At the Animas River Stakeholders Group meeting in Silverton on Thursday, Superfund site project manager Rebecca Thomas told the 20 or so attendees the EPA has laid out a work plan for the summer.
Thomas said much of the work will be a continuation of last year’s activities, including collecting data and water samples, as well as looking at flow control structures at the Gold King Mine, the site of the EPA-triggered mine spill in August 2015.
The EPA also will install a pressure gauge system to monitor the bulkhead at the Mogul Mine, adjacent to the Gold King, which are both significant contributors of heavy metals into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.
The EPA wants to install a ground monitoring well between the inner and outermost bulkheads at the American Tunnel, the drain for the Sunnyside Mine workings. It’s suspected the American Tunnel’s water level has reached capacity and could be responsible for increased discharges out of adjacent mines, such as the Gold King.
Thomas said crews will compile more data for the possible closure of the bulkhead at the Red & Bonita Mine, another contributor into Cement Creek. Specifically, EPA wants to better understand the water hydrology of the mine workings.
As for the EPA’s interim water-treatment plant at Gladstone that treats discharges out of the Gold King Mine, Thomas said the agency is looking at about six sites to store the mine waste.
“This is increasingly more important for us as we start to run out of room for sludge management (at Gladstone),” Thomas said.
She said there may be more than one location for the mine waste, and that the agency hopes to have that finalized by May.
Thomas added that the EPA is planning a few quick-action remediation projects at sites within the Superfund listing where there is an immediate benefit to the environment, water quality and managing adit discharges.
She said 27 of the 48 sites qualify for early-action remediation, which could include fixing mine waste ponds, remediating waste rock dumps or redirecting clean surface water away from known polluted areas.
“There’s no way we’re going to get all the work done, but the hope is to get some of the work done,” Thomas said.
The Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Forest Service – all working on the Superfund site – also listed a few projects they have planned for this year.
Most notably, the BLM has permission to undergo a pilot project with Texas-based Green Age Technologies to test a new treatment on mine wastewater that many in the stakeholders group have said holds promise for low-cost water treatment.
The BLM and Green Age will spend 21 days treating discharges out of the American Tunnel and Gold King Mine with a technology known as cavitation, which separates metal ions from water.
The EPA had promised the town of Silverton before the community supported Superfund designation that the agency would embrace new technologies for mine-waste treatment.
Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter
Photo via the @USGS Twitter feed
Cement Creek remains lined with orange sediment after the Gold King Mine spill. The Environmental Protection Agency accidentally triggered the release of orange wastewater laced with heavy metals into Cement Creek on Aug. 5. The creek flows into the Animas River at Silverton, and eventually crosses into New Mexico and Utah
The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio
The Environmental Protection Agency’s temporary water-treatment facility at Gold King Mine, October 2015, via Steve Lewis/The Durango Herald.
The confluence of Cement Creek, at right, and the Animas River, left, as seen September 2015 in Silverton, Colo. This is where the plume of contaminated water from the Gold King Mine entered the Animas River. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)
Acid mind drainage Cement Creek watershed
Cement Creek August 8, 2015 — Bruce Finley via Twitter
Confluence of Cement Creek and the Animas River from the Coyote Gulch archives (11/21/2010)
…the mayor conducted regular business with the passing of a number of resolutions [including]…
Resolution No. 3-17, a Resolution of the City of Las Animas Sewer Enterprise approving a loan between the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the City of Las Animas sewer enterprise in the principal amount of not to exceed $176,000 for the purpose of financing the design and engineering costs relating to improvements to Las Animas wastewater facilities; authorizing the form and execution of a loan agreement and a governmental agency bond evidencing the loan; and prescribing other details in connection therewith; Resolution No. 4-17, a Resolution of the City of Las Animas sewer enterprise approving a loan between the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the City of Las Animas sewer enterprise in the principal amount of not to exceed $593,500 for the purpose of financing improvements to Las Animas wastewater facilities; authorizing the form and execution of a loan agreement and a governmental agency bond evidencing the loan; and prescribing other details in connection therewith; Resolution No. 5-17, a Resolution of the city of Las Animas approving a contract with the City of Las Animas Sewer enterprise relating to improvements to the Las Animas Wastewater System and providing for payment for such services and Resolution No. 6-17, a Resolution of the City of Las Animas sewer enterprise approving a contract with the City of Las Animas wastewater system and providing for payment for such services.
Morgan Conservation District’s 62nd annual meeting will be held on February 9th.
It will be held at the Fort Morgan Home Plate Restaurant, 19873 U.S. Hwy. 34. Breakfast will be at 8 a.m. and the meeting will start at 9 a.m. The cost of the meeting will be $25 in advance, and that will cover the annual meeting, annual membership in Morgan Conservation District, and free breakfast that morning.
If you do not RSVP in advance, and show up on the day of the meeting, please be advised that the cost will be the same, however breakfast will not be free, due to our needing to order the food in advance. Our keynote speakers, Bill Hammerich and Andrew Neuhart.
Bill Hammerich has served as the CEO of Colorado Livestock Association (CLA) for the past fourteen years. He grew up on a cattle and farming operation in Western Colorado and he attended CSU where he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Economics. Following graduation, he began working with Monfort of Colorado, then Farr Feeders and was with the Sparks Companies before joining CLA in 2002.
His time spent in the cattle feeding industry provided him not only with an understanding of how to feed cattle, but also the importance of protecting and sustaining the environment in which one operates.
Bill and his wife Sabrina live in Severance, Colorado and have two grown children, Justin and Jessica, and four grandsons.
Andrew Neuhart completed both a B.S. in Natural Resource Management and an M.S. in Watershed Science at CSU. After spending two years assisting in precision farming studies in the San Luis Valley for the USDA Soil, Plant and Nutrient Research team, Andrew went to work for the State of Colorado’s Water Quality Control Division. For 9 years with the WQCD, Andrew led a Permitting Unit for discharge permits under the Clean Water Act, for both industrial and domestic wastewater treatment facilities. Working for Brown and Caldwell over the last 4 years, Andrew assists clients with regulatory issues under the Clean Water Act, and has been working with the Ag Task Force, part of the Colorado Monitoring Framework, to get the word out regarding nutrient regulations and their impacts to agricultural operations.
Mr. Hammerich and Mr. Neuhart will be speaking about Regulation 85.
Regulation 85 establishes requirements for organizations holding a NPDES permit and with the potential to discharge either nitrogen or phosphorus to begin planning for nutrient treatment based on treatment technology and monitoring both effluents and streams for nitrogen and phosphorus.
The data from these efforts is designed to better characterize nutrient sources, characterize nutrient conditions and effects around the state and to help inform future regulatory decisions regarding nutrients. Please come to the meeting and learn more from our very knowledgeable keynote speakers!
Please RSVP as soon as possible to Angela at email@example.com or call 970-427-3362. Space is limited.
A Colorado Water Conservation Board proposal, sent to state lawmakers last week, recommends the stream-saving action to meet state environmental and economic goals. It remains unclear who would enforce the community watershed plans.
But there’s little doubt streams statewide are strained by thirsts of a growing population expected to double by 2060, according to state officials. And a Denver Post look at the latest water quality data found that 12,975 miles of streams across Colorado (14 percent of all stream miles) are classified as “impaired” with pollutants exceeding limits set by state regulators.
Creating local watershed plans to save streams is essential, said James Eklund, the CWCB director and architect of the year-old Colorado Water Plan. Eklund pointed to low-snow winters and drought in California’s Sierra Nevada, where 2015 snowpack at 5 percent of average forced a declaration of a state of emergency requiring 25 cuts in urban water use.
“When our Colorado mountain snowpack drops below 60 percent of average, we get nervous. If it happens in the Sierras, it can happen in the Rockies,” he said. “We need to protect certain streams before a crisis. We have got to get on this quickly.”
No single agency oversees waterway health. State natural resources officials monitor flow levels in streams and rivers. They run a program aimed at ensuring sufficient “in-stream flow” so that, even during drought, streams don’t die.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sets standards on maximum levels of pollutants that people and companies are allowed to discharge into waterways. In 2015, only 51.6 percent total stream and river miles in Colorado met quality standards, and 30.1 percent of lake surface acres met standards, according to a CDPHE planning document.
“If stream flows are low, there is less dilution in the stream to handle the addition of pollutants through permitted discharges,” CDPHE water quality director Pat Pfaltzgraff said in responses sent by agency spokesman Mark Salley.
Yet CDPHE officials do not make recommendations to natural resources officials about water flows necessary to improve stream health.
The health department has made separate “watershed plans.” CDPHE officials “are considering broadening the division’s watershed plans to include ecosystem health that might be more consistent with stream management plans.”
Pfaltzgraff declined to discuss stream health…
CWCB chairman Russ George supported the push to create local watershed plans, to include detailed maps covering every stream.
“Every stream and tributary needs to be inventoried. … It should have been done a long time ago,” George said in an interview last week.
“We have kind of hit the population and demand place where we have to do it. We didn’t have to do it for the first part of history because the population was small and there wasn’t the impact of all the issues we are getting into now,” he said.
The CWCB voted unanimously last month to ask lawmakers to approve $5 million a year for up to five years to launch local stream planning.
The plans are to be developed within the eight river basin “roundtable” forums that Colorado has relied on for addressing water challenges. These groups draw in residents with interests in stream health who helped hash out the Colorado Water Plan, which was finalized last year and calls for statewide cuts in per person water use by about 1 percent a year.
Conditions along Colorado streams vary, said Bart Miller, healthy rivers program director for Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates. “There are plenty of streams that have problems.”
While state natural resources officials run the program aimed at keeping at least some water in heavily tapped streams, survival in a competitive environment is complex. Leaving water in streams for environmental purposes often depends on timing, when the mountain snowpack that serves as a time-release water tower for the West melts, the amount of snowpack, and needs of cities, pastures and farms.
Collaborative local forums to find flexibility to revive streams “is a great approach.” However, state officials eventually may have to play a central role converting plans into action, Miller said.
“The state should help both in funding the planning but also in implementing the plans,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. This matters because this is about ‘the Colorado brand.’ Everyone depends on healthy rivers.”
The roundtable forums in communities draw in diverse stakeholders from cattlemen to anglers.
Irrigators and other water users west of Aspen already have created a “stream management plan,” for the Crystal River, seen as a model local effort. Their planning included an assessment of watershed health that found significant degradation above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River. They set a goal of reducing the estimated 433 cubic feet per second of water diverted from the river by adding 10 to 25 cfs during dry times. They’re developing “nondiversion agreements” that would pay irrigators to reduce water use when possible without hurting agriculture, combined with improving ditches and installation of sprinkler systems designed to apply water to crops more efficiently.
Enforcement of plans hasn’t been decided. “We’d like to see more enforcement” of measures to improve stream health, Rocky Mountain Sierra Club director Jim Alexee said. “We definitely think there’s room to do more. We also want to be respectful of the governor’s watershed process.”
Colorado has no history of relying on a central agency to enforce water and land use, CWCB chairman George pointed out.
“When you have a system designed to have everybody at the table, what you’re doing is recognizing there is a finite resource that is shared by everybody. And impacts are shared by everybody statewide. In order to keep from having some force dominate in ways that would not account for all statewide impacts, you need to diffuse the conversation into all areas. That is what roundtables do,” he said.
“When you do that, you’re going to get a better statewide result over time. … It is a process that is designed to get as many interests into the decision-making as you can. … It gets harder, of course, as the supply-demand makes pinches. For the rest of our lives, it is going to be that way.”
Human beings are now largely an urban species: for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in towns, cities and megacities.
Worldwide, it is estimated that almost one-fifth of all urbanites – over 700 million people – live without a decent toilet. To put that into context, the queue for people waiting for toilets in our cities and towns would stretch around the world 29 times.
In WaterAid’s new report, Overflowing cities: The State of the World’s Toilets 2016, they look at some of the world’s worst countries for urban sanitation, and some of the jobs that are created when the challenge is addressed head-on.
During their monthly meeting…Lower Arkansas board members voted unanimously to join a lawsuit filed last week against Colorado Springs for discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.
Members also said they have asked Pueblo City Council and the Pueblo County commissioners to join the lawsuit, as well.
“I can’t see where Pueblo County and the city cannot step up and do the same thing,” said Anthony Nunez, a former Pueblo County commissioner who sits on the Lower Ark board…
Peter Nichols, an attorney and a Lower Ark director, told board members that intervening in the lawsuit would give them a seat at the table in any sort of trial or negotiated settlement that might occur…
Nunez said Colorado Springs needs to be held accountable and, in the nearly six years he has been on the board, he’s heard the same thing from Colorado Springs over and over again.
“We’ve met with the (Colorado Springs) City Council. I guess to put it in better terms, we meet with half of the City Council because they are always waiting for the next city council,” Nunez said.
“We have talked and talked, and I think it is time that actions be taken.”
“As long as they can keep giving us the stiff arm — put us off, put us off, put us off — they don’t feel like they have any obligation because, quite frankly, if they have a violation, they pay a small fine and that fine is far less than rectifying the entire problem,” [Melissa Esquibel] said.
The ongoing animosity surrounding a sewer line extension within the Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District (TLWSD) continued Monday night when the TLWSD Board of Directors responded to 17 questions posed by local citizen Michael Eha…
The meeting covered a broad range of topics but the capacity crowd of attendees was primarily focused on issues surrounding a highly contentious sewer line extension project the District is undertaking in the Pine Beach area. Among the citizens most adamantly opposed to the Bine Beach sewer extension is Michael Eha.
Eha and other citizens impacted by the Pine Beach sewer extension have requested the Board engage with citizens in a question and answer session. The Board did not engage in a Q&A session.
Instead the Board requested Eha submit a list of questions in writing so the Board could prepare answers. The Board’s response to Eha’s written questions was scheduled as an agenda item for the evening. The Board refused to entertain additional questions from the crowd and instead responded only to those questions previously submitted by Eha. Responses were prepared ahead of time and were read aloud to the crowd by various members of the Board, TLWSD staff members and the District’s Attorney.
As the Board took up the issue Board Chairman Bill Heffron pointed out the proceedings were an, “unusual” agenda item for the Board.
“This Board has a history of asking that questions be submitted in writing,” Heffron said. “It gives us an opportunity to research and give a fully developed and through answer. That is what we are doing here tonight.”
Heffron continued by asking that additional Board responses to citizen questions no longer be scheduled as agenda items, preferring instead that such interactions occur through correspondence only and outside regularly scheduled meetings.
Heffron asked if that was the consensus of the Board to which the other Board members stated yes.
As the segment began Michael Eha raised an objection to the Board. Eha said it was his understanding that the agenda item would be a question and answer session with additional dialog between constituents and the Board and not merely an agenda item wherein constituents were not allowed to ask follow up questions.
Chairman Heffron said, “We are not accepting questions. We are responding to questions that have been posed.”
When those in attendance raised additional questions later in the meeting Chairman Heffron used his gavel liberally to bring order to the crowd.
“Are we going to entertain taking questions from the floor?” Heffron asked the other Board members.
All other Board members said they wished to press on with the Board responses and not field additional questions.
In the lead up to the meeting Monday night Michael Eha submitted a list of 17 questions for the Board. Eha submitted his questions at the request of the District, which does not typically hold any formal Q&A sessions. Additionally the Board does not respond to questions posed to the Board during the Public Comment portion of their meeting.
The responses prepared by Three Lakes for the meeting ostensibly answered the questions posed by Eha though several questions were answered through legalese that appeared to avoid the deeper substantive issues posed by the questions.
For example, one of the questions posed by Eha was, “We find the Board to be cavalier in their decision making, and would like to give them the opportunity of explaining. Exactly what are the qualifications of each board member that allows them to impose such financial hardships on residents?”
The response provided by the Board quoted the Colorado State statutes that outline the requirements for election to any special district board in the state. The Board offered no additional response to the question beyond the relevant state statutes outlining Board membership requirements.
The full list of all questions submitted by Eha, as well as the District’s responses, can be obtained through a request to the Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District.
The cause of the contention in the TLWSD stems from plans the District has to install a new sewer main line in the Pine Beach area. District resident Gayle Langley, one of a handful of individuals impacted by the Pine Beach sewer extension project, outlined her concerns to the Board during the Public Comment period.
“As a constituent, and as someone who is not financially able to pay the fees you are asking me for in the time frame you are asking, I am asking you once again to find a way to make a longer term loan program,” Langley said.
“I’m still looking at 40 to 50 thousand dollars. I cannot pay that off in a four or five-year period of time. I’m asking you to find a way to make it a win win for everybody.”