Down ‘The River Of Lost Souls’ With Jonathan Thompson — Colorado Public Radio

From Colorado Public Radio (Nathan Heffel). Click through to listen to the interview:

A new book puts the Gold King Mine spill within the long history of mining and pollution in Southwest Colorado.

Jonathan Thompson will be at the Book Bar tonight. I wonder if Denver is a bit of a shock to his system even though he’s a sixth-generation Coloradan?

I am so happy to finally get to finally meet Jonathan. His new book, River of Lost Souls, is an important read. Understanding the industrialization of our state over the years will help us chart a less destructive course.

I loved the passages where Jonathan reminisces about spending time around the Four Corners and in the San Juans. He transports you to those times in your life spent next to the river or exploring what sights the land has to offer. He connects you to the Four Corners in a way that only a son of the San Juans could.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

#AnimasRiver: U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit says @EPA followed the rules for Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund designation

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

Judges say EPA followed rules when including mining sites in cleanup area

The U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit issued the decision Tuesday to deny Sunnyside’s petition, which was filed by the mining company – a “potentially responsible party” in the Superfund cleanup – in December 2016.

Sunnyside had argued that of the 48 mining sites in the upper Animas River watershed the EPA included in the “Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund” site, 29 had not been properly evaluated and should be removed.

Sunnyside owns two of the 29 sites mentioned, including the Sunnyside Mine and the Mayflower tailings.

“We have no objections to there being a Superfund listing,” Sunnyside spokesman Larry Perino previously said. “The petition is only challenging the unlawful listing of sites that were not assessed at all under the EPA’s own Hazard Ranking System.”

Perino did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit decision says the EPA did act lawfully and within its own protocols in the Superfund process.

In determining whether the mining district around Silverton qualified for a Superfund listing, the EPA scored 19 pollution sources under the agency’s Hazard Ranking System.

Each of the sources received a high enough score that indicated pollution was bad enough to be eligible for a Superfund listing. As a result, EPA proposed the entire mining district, scored and unscored sources, should be listed.

The Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site was declared in September 2016.

Months later, Sunnyside argued the EPA was wrong to create a Superfund site that had unscored sources, claiming the EPA must score each contributing source of contamination before adding it to the broader Bonita Peak site.

But the court said text of the HRS process “alone is enough to refute this assertion,” which says a Superfund “may include multiple sources and may include the area between sources.”

“The BPMD is a site (comprised) of the 19 scored sources and the areas ‘between’ them, as the HRS explicitly permits,” the court said. “Sunnyside’s mine falls into the category of an ‘area between sources’ and therefore did not need to be scored.”

The court said: “Sunnyside’s real concern became apparent at oral argument. It claims its mine has been fully remediated and had no part in the present pollution of the site, but it may nevertheless be required to pay for some or all of the cleanup.”

Sunnyside Gold is considered the largest “potentially responsible party” in the district – a term the EPA uses for entities it considers financially on the hook for cleanup.

Thornton Water Project update

Map via ThorntonWaterProject.com.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Water quality is a sticking point for Thornton, which faces challenges getting all its water to drinking quality standards. Much of the city’s water comes from the South Platte River and requires extensive treatment because it’s diverted downstream of many areas of runoff and pollution, [Emily] Hunt said.

If Thornton drew the water from the Poudre near Windsor as suggested, the city would end up with water run downstream of three wastewater treatment plants and numerous runoff areas, [Mark] Koleber said.

“Urban runoff, agricultural runoff, wastewater plants, industrial discharge — it’s just not what you do for a municipal drinking water supply,” he said.

Especially considering Thornton bought the [rights to divert] because of its high quality, Hunt added.

Westminster hopes to bring on a new water treatment plant by 2025

Westminster

From the Nortglenn-Thornton Sentinel (Scott Taylor):

Westminster looking for spot for Semper successor

City officials will begin looking around Westminster for a good place to put a new water treatment plant with the aim of having it ready for service by 2025.

“This is the first phase of longer program and we’re calling this first phase Water 2025,”said Stephen Grooters said. “That’s designed to give us the quantity, quality and reliability goals we need to meet today’s population.

“And as the city grows and as our other treatment facilities age, the city can gauge the cost and efficacy of adding a second phase plant — when to add it and how big to make it.”

The new plant would provide backup service to the city’s two existing treatment plants, the Northwest plant and the Semper, and give the city time to consider options for replacing Semper some time in 2040.

City Councilors voted Jan. 8 to set aside $609,749 to begin the multi-year Water 2025 process. That would pay for engineering and a city-wide site selection process. The potential sites should be at a lower elevation from Standley Lake but higher than most city storage tanks.

Grooters said he hopes the city can find as many as 12 potential sites for a water treatment facility…

The budget includes $150,000 for a public engagement process to get public opinion about the facility.

#CA: Urban designers are incorporating #reuse into building design

Water reuse via GlobalWarming.com.

From Water Deeply (Tara Lohan):

San Francisco is helping to grow adoption of onsite nonpotable water reuse systems by requiring them in large new buildings. Now there is interest in a statewide regulation to streamline permitting while ensuring health and safety.

IN DOWNTOWN SAN Francisco, a mixed-use 800ft tower nearing completion at 181 Fremont St. features a water treatment system that will provide 5,000 gallons a day of recycled water captured from the building to be used for toilet flushing and irrigation. That will help save an estimated 1.3 million gallons of potable water a year.

Just down the street, the recently expanded Moscone Conference Center has installed a system to collect and treat foundation drainage, otherwise known as “nuisance groundwater,” that will be used for toilet flushing and irrigation as well by the city’s Department of Public Works for street cleaning.

Both buildings are among 82 proposed or completed projects in San Francisco that are using decentralized, onsite water-recycling systems to capture and reuse water that would otherwise flow down the drain or run off rooftops to city sewers or into the San Francisco Bay. The treated water that’s captured isn’t used for drinking, but for nonpotable purposes such as flushing toilets and urinals, irrigating landscapes, supplying cooling systems and even generating steam power. In commercial buildings, about 95 percent of water used is generally for nonpotable purposes. In multifamily residential buildings, it’s 50 percent.

As interest in recycled water grows in California and across the United States, more building professionals are considering these decentralized systems. Up until now, a lack of health and safety regulations at the national and state levels has made the permitting process tricky and slow going. But bottom-up pressure may help create needed regulations…

This process would be easier for communities if there were established health and safety standards from the state for onsite nonpotable reuse, but so far they’re lacking.

“We think that from our perspective, if there is clear guidance and regulations that the state establishes, it would make it easier for communities that want to pursue local programs to oversee and manage decentralized water systems,” said Kyle Pickett, managing principal at Urban Fabrick.

Those regulations could be on the way, but how long it will take is unclear…

While there are no national or state regulations for onsite nonpotable reuse yet, there is a growing community of professionals sharing resources and expertise. SFPUC’s Kehoe chairs a National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Nonpotable Water Systems, which recently produced a guidebook on water quality standards and management of onsite reuse systems. The commission was established by the U.S. Water Alliance, and it convenes more than 30 water and health professionals from across the country…

Other efforts are underway, too. Urban Fabrick’s nonprofit arm, the William J. Worthen Foundation, will be releasing a practice guide on January 19 aimed at giving design professionals information about onsite reuse…

“We don’t do nearly enough water recycling in California, honestly, it’s embarrassing how far behind we are compared to Australia, Israel and other places with very arid environments,” said Wiener. “We have a long-term structural water shortage and we need to modernize our water system and drag it out of the 1850s. Water recycling is a critical aspect of modernizing our water system.”

Dolores River cleanup near Rico update

St Louis Tunnel Ponds June 29, 2010 – view south towards Rico. Photo via the EPA.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

This re-engineering along headwaters of the Dolores River requires replanting wetlands with native grasses and laying in soil to mimic natural processes — an innovative approach that may be deployed more widely across the water-challenged West, where tens of thousands of toxic mines foul rivers and streams. So far, the experiment is working, removing fish-killing zinc, manganese linked to birth deformities and cancer-causing cadmium from muck flowing from the Argentine Mine complex uphill from Rico.

“Mining is what brought communities to life at the turn of the 19th century, but now residents and visitors would like to see these scars restored as much as possible — especially focusing on water cleanup,” San Miguel County commissioner Hilary Cooper said from her perch in Telluride, 22 miles north of the mess. “For many of these areas, human intervention is required to initiate the cleanup. But planning, which ultimately allows native vegetation, restored natural floodplains and the engineering skills of beavers to assist with the cleanup is generally preferred when possible. In the end, we will find it is more effective.”

[…]

Wildlife, including river otters, may be reviving in Rico because multiple factors favor environmental recovery.

First, federal agencies enforced laws. The Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 issued an emergency order compelling action to stop contamination of Dolores headwaters after state regulators and mine owners failed to get a grip. Then, EPA officials swiftly identified and enlisted a private company legally responsible for the mess — something agency officials haven’t done at other sites, including the Gold King Superfund district, where a potentially responsible corporation is fighting the EPA in court.

And the company, Atlantic Richfield — now owned by global energy giant BP — resolutely embarked on a cleanup, investing tens of millions of dollars. This compares with less than $5 million that the EPA has mustered for cleanup of the 48-site Gold King district above Silverton. For another Superfund disaster that the EPA declared in 2008 in Creede, federal funds have been so scarce that cleanup has barely begun.

In 2012, Atlantic Richfield contractors at Rico faced rising water inside mine tunnels that threatened a ruinous blowout. The St. Louis Tunnel, within a few hundred yards of the Dolores River, had collapsed and was oozing as much as 1,300 gallons a minute of toxic muck. A lime water treatment plant installed to neutralize sulfuric acid in the flow, churning out thousands of cubic yards a year of waste solids, wasn’t working. (The acid, private contractors later determined, is mostly neutralized by natural calcium deposits inside the tunnel before the muck flows out.) Cleanup crews also had to deal with eroding, unlined tailings ponds where rain and melting snow leached toxic metals into the river…

The innovative cleanup by Atlantic Richfield modernizes the standard approach of installing water treatment plants in the high country along with bulkhead plugs to try to control leaks. Contractors scooped out and lined the old ponds, planted grasses interspersed with stones and put in a sediment mix of manure, hay, alfalfa and woodchips — all aimed at filtering out toxic metals…

This massive experiment now covers 55 acres, closed inside fences and berms, below the newly dammed St. Louis Tunnel. The toxic muck still flows at rates fluctuating from 700 to more than 1,000 gallons a minute but now is channeled through three black tubes that carry the muck through the engineered ponds and wetlands.

In one pond, the toxic mine water seeps down vertically 2.5 feet through sediment, where chemical reactions help break out the manganese, zinc and cadmium. Native sedge and rush grasses are starting to grow atop that sediment layer. In other ponds, water is pushed through wetlands created using stones and grasses that grow naturally in the San Juan Mountain to filter out and chemically extract toxic metals.

Once contractors figure out which method or combination works best, they say they’ll seek EPA approval and then fully install engineered wetlands, eventually removing fences and roads.

Dolores River watershed