Will the @EPA reconsider the Fountain Creek lawsuit?…@RepDLamborn pow wows with @EPAScottPruitt

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From the Associated Press via the The Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The Denver Post reports that Lamborn has spoken twice with EPA chief Scott Pruitt about the suit, which was filed in 2016 by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Pueblo County joined the suit this year.

Colorado Springs insists it is investing $460 million with other municipalities over the next two decades to address the problem…

The EPA declined to comment.

[Stormwater] in Colorado Springs flows into Fountain Creek and south to Pueblo, where it joins the Arkansas River. The Arkansas is heavily used by agriculture in southeast Colorado.

The EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment filed suit in 2016, alleging water quality violations.

Lamborn said he’d like to get the Colorado state agency to abandon the suit. But Dr. Larry Wolk, the department’s executive director and chief medical officer, said the agency believes “these significant violations need to be corrected in order to protect the state’s water quality.”

“It’s not just the EPA, but it’s also the state of Colorado that filed the lawsuit,” said Jane Ard-Smith, chair of the Sierra Club’s Pikes Peak chapter. “The EPA doesn’t go around suing willy-nilly. We’ve seen a history of [stormwater] violations, so I would hope that the congressman would see the value of enforcing clean water laws.”

Fountain: Water restrictions update

From KOAA.com (Lura Wilson):

Summer’s almost here, and the city of Fountain is still without it’s backup groundwater supply.

The Air Force has offered up two filtration units to the city, after the EPA found elevated levels of PFC’s–a man-made, cancer causing chemical–in water sources used by the Fountain community, among others.

“When these filtration units come online, we’ll have access to some of our groundwater and be able to remove the PFC’s from it,” said Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell.

But that could take several months to get the first unit up and running–meaning city water customers may have to cut back on water use, starting late June…

The mandatory restrictions, which are part of a plan approved by city council this week, will look what they had in place last year.

“It will limit use to two days a week for outdoor watering–and it depends on your even or odd address,” said Mitchell.

Unlike last year, the city will be enforcing these mandatory restrictions this time around. The first violation is just a warning. The second will be a $50 fee, and the third will cost you $100…

The city also recommends you start adjusting sprinkler times now, ideally between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m.

#AnimasRiver: Heavy metal concentrations meet standards #GoldKingMine

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

Two studies conducted in response to the Gold King Mine spill show levels for heavy metals in the San Juan River on the Navajo Nation meet water quality standards set by tribal and federal environmental agencies.

Karletta Chief, a hydrology professor at the University of Arizona, has been leading a research team to study heavy metals in the San Juan River since fall 2015.

The study — a collaboration between the university, Tó Bei Nihi Dziil, Northern Arizona University, Diné College, Fort Lewis College and the Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives program — is also examining sediment and human health…

For the study, the group focused on lead and arsenic because exposure to both over a long period can be harmful to humans, she said.

Chief explained that 288 water samples were collected from the river, irrigation canals and wells located in Upper Fruitland, Shiprock and Aneth in November 2015, March 2016 and June 2016.

The study used drinking water standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and water standards for animals and plants were screened using standards set by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Chief said levels for arsenic and lead were within the standards for drinking water and for plants and animals.

The group is waiting for results for sediment tests. Information from health assessments conducted on 123 participants could be released in the fall, she said.

San Juan River Dineh Water Users Inc. CEO Martin Duncan said after listening to the report that people want to know if the river water is safe to use for irrigation.

“We need to find out if the water is safe now,” Duncan said.

In response, Chief said results show the levels do meet water quality standards for agricultural purposes.

The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency also has been monitoring heavy metal levels in the river since the spill.

Results from the study were presented by Steve Austin, a senior hydrologist with the Water Quality Program under the tribe’s EPA.

Austin said the program has collected water and sediment samples from 10 locations along the river and from the Fruitland and Hogback canals, which supply river water to farms on the reservation. Samples were collected from August to October 2015 and in March 2016 to April 2017.

Those samples were measured using the tribe’s surface water-quality standards from 2007, which also received approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said.

“For water quality, none of our irrigation standards have been exceeded since 2013. We don’t see an issue with irrigating from the San Juan River,” Austin said.

Austin said the only time the concentration of heavy metals has exceeded standards for irrigation use was when the Fruitland canal reopened. But levels subsided after the canal was flushed.

He added that program officials will continue monitoring the river, and they are waiting for results for fish tissue testing.

#Colorado Springs turns dirt on first project under Ballot Issue 2

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

From KRDO.com (Mekialaya White):

City crews are officially starting work to repair stormwater drainage after Colorado Springs voters passed Ballot Issue 2 back in April.

It comes with a price tag of $12 million dollars in excess revenue.

“This multi phase project will address flooding in the hardest hit area in the Little Shooks Run neighborhood by making several improvements to the drainage system through the end of 2017,” Mayor John Suthers, with the city of Colorado Springs explained.

The project will use $6 million this year and another $6 next year.

“It’s just an example of how we can take needed dollars and fix issues that have been around for a long time.” said Water Resources Engineering Division Manager Rich Mulledy.

The projects directly impact other parts of Southern Colorado. Pueblo county and city leaders have dealt with their share of storm water issues also, stemming from Fountain Creek.

“A lot of erosion and occasionally a sewer spill,” said Steve Nawrocki, Pueblo City Council President has said.

#AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine Spill Citizens’ Advisory Committee Meeting on Monday, May 22, 2017

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

Here’s the release from the New Mexico Environment Department (Allison Scott Majure):

New Mexico’s Gold King Mine Spill Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC), based out of San Juan County, New Mexico, meets Monday, May 22, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. in the San Juan College Student Center‐ SUNS Room (accessible through the Henderson Fine Arts Center) in Farmington.

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) is a group of 9 citizen volunteers from Northern New Mexico, including the Navajo Nation, who provide a forum for public concerns while tracking the scientific long‐term monitoring of the Gold King Mine spill’s effects in the state. At Monday’s meeting the group will hear and discuss updates from the Navajo Nation and from the U.S. EPA Region 8 as follows:

  • Presentation by Dr. Karletta Chief, University of Arizona, discussing the impact of the Gold King Mine Spill on the Animas River on the Navajo Nation, and
  • Presentation by Rebecca Thomas, EPA Superfund Project Manager-Region 8, providing an update on the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Project.
  • The meeting agenda can be found at: https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/May-2017-Agenda.pdf. The CAC works with New Mexico’s Long‐Term Impact Review Team, established by Governor Susana Martinez, to both monitor and discuss with the public the continuing effects of the August 2015 mine blowout, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted to causing which released over three million gallons of mining wastewater laden with more than a million pounds of metals into the Animas and San Juan River systems.

    For more information please visit the New Mexico Environment Department’s Gold King Mine website ( http://www.NMEDRiverWaterSafety.org ) or at http://NMENV‐Outreach@state.nm.us

    2017 #COleg: HB17-1306 (Test Lead In Public Schools’ Drinking Water) is on its way to @GovofCO

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

    The passage of House Bill 1306, which enjoyed bipartisan support, will help ensure that children aren’t exposed to dangerous levels of lead, said school and health officials.

    “Clean water in our schools is an expectation everyone in Colorado can get behind,” said Brian Turner, president of the Colorado Public Health Association.

    HB 1306 is aimed primarily at older elementary schools with the hope that all public schools will be tested and the results analyzed by June 30, 2020. The bill authorizes the state Department of Public Health and Environment to establish a grant program to test the drinking water in public schools that use a public water system.

    As much as $300,000 in grants could be awarded each year for three years, and another $140,000 would be spent to implement the program. The measure also requires school districts that test for lead to chip in 10 percent in local matching funds and give the test results to the local public health agency, water supplier, school board and CDPHE.

    Schools that discover lead in their drinking water have several routes for securing money to clean up the water, officials said.

    Just seven of Colorado’s 178 school districts have tested their water for lead, and in those districts 100 schools were found to have lead in their water, according to Conservation Colorado.

    The latest “The Current” is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

    Top 10 sources of plastic pollution in our oceans.

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Plastic Rivers

    Driving along I-70 in the springtime as the snow melts, various types of trash can be seen scattered along the grass median. This isn’t uncommon for a major highway running through a populated area, but unlike other communities, our roadways run parallel to our water source–the Eagle River and its tributaries.

    Wind can obviously blow lightweight litter to the streams, but snow and rainfall also picks up plastic bags, motor oil, chemicals, fertilizers, cigarettes, and dog waste left on or near our roads and carries it directly into the river or into our storm drains, which aren’t filtered before emptying out into our streams. Our roadways have historically been built along the path of least resistance, following our valley floors, and as a result, everything flows downhill to the nearby rivers. Urbanization and an increase in impervious surfaces (parking lots, roads, rooftops, and other materials that aren’t absorbent) have been identified as the one of biggest threats to water quality in not just Gore Creek, but also the Eagle River and its tributaries.

    In fact, this past year in Vail, dry cement mix, paint, window cleaner, cooking grease, and 120 hot dogs were dumped down storm drains, according to Pete Wadden, the Town of Vail’s Watershed Education Coordinator. Our storm drains are different than our sanitary sewers, and dumping anything down a storm drain is equivalent to dumping it directly into a creek. But this awareness isn’t fully present in our valley yet, and people that love our rivers are polluting them unintentionally from improper disposal.

    The effects of trash in our rivers extends beyond the reaches of our community, too. The Ocean Conservancy found 2,117,931 cigarettes, and over one million plastic bags and plastic bottles each in our oceans in 2016. By now, plastic-covered beaches around the world have been covered widely in the news. The statistic from World Economic Forum that by 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish has hit home with many. It is commonly known that water bottles and to-go containers create problems, but the lesser known forms of pollution are microplastics—either microbeads from beauty products, microfibers from our clothing, or the breakdown of bigger pieces of plastic from the sun. When these microplastics break down, the chemicals they contain such as PCBs, PETs, DEHPs, antimicrobials, and bioretardants, are released and consumed by the food chain.

    “Recently a huge fact came to light, that in U.S. and Indonesian fish markets, a quarter of the fish contain microplastics, and a third of shellfish contain microplastics. And ultimately, where do those microplastics and contaminants end up? With the top predator,” explains Dr. Maria Campbell, a marine biologist with Plymouth University in the film, Plastico.

    And since our rivers all flow to our oceans, it’s essential that we as a river-side community not contribute to the plastic pollution epidemic.

    How can you help? Most importantly, reduce your use of disposable plastics such as to-go containers, plastic bags, straws, etc. before they make their way into our rivers, and recycle plastics whenever possible. Choose beauty products without microbeads such as natural face washes. Aside from these preventative measures, we also welcome you to join us in picking up the trash that has blown out of vehicles traveling our roadways. Each spring, following ski season and just as the trash emerges from underneath the layers of snow, the Watershed Council hosts the Community Pride Highway Cleanup with more than 950 volunteers. You can come out and help to clear trash from more than 138 miles of Eagle County roadways (I-70, Highways 6, 24, and 131) on May 6th. In the Watershed Council’s 17-year history of coordinating the event, the amount of trash cleared has decreased significantly from 45 tons collected per year to 10 tons. With greater public awareness, more recycling, and greater care for where our trash goes, hopefully this number will continue to decrease. The Watershed Council is always looking for more volunteers for this great community event. To get registered for the event, please call the office at (970) 827-5406 or email ranney@erwc.org.

    Lizzie Schoder is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit http://www.erwc.org.