Chemical contamination from 7 #Colorado #coal-fired power plants found during #groundwater monitoring — The Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Comanche Station at Dusk. Photo credit: Power Technology

From The Colorado Sun (Tamara Chuang):

Local plants vow to minimize coal-ash contamination to meet new EPA rules; report finds cases much worse in other states

Since federal regulations kicked in a few years ago, coal-fired power plants are required to monitor and publicly report what happens to the residue from burning coal and determine whether chemicals are seeping from the coal-ash disposal sites into the groundwater.

But the reporting process is inconsistent between facilities and the data collected is often complicated to interpret. So a group of environmentalists culled the data from 265 coal-fired power plants or ash dumps, including seven in Colorado, and found 91 percent had unsafe levels of one or more chemicals in nearby groundwater.

“This is only the beginning of the end,” said Abel Russ, a senior attorney for The Environmental Integrity Project, which published the report as part of a collaboration between the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and other environmental organizations. “If it’s gradually leaking and if you don’t do anything about it now, future generations will have to deal with it. And it’s not any one chemical but a bunch. Most had four different chemicals (contaminating groundwater). The coal-ash rule and our report are looking at drinking water standards, but there’s the whole fish and wildlife (ecosystem) that this doesn’t address.”

Facing $billions in costs for #PFAS cleanup the Pentagon is lobbying for reduced standards

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

The Pentagon is reportedly lobbying for a more lenient standard for cleaning up toxic chemicals used for decades in firefighting foam that have been found in drinking water in southern El Paso County and around the country.

Even if the Pentagon is successful, the Air Force appears unlikely to get off the hook for cleaning up the contaminated Widefield aquifer serving tens of thousands of residents south of Colorado Springs, state health officials said.

The Defense Department’s push to revise safety standards comes as it faces billions of dollars in cleanup costs tied to its decades-long use of a firefighting foam laced with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals, known as PFAS, are tied to cancer, liver disease and low infant birth weight.

The lobbying appears aimed at influencing the Environmental Protection Agency’s groundwater cleanup standard — a level at which cleanup would be required of polluters.

In a report to Congress, the Pentagon said an appropriate level is 380 parts per trillion, the New York Times reported. It’s at least five times what the EPA says could be harmful to people, and dozens of times higher than another federal agency says is toxic to people.

At that level, the military could avoid paying to clean up many contaminated sites across the nation, said David Andrews, senior scientist for the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group.

“Even if it’s the same number of sites, the amount of cleanup you’re doing at each site would be drastically reduced,” Andrews said. “The likely impact is that DoD is really trying to pass on the responsibilities and the cost for cleaning up this contamination. Which is dreadful.”

In a statement, the Pentagon said it takes its cleanup responsibility “seriously.”

“DOD is not seeking a different or weaker cleanup standard but wants the standard risk-based cleanup approach that is based on science and applies to everyone,” the statement said.

Still, one of Delaware’s Democratic U.S. senators, Tom Carper, claimed in a letter to the EPA that the Defense Department is currently only cleaning up sites where groundwater readings exceed 400 parts per trillion, and only removing the chemicals to 70 ppt. The Pentagon was joined by NASA and the Small Business Administration in lobbying for more relaxed standards, the senator said.

The Pentagon report only referenced two PFAS varieties — PFOA and PFOS — even though thousands of other varieties are known to exist. The report was issued last year, and reported Thursday by The New York Times, along with Carper’s letter.

The Defense Department’s maneuvering is expected to have little impact on cleanup operations around Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado health officials say.

State regulations would still force the Air Force to clean up the tainted Widefield aquifer to a more stringent standard that is in line with the EPA’s current health advisory, according to Kelly MacGregor, a Colorado Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman.

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously in April to adopt a site-specific groundwater quality standard of 70 ppt for the same two chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — combined.

Even without the state standard, the aquifer’s contamination downstream from the base is so bad that cleanup efforts around Peterson would likely go unaffected by the Pentagon’s lobbying.

Seven wells drilled about three years ago in the Widefield aquifer showed PFOS at levels of 400 ppt or greater. One well drilled at the Colorado Springs Airport found the chemical at 1,600 ppt.

Neither the state’s adopted groundwater standard, nor lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., touch on the thousands of other types of chemicals, also called perfluorinated compounds.

For communities affected by use of the foam, such as Security, Widefield and Fountain, that could be a significant problem, Andrews said.

For example, another type of chemical called PFHxS is often associated with use of the firefighting foam. And no other type of perfluorinated compound was as common in drinking water samples taken from Security or Fountain wells as PFHxS, nor present at such high levels, according to EPA drinking water data.

A couple of other chemicals were reported as frequently in wells serving Widefield. But again, none were as consistently high as PFHxS.

It also has been found in the drinking water of dozens of other water districts across the country, EPA results show. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says it could cause liver damage and a decreased ability to respond to vaccines.

Several other types of PFAS also have raised health concerns while being found in water systems across the country.

“Really we’d like to see the EPA and the DoD focusing on reducing the total PFAS contamination … shifting into high gear and taking responsibility for cleaning up all of this contamination,” Andrews said.

Judge Matsch pauses #ColoradoSprings #stormwater lawsuit until April 12, 2019

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

Colorado Springs and the four parties suing the city now have an extra month to either settle a longstanding lawsuit over federal stormwater permit violations or agree how to continue the case in court.

U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch in December ordered the case paused until this month so the parties could find common ground. The lawsuit was to restart last week, but Matsch extended the break by more than a month.

Now the parties have until April 12 to agree on next steps, or the case goes back to court.

The request for a break in the case came from the plaintiffs — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District — after Matsch ruled that Colorado Springs violated federal stormwater regulations at three development sites.

Security files suit against Air Force over water contamination –Pueblo Chieftain

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From the Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

It’s been nearly three years since the U.S. Air Force acknowledged that toxic chemicals from Peterson Air Force Base contaminated groundwater under the city of Security, forcing it to stop using well water that served its 19,000 customers.

This week, Security officials and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation answered with a federal lawsuit in Denver asking for nearly $19 million in damages from ongoing contamination.

What’s causing it isn’t in doubt. A military firefighting foam that contains perfluorinated chemicals has been seeping into groundwater south of Peterson AFB since 1970 and has contaminated the underlying Widefield and Windmill Gulch aquifers.

Air Force officials confirmed the contamination in an August 2016 study, and the Security Water District stopped using its 24 groundwater wells the following month. Then, it began buying water through the Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir.

Despite the 2016 Air Force study, the lawsuit says the federal government rejected a claim for damages last year, forcing Security and the Pikes Peak foundation, a nonprofit charity, to sue for damages.

The water district has itemized $15.5 million in losses and expenses related to finding a new water supply for the community.

The foundation, which owns Venetucci Farms in El Paso County, is asking for $3.1 million in damages for losing access to water suitable for growing crops.

The lawsuit gives a detailed account of how Air Force officials used the firefighting foam at Peterson AFB since 1970. It was used mostly in training, though the Air Force also sprayed contaminated water over the base’s golf course. It was also poured into the Colorado Springs city sewers…

On Wednesday, representatives from the Defense Department testified before a House subcommittee about the extent of the problem. They said the foam’s chemicals have been found in more than 560 public and private water systems nationally.

2019 #COleg: #Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee passes [SB19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations] 4-3 after 12 hours of testimony #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

Wattenberg Oil and Gas Field via Free Range Longmont

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee passed [SB19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations] on a 4-3, party-line vote after 12 hours of testimony from the public, government officials and industry officials…

The Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee convened the first hearing for Senate Bill 19-181, dubbed Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations.

The bill would make a variety of changes to oil and gas law in Colorado, including the following:

  • It would change the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from one of fostering oil and gas development to one of regulating the industry. It also changes the makeup of the COGCC board.
  • It would provide explicit local control on oil and gas development, opening the door for local government-instituted bans or moratoriums, which have previously been tied up in court battles because the industry has been considered one of state interest.
  • It would change the way forced or statutory pooling works, requiring a higher threshold of obtained mineral rights before companies can force pool other mineral rights owners in an area.
  • Testimony during the committee hearing ran the gamut, including state officials, industry officials, business interests and residents, and it was expected to go well into the night…

    Talking about the rallies beforehand — both pro-181 and anti-181 groups — as well as the overflow rooms necessary for all of the attendees, [Carl] Erickson said the scene was wild…

    Dan Gibbs, executive director of department of natural resources; and Jeff Robbins, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; both came out in support of the legislation.

    So, too, did Erin Martinez, who survived a home explosion in Firestone that killed her brother and her husband.

    “With proper regulations and inspections and pressure testing, this entire tragedy could have been avoided,” Martinez said in closing.

    The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee opened the hearing with testimony from Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, the measure’s co-sponsor, according to reporting from The Denver Post.

    As he told The Tribune on Sunday, he said during the hearing that the Tuesday hearing was the first of several — with six total to come.

    “At the forefront, objective of this bill is to ensure that we are protecting the health and safety and welfare of Coloradans, the environment, wildlife, when it comes to extraction of oil and gas across the state,” said Fenberg, D-Boulder, according to The Post.

    #NM sues @usairforce over #PFAS pollution

    View of Alamogordo, New Mexico. By Foreverstocks – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38802827

    From The New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):

    On Tuesday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) filed a complaint in federal district court, asking a judge to compel the Air Force to act on, and fund, cleanup at the two bases near Clovis and Alamogordo.

    “We have significant amounts of PFAS in the groundwater, under both Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases,” NMED Secretary James Kenney told NM Political Report.

    PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are toxic, human-manufactured chemicals that move through groundwater and biological systems. Even in small amounts, exposure to PFAS increases the risk of testicular, kidney and thyroid cancer and problems like ulcerative colitis and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

    “We want the groundwater cleaned up in the shortest amount of time possible, and we think at this point litigation is our best and fastest approach,” Kenney said. NMED and the New Mexico Department of Health are continuing to collect groundwater samples, and the two agencies are also working closely with the state’s Department of Agriculture. “As soon as we have those results, which should be in the next couple of weeks, we will determine the best way [to engage with the community],” he said. That could mean public meetings or roundtable discussions in the communities.

    “I personally understand: It’s a bit scary, if you’re in those areas, to know there’s a groundwater issue and [to wonder], ‘How am I affected?” Kenney said. “We need to get some scientific data to get the answers to those questions.”

    Groundwater tests at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis showed concentrations of PFAS exceeding 26,000 nanograms per liter, or more than 300 times the federal lifetime drinking water exposure limit. In off-base wells, including those that supply drinking water to dairies, levels ranged from 25 to 1,600 nanograms per liter. The human health advisory for a lifetime drinking water exposure to PFAS is 70 parts per trillion, or 70 nanograms per liter. At Holloman, contamination levels in some wells were 18,000 times the federal health advisory for PFAS.

    Earthquake reported at the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility — @USBR

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

    The U.S. Geological Survey reported that an earthquake occurred at 10:22 a.m. MST, on Monday, March 4, 2019, near Reclamation’s Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility near Bedrock, Colorado. Reclamation maintains a comprehensive network of seismic monitoring instruments in the area, which indicated a preliminary magnitude 4.1 for this earthquake. The quake was felt by employees at the Reclamation facility and residents in surrounding areas.

    The Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility injects highly pressurized, concentrated salt water (brine) into a 16,000-foot-deep well, preventing the brine from entering the Dolores River. The well was not operating at the time of the earthquake due to routine maintenance. Operations will not resume until Reclamation completes a thorough assessment of the situation.

    High-pressure brine injection has been known to trigger small earthquakes in the past, and today’s event was within the range of previously induced earthquakes. Reclamation’s seismic network in the area monitors the location, magnitude and frequency around the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility. Reclamation will continue using that network to monitor earthquakes in the area.

    The Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility substantially benefits downstream water quality in the Colorado River Basin, and helps the United States meet treaty obligations with Mexico for allowable salinity levels in the river. Historically, the Dolores River picked up an estimated 205,000 tons of salt annually as it passed through the Paradox Valley. Since the mid-1990s much of this salt has been collected by the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Unit in shallow wells along the Dolores River and then injected into deep subsurface geologic formations. The deep well injection program removes about 95,000 tons of salt annually from the Dolores and Colorado rivers.