Durango sewer plant overhaul work to start in May 2017

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

The city plans to take out a $62 million loan this month to pay for a sewage-treatment plant remodel in Santa Rita Park.

Work at the plant is expected to start in May, and it will require about two years, said consultant Bob Bolton, a vice president with Dewberry.

Work on aeration basins will be accelerated to meet the February 2018 deadline to remove more nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and ammonia from water the plant puts back in the river, he said.

Design work has been ongoing all summer, and a team of consultants on Tuesday presented drawings and site plans to the Durango City Council.

The actual construction of the plant is expected to cost about $53.8 million, Bolton said. The additional money the city will borrow is needed to cover related costs, such as design, said Mary Beth Miles, assistant to the city manager.

Voters approved a $68 million bond question to use for the plant and other improvements. This will give the city a little flexibility in case the bids come in higher than expected, Miles said.

At public and stakeholder meetings, odors at the plant have come up as a major concern, Bolton said.

“We’re going to contain it and take care of it,” he said.

Air coming into the buildings will be ionized to help purify it to make it more tolerable for employees, and air coming out of the building will be filtered.

“You won’t know that it’s a wastewater plant,” Bolton said.

As part of the design process, the consultants factored in the Animas River Trail and Santa Rita Park, and they plan to use landscaping to help buffer some of the plant. In addition, the consultants are planning to use stone, metal and concrete on the outside of the buildings to make them more muted.

Cortez Sanitation District plans small rate increase — The Cortez Journal

Montezuma Valley
Montezuma Valley

From The Cortez Journal (Jacob Klopfenstein):

Cortez Sanitation District board members on Monday discussed a rate increase next year of $1 per month for wastewater treatment up to 5,000 gallons.

Red Rocks Community College offers degree in water quality management

Photo via Red Rocks Community College.
Photo via Red Rocks Community College.

From The Lakewood Sentinel (Clarke Reader):

This fall, Red Rocks Community College makes Colorado history by offering a bachelor of applied science degree in water quality management technology.

Red Rocks is the first community college in the state to offer a BAS degree, the result oftwo years of work by college faculty.

“The accreditation to offer a BAS will expand the learning opportunities for the students,” said Chelsea Campbell, faculty lead of the Water Quality program, in an email interview. “This accreditation gives us the ability to offer more hands-on training for students and help them become better prepared for a career in the water industry.”

The water quality management technology program focuses on applications, regulations and technologies of water, and has been around since the 1970s, Campbell said. The campus’ water quality building contains a hard, wet lab for the two water and wastewater analytical classes, and an outdoor distribution lab. The outdoor distribution lab is a live lab where students are able to experience all of the elements seen within the distribution system. The curriculum is directed in a specific way to increase likelihood of employment in the industry.

“The BAS allows us to be pioneers in creating educational pathways that perhaps have not yet existed in this industry,” said Linda F. Comeaux, vice president of instructional services at the college. “Our students will get, what I believe, is the best learning experience, the elevated/upper division knowledge and hands-on, applicable experience to go right into the workforce and secure in-demand jobs.”


“I am most looking forward to the growth of opportunities for students, especially since the water industry has very few degrees that are specific to water,” Campbell wrote. “Most degrees are focused around the environment or more generic sciences. This degree provides students courses that match their specific interests. Employers can now hire graduates that match their specific needs and the graduates can get the degree they really want.”

As with most programs at Red Rocks, Water Quality is designed to be affordable and flexible — classes are offered in a variety of modalities including online, traditional classroom and hybrid.

“We already have Ph.D. and qualified faculty on staff that will be able to teach some of these upper division courses,” Comeaux wrote. “I am looking forward to the faculty having the opportunity to utilize additional parts of their spectrum of knowledge and do what they do best — give our students exceptional experiences.”

Eagle River Water & Sanitation District issues bonds for wastewater improvements

Vail Colorado via Colorado Department of Tourism
Vail Colorado via Colorado Department of Tourism

Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (James Wilkins):

The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District issued $23.3 million of new bonds to fund required improvements to its wastewater treatment system. The bond issuance was authorized in May 2014, when district voters passed a ballot measure (70 percent in favor) approving the new general obligation debt, to be paid back by property tax within the district boundaries.

The mill levy associated with the new debt will begin in 2017, after an existing mill levy expires. According to finance director James Wilkins, the district is paying off a 1998 bond this year. “The mill levy assessed for the ‘98 bonds for the 2015 property taxes, which are paid in 2016 by real property owners within the district’s boundaries, was 0.621 mills,” said Wilkins. “With the new bonds’ annual payment, that mill would drop just a bit – based on last year’s valuations – to 0.619 mills, so it’s a slight tax decrease.” Similar to the mill levy expiring this year, the new one is tied to an annual debt service payment, so the mill levy may fluctuate up or down to generate the exact amount needed each year.

Prior to the 2014 election, the district indicated to the public that the new bond issue’s repayments would be timed with the payoff of the 1998 bond, such that the impact to property taxes would be nominal. “With the payment on the new bonds almost matching the ones paid off this year, the taxes paid to the district for general obligation bonds will be almost identical,” stated Wilkins.

The 2014 ballot language restricted spending of the bond proceeds to capital expenses related to the district wastewater master plan, which was developed to meet newly enacted statewide regulations that limit the discharge of nutrients from wastewater treatment facilities to waterways. That plan is being implemented in phases, with the first large project at the Edwards wastewater treatment facility scheduled for completion this fall.

The current low interest rate environment allowed the district to finance the improvements at an average interest rate of 3 percent. Additionally, due to the current market appetite for high quality municipal bonds, Wilkins said the district received a coupon discount of nearly $2 million, which covered the issuing costs and allowed the district to realize a full $25 million in proceeds.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services assigned its ‘AA-’ rating to the bonds, noting the district’s “favorable service area economy, extremely strong wealth and very strong income levels, and strong liquidity position” as well as “relatively stable utility operations, strong underlying economy, and favorable debt profile” in its ratings report.

The bond sale closed March 31; Wilkins noted its success was due in part to buyers wanting bonds from well-managed local governments. The proceeds will fund a substantial component of the next phase of the wastewater master plan, which is closely evaluated at each step, so the district meets the nutrient regulations goal of improved stream water quality in a fiscally responsible manner.

For more information, go to http://www.erwsd.org or contact Wilkins at 970-477-5442.

Steep sewer rate hikes clear hurdle at #Denver council but still face questions — The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Jon Murray):

Double-digit increases in Denver’s storm drainage and sewer fees moved a step closer to reality after the proposal on Tuesday cleared its first vote 9-3 before the full Denver City Council.

But the measure, which would hike the storm drainage and sewer fees over five years, still faces pointed questions from council members before a final vote June 13. The council also has set an hour-long public hearing that night that is sure to draw pointed comments from critics who question the city’s approach, the largest project that would benefit from the fees and its link to the state’s Interstate 70 project through northeast Denver.

Under the proposal, the annual combined bills for an average single-family home would increase by $116 by 2020 to pay in part for six-year project plans and some operating costs. Storm drainage rates would increase 66 percent, while sanitary sewer rates would go up 24 percent. Otherwise, both are pegged to inflation.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m 100 percent for a $383 million investment into our stormwater enterprise fund and our infrastructure,” Councilman Rafael Espinoza said, given the city’s extensive drainage needs.

But as he worked his way down a list of questions he still had for officials from Denver Public Works and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, Espinoza was among council members who focused on whether the controversial Platte to Park Hill project should take up the lion’s share.

Of the total storm drainage projects, $206 million raised through borrowing would go toward that project in northeast Denver, supplementing other sources to cover estimates that range between $267 million and $298 million.

The project, which drew the ire of attendees who wore signs on their shirts saying “NO To Storm Water Fee Increases,” is aimed at improving drainage in basins that lack natural waterways. But opponents have focused on the lack of benefit for some areas while the greatest protection would be closer to I-70, which the Colorado Department of Transportation plans to lower below grade in coming years.

Last year, the city and CDOT struck a cost-sharing agreement that includes state money for the city’s drainage projects, which would supplement the new I-70 drainage system.

Some council members said the connection troubled them. But Robin Kniech portrayed it as the city smartly responding to CDOT’s inevitable request for a contribution to the I-70 project by offering to undertake a needed project that would benefit neighborhoods as well as the highway.

“We have been chronically underfunding this infrastructure,” she said. Jolon Clark, also speaking in favor, noted that the fees proposal doesn’t specify any projects, and those planned by Public Works — including the bonds for the Platte to Park Hill project — will need future approval.

Joining them in voting yes were Kendra Black, Albus Brooks, Stacie Gilmore, Chris Herndon, Mary Beth Susman, Debbie Ortega and Wayne New — the final two characterizing their votes as tentative until after the public hearing. Espinoza, Kevin Flynn and Paul Kashmann voted no, and Paul Lopez was absent.

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin) Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).
Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

EPA awards $1.9 million to #Colorado School of Mines for water infrastructure research

Photo via Greg Hobbs
Photo via Greg Hobbs

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Lisa McClain-Vanderpool, Cathy Milbourn, Karen Gilbert):

[On May 4, 2016] the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3.9 million in funding to two institutions to research innovative, cost-effective technologies to manage stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows. Colorado School of Mines received $1.95M to develop a decision support tool to help communities evaluate alternative stormwater treatment technologies that consider diverse climates, regional practices and policies across the country. The tool will evaluate options and risks as well as life cycle costs associated with improving stormwater runoff management using green, gray and hybrid infrastructure. Colorado School of Mines will also create resources and hold workshops to conduct training sessions for these tools.

“EPA has done extensive research on green infrastructure to ensure the availability and quality of water in the United States,” said Thomas A. Burke, EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “These grants will take this work a step further by developing green infrastructure technologies and providing an understanding of the full costs of using these new technologies over time.”

As water flows through storm drains, it carries many pollutants that end up in streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans. Additionally, combined sewers carry sewage and stormwater runoff in the same pipe and when these exceed capacity, untreated water can be released into nearby waterways. Using the funding provided through these grants, researchers will produce tools and models to help communities evaluate the optimal mix of technologies that will treat stormwater with less energy, less expense and less burden on the environment. They will also research the possibility of reusing the cleaner water to help meet communities’ needs.

“Our decision support tool will help advance urban water management across the U.S. through integration of new green infrastructure technologies and by allowing decision makers to have access to state-of-the art tools, data sources and life cycle information” said Professor Terri Hogue, lead investigator at Colorado School of Mines.

Due to aging water infrastructure systems and regulatory requirements, stormwater management is an expensive challenge for many communities. The awardees will focus on the most cost-effective options like green infrastructure, practices that enhance natural ecological functions, such as growing gardens on roofs or building artificial ponds, to help manage stormwater and combined sewer overflows. Green infrastructure can replenish groundwater, provide flood control, add green spaces and parks, and revitalize neighborhoods.

The Water Environment Research Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia Also received $1.9 million to develop a life cycle cost and analysis framework, a publically accessible tool and database and a guide for decision makers that includes case studies.

To learn more about these awards recipients, visit http://www.epa.gov/research-grants/water-research-grants.

CMC Edwards: May 16 State of the River Public Meeting

Eagle River
Eagle River

From the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (Click through for the agenda):

Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, in partnership with the Colorado River District and the Eagle River Watershed Council, is hosting the Eagle River Valley State of the River community meeting, Monday, May 16, at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards.

All members of the public are invited to hear about issues that affect Gore Creek, the Eagle River, the Colorado River, Western Colorado’s changing climate, local water supply, and streamflow and runoff projections. A reception with food and soft drinks will be held at 5:15 p.m., with presentations scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Diane Johnson, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, at 970-477-5457.