a term coined by Bill James, can be defined as the use of statistical analysis to analyze baseball records and make determinations about player performance.

    Hawthorne, California is the home of SpaceX, which launched in to orbit the Iridium Satellite network, linking sewer monitors with their customers even in the midst of extreme weather events.

    Sabermetrics allowed Oakland to build a team within an existing (and minimal) budget, that in aggregate could compete with teams with comparatively unlimited resources.
    In our Sewerball story, however, we apply statistical analysis to understand the performance of our storm and sani- tary sewer infrastructure and use that information to maximize its operational availability and capacity within a constrained budget.

    The Transition to Data-Driven Decisions

    In the 1980s, Bill James pioneered the concept that the traditional baseball data was in fact not representative of the performance of players and the sport. While statistics in baseball have been around for generations and the availability of data staggering, according to James the statistics being employed were not meaningful assessments of team or individual performance. They also failed to provide any guidance or insight into the operations of the teams. For example, the number of hits achieved by a player is not truly reflective of the effectiveness of a hitter. James’ notable insight was existing data could be combined in new ways to generate something more useful than traditional metrics. In this case, James proposed a mathematical formula to determine how many runs a hitter creates:

    From the perspective of the game, this is a more effective “stat.” If the object of baseball is to score runs to defeat your opponent, then the batter who creates more runs is a more valuable player.

    Interestingly, this concept has a direct parallel in the water and wastewater sector: it is data rich, but information poor and oftentimes we are not calculating the correct performance indicators to truly understand the game, or in our case, the performance of our underground system.

    However, the water and wastewater sector is now amassing vast troves of data that, when combined in unique ways, can be used to derive important relationships. Large internal and ex- ternal data sets can be combined and compared against a physical model of operations that can inform the process and maximize efficiency.

    As an example, using a set of sophisticated sensors within a sewer system, patterns of normal conditions and indicators of abnormal situations become apparent. By combining this level of understanding with external data sets such as NOAA’s rainfall and tidal information, the utility can make predictive assessments of how externalities are impacting the physical operations of the system — and adapt operationally. This creates a system that takes the guesswork out of understanding the real-time condition of the storm and sanitary sewer systems and allows operational decisions to be made in a timely and cost-effective manner.

    The result is that for the first time, these often-ignored systems can be elevated and operated in a manner that not only guarantees compliance but can have significant fiscal benefits.

    By using a data-driven decision sup- port platform combining the data from 50 sensors and providing insight into the real-time conditions in the collec- tion system, the City of Hawthorne, California, has reduced sanitary sewer overflows by more than 99 percent and saved more than $2.5 million in fines and mitigation costs over the past 13 years. Similarly, the City of South Bend, Indiana, installed a real-time monitoring system consisting of more than 120 sensors and automation to stormwater retention basins to control the release of stormwater. This resulted in the elimination of dry weather overflows and reduced combined sewer overflows by 70 percent (1 billion gallons per year) over the period of 2008 to 2014, according to EPA data.

    Data-driven services can also be used to better deploy resources. For example, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) uses trend analysis from 200 remote sensors to manage a real-time sewer cleaning optimization program. This program has allowed SAWS to strategically identify areas needing cleaning and resulted in an overall reduction of cleaning operations by 95 percent and projected saving more than $3.4 million in three years, according to SAWS data.

    Finally, data can also be deployed to drive significant savings in capital expenditures. This was the case in Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado, where state regulators threatened to cancel the town’s operating permits if the sewer overflow problems could not be solved. While one traditional solution considered the investment in a $10 million project to replace the sewer main, the town was able to optimize the utility of their existing infrastructure by better understanding the way in which the system operates. With real-time visibility into their collection system — at a cost of $96,000 in sensors — the town was able to comply with the regulatory requirements and avoid the requirement to construct new facilities.

    The Move to Artificial Intelligence

    At the time, James was pioneering Sabermetrics and demonstrating that the methods and analysis were often correct, he was mostly ignored. This may be attributed to baseball’s tradi- tionalist roots — one where the primary senses and gut intuition determined the flow of play of the players, the teams and the sport. The same situation exists in storm and sanitary sewer systems: their relative invisibility results in their being operated by intuition based on past experience rather than on actual operating conditions assessments.

    However, with real-time visibility into the conditions of these systems, that veil of intuition is being lifted and replaced by actual understanding. As the availability of highly granular, accurate and validated data increases, storm and sanitary sewer system op- erations can leverage the analytic tools of artificial intelligence to improve assessments. For example, SmartCover Systems (Escondido, California) has collected more than 200 million hours of sewer and stormwater monitoring data, which are now used in machine learning pattern recognition routines to identify common issues with our collection system infrastructure – issues that are rarely evident to operators who are “popping a manhole.” Companies such as SmartCover, EmNet, Innovyze, Echologics and OptiRTC are leveraging sensor and data technologies to create an advantage for operators who can rely on a data-driven understanding of their underground infrastructure systems for the first time in decades.

    Most importantly, these technologies are more than the sensors. Data is integrated into real-time decision support tools that offer full service operational insights to provide operators and utility management staff with advanced warning of potential issues and allows them to oper- ate the system with confidence and effectiveness.

    #Palisade studying sewer options, upgrades #water facility software — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    Palisade is just east of Grand Junction and lies in a fertile valley between the Colorado River and Mt. Garfield which is the formation in the picture. They’ve grown wonderful peaches here for many years and have recently added grape vineyards such as the one in the picture. By inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/23155134@N06/15301560980/, CC BY-SA 2.0,

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dan West):

    The Town of Palisade is moving forward with a study exploring solutions to either replace its aging sewer plant with a new facility or pump the waste to the Clifton Sanitation District, Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson said.

    The town’s current plant uses lagoons and is situated on the east side of Riverbend Park. Those lagoons must be decommissioned, Hawkinson said.

    The town, utilizing grant money awarded by the Department of Local Affairs, tasked an engineering firm to study the amount of waste the town produces, the cost to install a new plant and the cost to send the waste to Clifton…

    The cost of a new Palisade sewer plant would likely be much more expensive than sending the waste to Clifton, Hawkinson said.

    The study will be completed in approximately six weeks, Hawkinson said, at which point the Board of Trustees will need to weigh in on the next steps in the process.

    Water treatment upgrades

    Not to be confused with its sewer plant, Palisade’s water treatment plant is getting an upgrade after the Board of Trustees voted to spend nearly $40,000 to upgrade its computer systems.

    Hawkinson said the water treatment plant is a newer facility, which uses advanced safety features as well as solar power in its design. Since the facility is newer much of it is computerized, Hawkinson said, and needed updates to its software.

    Microwaving sewage waste may make it safe to use as fertilizer on crops — The Conversation


    Water purification at a modern urban wastewater treatment plant involves removing undesirable chemicals, suspended solids and gases from contaminated water.
    arhendrix/Shutterstock.com

    Gang Chen, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

    My team has discovered another use for microwave ovens that will surprise you.

    Biosolids – primarily dead bacteria – from sewage plants are usually dumped into landfills. However, they are rich in nutrients and can potentially be used as fertilizers. But farmers can’t just replace the normal fertilizers they use on agricultural soil with these biosolids. The reason is that they are often contaminated with toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium from industry. But dumping them in the landfills is wasting precious resources. So, what is the solution?

    I’m an environmental engineer and an expert in wastewater treatment. My colleagues and I have figured out how to treat these biosolids and remove heavy metals so that they can be safely used as a fertilizer.

    How treatment plants clean wastewater

    Wastewater contains organic waste such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, oils and urea, which are derived from food and human waste we flush down in kitchen sinks and toilets. Inside treatment plants, bacteria decompose these organic materials, cleaning the water which is then discharged to rivers, lakes or oceans.

    The bacteria don’t do the work for nothing. They benefit from this process by multiplying as they dine on human waste. Once water is removed from the waste, what remains is a solid lump of bacteria called biosolids.

    This is complicated by the fact that wastewater treatment plants accept not only residential wastewater but also industrial wastewater, including the liquid that seeps out of solid waste in landfills – called leachate – which is contaminated with toxic metals including arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. During the wastewater treatment process, heavy metals are attracted to the bacteria and accumulate on their surfaces.

    If farmers apply the biosolids at this stage, these metals will separate from the biosolids and contaminate the crop for human consumption. But removing heavy metals isn’t easy because the chemical bonds between heavy metals and biosolids are very strong.

    Gang Chen microwaves some biosolids, separating the organic material from the toxic metals.
    Gang Chen/FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, CC BY-SA

    Microwaving waste releases heavy metals

    Conventionally, these metals are removed from biosolids using chemical methods involving acids, but this is costly and generates more dangerous waste. This has been practiced on a small scale in some agricultural fields.

    After a careful calculation of the energy requirement to release the heavy metals from the attached bacteria, I searched around for all the possible energy sources that can provide just enough to break the bonds but not too much to destroy the nutrients in the biosolids. That’s when I serendipitously noticed the microwave oven in my home kitchen and began to wonder whether microwaving was the solution.

    My team and I tested whether microwaving the biosolids would break the bonds between heavy metals and the bacterial cells. We discovered it was efficient and environmentally friendly. The work has been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. This concept can be adapted to an industrial scale by using electromagnetic waves to produce the microwaves.

    This is a solution that should be beneficial for many people. For instance, managers of wastewater treatment plants could potentially earn revenue by selling the biosolids instead of paying disposal fees for the material to be dumped to the landfills.

    It is a better strategy for the environment because when biosolids are deposited in landfills, the heavy metals seep into landfill leachate, which is then treated in wastewater treatment plants. The heavy metals thus move between wastewater treatment plants and landfills in an endless loop. This research breaks this cycle by separating the heavy metals from biosolids and recovering them. Farmers would also benefit from cheap organic fertilizers that could replace the chemical synthetic ones, conserving valuable resources and protecting the ecosystem.

    Is this the end? Not yet. So far we can only remove 50% of heavy metals but we hope to shift this to 80% with improved experimental designs. My team is currently conducting small laboratory and field experiments to explore whether our new strategy will work on a large scale. One lesson I would like to share with everyone: Be observant. For any problem, the solution may be just around you, in your home, your office, even in the appliances you are using.

    Biosolids after collection from a waste treatment facility.
    Gang Chen/FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, CC BY-SA

    [ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. ]The Conversation

    Gang Chen, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District is working up a strategy improve odor control

    Oxidizing/Polishing Dry Air Scrubber provide a two stage chemistry for the control of odors from hydrogen sulfide (H2S), mercaptans, ammonia, amines and other odors generated in wastewater collection and treatment systems. They are easy to use, effective and economic. Photo credit: Syneco Systems

    From The Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

    At its Jan. 7 meeting, the board of the Pagosa Springs Sanitation Gen- eral Improvement District (PSSGID) again worked to deal with a stinky issue that’s plagued the district and some Archuleta County residents — odor control near the town’s two pump stations in the Timber Ridge area.

    The odor issues in the area began when the town started using a force main to move its collected waste- water to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District campus for treat- ment. Construction of the pipeline was completed in 2016.

    “The odor results from naturally high sulfur in the area, in waste, and the long detention times in the wet well and the force main,” an agenda brief prepared by Public Works Di- rector Martin Schmidt explains.

    The PSSGID previously piloted an odor control project with little success, with Schmidt’s document stating, “it did not get close to the levels of H2S [hydrogen sulfide] that were stipulated in the contract.”

    PSSGID staff, with engineering support, then brought back information on several options for the board to consider on Jan. 7, along with a recommendation to pair two of the technologies to best control odor and eliminate corrosion.

    The four options brought to the board were an oxygen injection system, an aeration system with added ozone (the same technology as the pilot project), chemical dosing, an air scrubber system and an air-injector system that builds dissolved oxygen in the water to eliminate anaerobic bacteria.

    Schmidt and Utilities Supervisor Gene Tautges recommended that the board combine the final two options.

    The air scrubber system, manufactured by Syneco Systems Inc., has a small blower that creates a negative pressure in the wet well, the agenda brief explains.

    “The removed air is scrubbed of H2S by a proprietary media that converts 100% of the H2S into a non-toxic polymer,” the document explains.
    Schmidt noted the blower is not much larger than a bathroom fan, with Schmidt and Tautges indicat- ing it operates at a low decibel level, around 55 decibels.

    Loveland celebrates $41.2 million in improvements to wastewater treatment plant

    Photo credit: City of Loveland

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

    Many may not care to think about what goes on in the Loveland Wastewater Treatment Plant, but the facility had plenty to brag about Tuesday, as officials showed off the fruits of a $41.02 million improvement project that wrapped up this fall.

    The plant is responsible for reclaiming and returning the water used by Loveland residents to the Big Thompson River, while disposing of other waste.

    Water and Power Director Joe Bernosky, who delivered one of the speeches at Tuesday’s “grand opening” and ribbon-cutting ceremony, described the plant as a crucial link in the water cycle that all of Loveland participates in.

    “Water is a cycle — it’s not created, it’s recycled,” he said. “What this is doing is not necessarily treating wastewater. It’s reclaiming the water we’ve used.”

    The improvements allowed the plant to be rerated to handle 12 million gallons of wastewater per day, an increase of 2 million gallons. Staff hope that increase will allow the plant to keep up with growth for an additional 10-15 years.

    Bernosky added that the city’s partnership with Garney Construction was one of the most significant in Loveland’s history. Construction of the improvements alone cost $35.06 million, and the project finished under budget…

    Improvements made to the facility include:

  • Installation of a new and reconfigured sewer collection system at the head of the plant.
  • Screening improvements with the addition of step screen technology, to remove pieces of trash such as wet wipes and hygiene products from the wastewater.
  • Mixing and aeration improvements to all six existing aeration basins.
  • A new and upsized digester facility.
  • The addition of a new return activated sludge anoxic tank.
  • Replacing pumps at the return activated sludge pump station.
  • Ultraviolet disinfection hydraulic improvements.
  • A new, 2,000 square foot maintenance building.
  • […]

    Project design began in March 2015 and construction started in April 2017. According to a city factsheet, over 2 million working hours were spent on the project.

    Southern Utes approve hefty rate increase for water, wastewater users — The Durango Herald

    Photo credit: Ute Camp in Garden of the Gods – Library of Congress

    From The Durango Herald (Shannon Mullane):

    The Southern Ute Indian Tribe Utilities Division will raise water and wastewater rates by more than 90% and 50%, respectively, starting Oct. 1.

    The Southern Ute Utilities Division, administered by the Southern Ute Growth Fund, provides both treated drinking water and wastewater treatment for the tribal campus, local tribal members living near Ignacio and the town of Ignacio. Discussions of rates have caused a rift between the town and the tribe, said Mark Garcia, interim town manager. While the town and the tribe analyze their agreement, ratepayers are stuck paying ever-increasing water and wastewater utility rates.

    “Wastewater and water rates are based on usage, and they’re going up,” Garcia said. Utility customers will be hit with the increase at different times, based on their level of use for water and/or wastewater. But for overall water and wastewater rates, “all levels of users will see probably an increase in their rates starting in 2020,” he said.

    Starting Oct. 1, ratepayers will pay higher base rates for fewer correlating gallons of water. Water rates will increase from $32.80 per 8,000 gallons to $47.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 94% increase. The rates will jump again Oct. 1, 2020, to $62.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 156% increase over current rates, according to a July letter to Garcia from the tribe.

    The town charges customers additional fees for billing, repairs and collections. Garcia said the town’s water fees will increase from $24.60 to $26.48 a month starting Jan. 1, 2020, a 6.4% increase.

    Wastewater rates will also increase. Service users currently pay $72.09 per ERT, or Equivalent Residential Tap, per month. One ERT allows for 7,500 gallons of usage.

    That billing system will change. The tribal utility will charge the town based on winter usage, not ERT. This shift will also make ratepayers pay more for fewer gallons. On Oct. 1, the rate will increase to $87.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 51% increase over current rates. Wastewater rates will jump again in 2020. Users will be charged $102.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 77% increase over current rates.

    The town charges an additional $9.88 base rate to users for billing, repairs and collections.

    According to Garcia, the average town customer uses 4,000 gallons of wastewater per month, so ratepayers are paying for more wastewater than they are using.

    “With the new rates and winter flow basis, the rates that the tribe charges the town as a bulk customer will actually go down from the current bulk rate charged,” the tribe wrote in a June news release.

    Cortez: Six-month project to repair sanitation infrastructure on the north side to turn dirt July 1, 2019

    Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

    From The Cortez Journal:

    The Cortez Sanitation District contracted with Four Corners Materials for the construction, which will include replacing 1 mile of sanitary sewer line and manholes along with reconnecting sewer services between North Ridge Drive, North Market Street and West Empire Street.