The January 2017 “Headwaters Pulse” is hot off the presses from @CFWEWater


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

Across the country, drinking water crises are making the news—from toxic algae to lead poisoning to a growing number of communities facing contamination from a class of manmade chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds or PFCs—raising concerns about whether the nation’s current drinking water regulations do enough to protect us.

While there are clear rules pertaining to 93 federally regulated drinking water contaminants, there are no national drinking water standards for algal cyanotoxins, PFCs, or a host of other potentially harmful unregulated contaminants of emerging concern.

Read this article and more in the recently-released issue of Headwaters magazine, where we explore the connection between public health and water, the regulations in place to keep us safe, and the question of whether those go far enough.

Merino: The trials and tribulations of reverse osmosis

Ashcraft & Brown Building, Merino, Colorado, as it appeared on a 1909 postcard. Image courtesy of Ken Wilson.
Ashcraft & Brown Building, Merino, Colorado, as it appeared on a 1909 postcard. Image courtesy of Ken Wilson.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Merino Town Board learned during its regular meeting Monday night that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Hazardous Waste Group had some pretty stringent criteria for granting the town a permit to build and operate the “brine pits” needed for the new water treatment system. There was no way, the trustees said, they could afford what the state was proposing.

The reverse osmosis system Merino plans to use results in effluent containing all of the contaminants that have been filtered out of the water. That effluent is pumped into a series of ponds in rotating order. Once one pond is filled, the effluent is directed to another pond while the first pond evaporates out and the dried waste is removed and sent to a landfill. Because the dried waste is considered hazardous, Merino has to be able to remediate the pond site, should it ever be abandoned.

The CDPHE had proposed that the town set aside $10,000 a year for ten years to go toward that eventual reclamation. But even the $100,000 that would result was less than one-third of what Merino’s consulting firm, Rocky Mountain Water Solutions of Broomfield, estimated it would cost to remediate the abandoned brine ponds. Town officials said Monday night they had been told CDPHE thought that estimate was high, but didn’t indicate what they thought a more accurate number might be.

The funds to be set aside would have to come from revenue generated by the town’s water enterprise fund. Water rates were recently increased in anticipation of building the new water treatment facility. And town officials said they have no idea what it’s going to cost to run the new system; they have estimates based on other towns’ experiences, but conditions and estimates vary widely.

The problem is, regardless what the real number is, it’s doubtful Merino can afford it, and the town certainly couldn’t afford the $100,000 over ten years the state agency was suggesting.

Boyd Hanzon, Merino’s contact at RMWS, said Monday night that CDPHE was setting up a conference call for Tuesday morning to discuss the reclamation amount. Hanzon was told, if the state sticks to its $100,000 goal, all bets were off.

“We’d have to start over with engineering fees, consultant fees, the whole thing,” said Trustee Dan Wiebers. “Would they go for, say, $5,000 a year for ten years and then stop? Would they let us just run the things for a year or two until we know how much it’s going to cost?”

Hanzon said those all were questions the trustees needed to ask during the conference call.

“So, basically, the future of this project hinges on this one phone call,” Wiebers said.

“I think they’ll be pretty reasonable,” Hanzon said, “but it could be a very stressful call.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the stress levels has subsided markedly. Reached at his office, Hanzon said the CDPHE officials had tentatively agreed to an amount Merino’s trustees thought they could live with, but he wasn’t prepared to say what that amount is yet.

“I’ll be working on getting that finalized. We should know something in about a week,” he said.

Once this issue is settled, Hanzon said, Merino will be able to move ahead almost immediately in awarding contracts to begin building the system.

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant
Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

@CFWEWater: Public health — safe drinking water

Click here to read the Fall issue of Headwaters Magazine from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. Here’s their intro:

The Fall 2016 issue of Headwaters magazine looks at public health. The magazine introduces the law and policy governing safe drinking water, then takes a close look at how public health concerns related to as-yet-unregulated contaminants are monitored and evaluated. The issue also focuses on the unique public health challenges rural areas face, while exploring efforts to pursue increased water reuse, including from direct potable reuse systems, through initiatives related to technology and policy. The issue’s articles are set against the backdrop of public alarm raised about the safety of public water during recent high-profile events, including Flint’s lead crisis and PFC groundwater contamination near Colorado Springs. Flip through or download the issue here

Want to receive Headwaters? Contact us for a complimentary copy or support Headwaters and water education by donating to the Headwaters Fund or becoming a member of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Be sure to check Allen Best’s article about reuse, Water on Repeat. Here’s an excerpt:

Castle Rock and other water providers in Denver’s South Metro area understand the need to diversify their water supplies. One big piece of that puzzle is wa- ter reuse. You’ve heard of locovores, people who favor locally sourced food? This is similar. Call it locoagua. Rather than import water from distant sources, these water-strapped communities can reuse certain water supplies again and again, until they are exhausted. For many communities, it’s the lowest-cost alternative. Given proper treatment, it can be the highest-quality alternative, too.


2017 New Year’s Resolution: Invest in Water Quality to Invest in Your Health

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Trisha Oeth, Commission Administrator, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Commission
The views represented are those held by the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment or the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. 

256px-bratislava_new_year_fireworks Credit: Ondrejk, Wikimedia Commons

It’s that time of year again—time for making New Year’s resolutions. Many of our resolutions will involve personal health or investment goals for 2017. But are you tired of setting weight-loss or money-saving goals? This year, consider investing in water quality as an investment in your own and your family’s health.

Safe and readily available water is one of the most vital components of our health. We have already seen our watersheds affected by major floods and wildfires. As climate change occurs and population doubles in Colorado, our waters will come under more pressures. We need to create…

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#AnimasRiver: Public comments favor continued Cement Creek water treatment operations

The EPA's wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 -- photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio
The EPA’s wastewater treatment plant near Silverton, Colorado, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2015 — photo via Grace Hood Colorado Public Radio

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

Continued operations of the temporary water treatment plant north of Silverton received near unanimous support during a 30-day public comment period.

From Nov. 14 to Dec. 14, the Environmental Protection Agency accepted public comments on whether to continue operations at the plant that handles acidic discharges from the Gold King Mine.

The EPA previously announced it preferred that option while it continues to evaluate long-term options for the recently declared Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, which would address issues at 48 mining-related sites around Silverton.

The public comment period was part of a formal process to move the plant from “emergency removal action” funding to a “non-time critical removal action” funding, which is part of the Superfund process.

The agency received 12 submissions, mostly from government entities affected by the Aug. 5, 2015, Gold King Mine blowout, with only one resident weighing in.

The government entities in favor of continued operations included the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; the Colorado Attorney General’s Office; La Plata County; San Juan County; the town of Silverton; the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and Congressman Scott Tipton.

Trout Unlimited, an environmental group, and Duranglers Flies and Supplies also voiced support for keeping the plant running.

While all the above-mentioned entities voiced support for continued operations, some suggested the EPA start treating discharges from adjacent mines, namely the Red & Bonita and Mogul mines, as well as the American Tunnel.

Others wrote that the EPA should secure a place to store the lime-heavy metal sludge byproduct of the treatment plant before committing to continued operation. The EPA has said it is searching for a long-term dump site…

A representative from Silverton Mountain Ski Area, which is about a mile and a half downstream from the water treatment plant, raised concerns about the treatment plant’s impact on ski operations.

The ski mountain’s chief operating officer, Tim Petrick, asked the EPA to consider installing better equipment for improved communications in the remote area, as well as perform dust suppression on County Road 110.

And a Castle Rock-based company called Jalema Technologies Ltd. that deals with mine wastewater treatment said the EPA could cut costs of operations “if a more studied plant design was implemented at the site.” The company then argued it had the technology to “produce higher quality discharge water for a cost similar to that shown for” the temporary plant, and offered its services.

One resident voiced support for the continuance of the plant, though the name was redacted.

Rebecca Thomas, EPA’s project manager for the Superfund site, said the agency will consider the comments and then make a decision through an “action memo.”

She expected the final decision to be issued in January.

Photo via the @USGS Twitter feed
Photo via the @USGS Twitter feed

Breckenridge puts new water plant on hold after getting $50 million estimate — Summit Daily News

This beautiful pattern emerges in clouds when two different layers of air in the atmosphere are moving at different speeds.  Where the two layers meet, another 'sheer' layer is created that becomes unstable due to the changes in speed. Pictured are Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds recently seen over Colorado Read more:  Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
This beautiful pattern emerges in clouds when two different layers of air in the atmosphere are moving at different speeds. Where the two layers meet, another ‘sheer’ layer is created that becomes unstable due to the changes in speed. Pictured are Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds recently seen over Colorado
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From The Summit Daily News (Kallyn Lamb):

During the budget retreat meeting on Oct. 25, the [Breckenridge Town Council] decided to postpone construction on what would be Breck’s second water plant, in favor of getting more information. Bids originally came in for the plant at around $30 million, but increased to $52 million for the official 2017 budget.

“Everybody was fairly shocked at the bid,” said the town’s mayor, Eric Mamula.

Breck’s town manager, Rick Holman, said that cost of construction has been going up continually year after year, which contributed to the increased cost for the project. Until the town gets the new breakdown in mid-January, Holman said the town is in “wait-and-see mode.” He added that it’s difficult to wait on construction projects because predicting costs can be a roll of the dice.

“When you’re spending that kind of money I think that a second opinion is a smart thing for the government to have,” Holman said.

While the water plant is something the town needs to continue providing for ever-increasing local population and tourist demand, Holman said that the town must find a balance between need and cost.

Mamula said that the council is at a standstill, since they can’t make any decisions on how to move forward until they’ve seen the new plan…

Should the town council decide to move forward with the plant after seeing the new plan in January, Holman said that the 2017 budget would have to be amended. The town is looking at ways to fund the plant, but Holman added that there could be a rise in water rates if the town decided to go ahead with construction.

The Gary Roberts Water Treatment Plant, the town’s current water source, does not have the space for expansion, Holman said. The town will still invest in repairing the 50-year-old plant.

Kim Dykstra, the director of communications for the town, said that the age of plant makes it more likely that it could break down.

The Gary Roberts plant was originally constructed in 1971 and receives its water from snow melt from above the Goose Pasture Tarn Reservoir that flows into the Blue River. After expansions in the late ’80s, the plant had the capacity to run 5 million gallons of water daily.

Dykstra said that the idea for a second water plant was first floated after the Hayman Fire in 2002…

A water task force was created in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the town did an official feasibility study to try to find the best way to address water use. Dykstra said that the town already possesses the water rights that would enable it to build a second plant because of progressive town council decisions that started as early as the 1950s.

The Gary Roberts plant services around 13,000 single-family-home equivalents in Breckenridge. The new plant would add availability for another 2,000, Dykstra said. While permanent residents are the biggest users of water in the town, she said that tourists make up for a big portion of usage as well. An increasing amount of tourists coming to the town, whether it’s for a day trip or longer, means more demand for water.

Dykstra stressed that part of the reason to add the plant now is to get ahead of water demand.

The feasibility study, released in early 2014, recommended that the second plant operate at 3 million gallons a day to meet the projected demand, with the water intake coming from the Blue River near Lake Dillon.

Breckenridge looked at five different properties for construction of the plant and ultimately decided on the McCain property located north of the town along Highway 9. Since it was land the town already owned, and it was close to an established pipeline, it meant fewer initial costs for taxpayers according to Dykstra.

Rifle: Near the end of a long road for Graham Mesa water treatment plant

The water treatment process
The water treatment process

From The Rifle Citizen-Telegram (Ryan Hoffman):

After a decade of debate and two years of construction, the city is nearing the end of construction on the Rifle Regional Water Purification Facility.

The approximately $30 million water treatment plant, consisting of eight above-ground structures on an approximately 5 acre campus, will replace both the Graham Mesa plant and the Beaver Creek plant after it comes online.

As things stand, that will likely occur toward the end of the first quarter of 2017.

“All the support systems have to come on before water can begin to flow, so water will begin to flow, we hope, in January,” Jim Miller, Rifle’s utilities director, said after a tour of the grounds in mid-November. “It will still be several months after that before customers would notice anything.”

Ultimately what Rifle municipal water customers will notice starting this summer, according to Miller, is clearer water with significantly less iron and manganese, which will make it better tasting.

Aside from improved water, completion of the plant will largely close the door on Rifle’s largest capital project ever — a matter that garnered a great deal of attention, and at times scrutiny from community members, over the past 10 years and particularly in the past seven when initial plans were first hatched…

The city decided to switch from the “design-bid-build” approach, opting instead for a “construction manager-general contractor” method.

Later in 2014, the city selected Moltz Construction Inc. as its contractor — a decision that Miller says has been instrumental in progressing the project forward.

That change allowed for flexibility and cost saving measures that, excluding design and consultant fees for the redesigned project, are expected to total $30.5 million, according to Miller’s memo.

Walking through the facilities, Miller says there are a number of cost savings born out of the value engineering that was possible by switching to the construction manager-general contractor approach.

A tank, known as a clean-in-place tank, was initially going to be 6 feet taller, which would have raised the roof of the entire building it’s housed in another 6 feet. The team was able to get a shorter tank that was wider and had the same capacity — effectively keeping the building at the previous height and saving money.

Miller admits that the approach can be confusing at times for those not directly involved on the project, especially with all the numbers and variables involved.

“It may not be the most transparent thing, but it is efficient.”

Along the way, Miller has had to address arguments, such as those suggesting the Graham Mesa plant should have been upgraded, rather than building an entirely new facility from scratch.

The Graham Mesa plant is aging and incapable of meeting certain regulatory standards. Further, it simply does not have the space that would allow for upgrades while having a functional treatment plant — a major flaw in the Graham Mesa plant is the absence of redundancy in the systems.

“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” Miller said of those who argue that the city should have stuck with the Graham Mesa plant.

The new facility will fall just a little short of 8 MGD, much more than the 4 to 5 MGD at Graham Mesa and the ½ MGD at Beaver Creek. Ultimately the plant can be brought to 8 MGD, but some pieces were left out as a cost-saving measure.

Having that flexibility to keep up with population growth is another important feature of the new facility.