Loveland: Algae bloom in Green Ridge Glade Reservoir update

Green Ridge Glade Reservoir
Green Ridge Glade Reservoir

From The City of Loveland (Gretchen Stanford):

I hear your concerns about the water quality and taste and odor issues we are experiencing in Loveland. My goal is to be as transparent as possible by sharing information about what is causing the taste and odor issues in Loveland and what Loveland Water and Power (LWP) is doing to resolve the problem.

Loveland has been abuzz for months about the unusually large, stubborn algae bloom at Green Ridge Glade Reservoir, one source of Loveland’s drinking water. Although this bloom is fierce, the drinking water in Loveland still meets federal regulatory requirements, plus even more-stringent state standards, for drinking water.

This algae bloom in particular is the largest we have ever seen. As a result of the 2013 flood, more nutrients have entered into runoff as it makes its way to our reservoir. The extreme heat and abundant sunshine we have had this summer developed into the perfect storm for an enormous algae bloom.

This bloom has revealed new algae species that reproduce more quickly and produce stronger geosmin, the compound that causes taste and odor issues. Additionally, the Big Thompson River is now afflicted with a significant level of the same algae. We cannot treat the free-flowing river water in the same way as we do the reservoir. And at this time, we are blending water from both the river and the reservoir at the Water Treatment Plant (WTP).

LWP water quality specialists are closely monitoring water quality by testing water samples at the Water Treatment Plant as well as at homes and businesses throughout the city on a daily basis. We are also treating the reservoir with a hydrogen peroxide-based algaecide that was developed as an environmentally safe alternative to copper-based algaecides. The only end-products of the treatment we use are oxygen and water. In addition, we are using a safe, absorbent activated-carbon compound inside the treatment plant to remove as much taste, odor and color from the water as possible.

Our technical staff continues to explore safe alternatives for treating algae blooms in the future while walking a thin line between the price tag of new technology and reasonable rates for our customers. Next week, LWP will begin a feasibility study to evaluate options for algae mitigation. The study will include permanent aeration or oxygenation system in the reservoir. We will also do a preliminary design of a larger system to store and dispense the activated carbon compound at the WTP. Unfortunately, those large capital costs are currently not budgeted.

While we would like to predict when the algae will die, it is important to note that algae is a living, unpredictable organism. Blooms usually end shortly after the first frost but we have no way to predict when that might be. We will continue to update our website http://www.cityofloveland/waterquality and Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/LovelandWaterandPower with timely information as we receive it.

The safety and quality of our drinking water is one of LWP’s most important goals. We recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives. LWP takes water quality very seriously and will continue to produce safe, clean drinking water for our customers. We ask for your patience while we work to resolve this problem and find a way to prevent it in the future.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

An algae bloom in Green Ridge Glade Reservoir, the worst Loveland’s Water and Power division has experienced, is to blame for the unsavory taste and odor plaguing the city’s water supply. The blue-green algae is harmless, health-wise, according to state lab test results.

While the minuscule taste-and-odor compound released by the algae makes the taste disgusting, a lucky 25 percent of residents think the water’s fine because they can’t taste or smell the compound.

Soon, the other 75 percent of the city will have better-tasting water. The first hard freeze will mean a slow die-off of the algae bloom, water treatment manager Scott Dickmeyer said. After that, the water’s taste and smell should return to normal within a week or two.

But Loveland will have to invest in some new mitigation methods to keep the algae at bay.

Green Ridge Glade has always been susceptible to algae growth because it’s deep and relatively still. It’s not a recreation hub like Horsetooth Reservoir, from which Fort Collins gets its water, and water doesn’t flow in and out of it at a rapid rate like at Horsetooth because Loveland is its sole user.

So as temperatures rise, the reservoir’s deeper, stiller water produces nutrients that promote the growth of anabaena, a type of algae common in water systems.

Loveland officials use a hydrogen peroxide-based product to kill the algae, but the issue has gotten worse since the 2013 Big Thompson floods because of the nutrient influx and the mysterious introduction of a new species of algae that’s harder to kill.

That’s why even though the algae issue is nothing new, many residents noticed it for the first time late this summer…

The city’s been using powder-activated carbon to remove the taste-and-odor compound from the water and funneling more Big Thompson River water into its treatment plant, but each method has drawbacks.

Powder-activated carbon removes only 50 to 60 percent of the compound because it’s not great at trapping such tiny particles. Loveland’s treated water contains about 20 to 40 parts of the compound per trillion parts of water…

“It’s a very, very small amount, but most people are very, very sensitive to it,” Dickmeyer said. “It only takes about 5 parts per trillion for our customers to start noticing it.”

And within the last few weeks, algae started cropping up in the Big Thompson River, so diluting the taste with another water source wasn’t an option.

Loveland Water and Power is considering adding oxygen to the reservoir to discourage algae growth. The division is also considering more aggressive treatment options that won’t “cost a fortune,” Dickmeyer said.

CU grads invent water filter that targets hormones — TheDenverChannel.com

noestra

From TheDenverChannel.com (Nicole Brady):

Hormones can get into the water by seeping out of of landfills, through human and livestock waste, and industry waste. A filter like Brita won’t get rid of hormones. An expensive reverse osmosis filtration system will, but Noestra is designed to be an affordable alternative — and well worth that price, considering the impact hormones can have on our health.

“Over time, we’ve found those hormonal balances really do add up and it does have a serious effect on your overall well-being,” co-creator Emma Jacobs said.

And if you need evidence that hormones are indeed messing with our natural balance, consider what the Noestra creators found when they tested water from the Boulder Creek.

“This is what usually scares people,” says Eversbusch. “You can measure the amount of hormone by semester. So in the fall and spring it’s pretty high, and when all the students leave in the summer it’s much lower.”

Keystone: Greeley Water wins taste and odor competition at RMSAWWA conference

LadyDragonflyCC -- Creative Commons, Flickr
LadyDragonflyCC — Creative Commons, Flickr

From KDVR.com:

Nine municipalities from a three state region competed for the title of best drinking water based on taste, odor and appearance.

The judges at a taste test at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works (RMSAWWA) annual conference in Keystone deemed Greeley as the city with the best water in the region.

Nine municipalities from a three state region competed for the title of best drinking water based on taste, odor and appearance.

The winner of this competition will represent the RMSAWWA at the national “Best of the Best” taste test at the AWWA Conference in Philadelphia next June.

Castle Rock Water was named runner-up.

#AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine update

Cement Creek aerial photo -- Jonathan Thompson via Twitter
Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The EPA has stabilized the collapsing mouth of the Gold King Mine, cementing heaps of rock and sediment dug up during mining’s glory days, trying to prevent another blowout and pioneer a solution to the West’s continuing acid metals contamination of coveted water.

And as the feds push through this work, they face once-resistant Colorado communities that are increasingly keen on having a clean watershed.

The action this summer in the mine-scarred mountains above Silverton is raising expectations that, whatever final fix may be made at the Gold King, it will build momentum for dealing with toxic mines elsewhere.

That all depends on Congress lining up funding.

At the Gold King’s timberline portal, an EPA team sprayed gray cement across an area 50 feet high and 30 feet wide to secure entry. Initially, EPA workers crawled into the mine on hands and knees over planks put down to keep them from sinking into orange-hued acid metals muck. They installed cement blocks and a wooden dam to divert a 691 gallons-a-minute toxic discharge…

Then the EPA team welded steel frames 63 feet deep into a cleared 18 foot-wide tunnel. They buttressed the tunnel deeper, another 67 feet in, drilling in expanding screws, steel bolts and grates. They’re pumping that acid metals discharge through a partially buried pipeline that runs 4,000 feet to a temporary waste treatment plant.

At the plant, EPA contractors — mixing in a ton a day of lime to neutralize the 8.3 pH acid flow to 3.5 pH — recently sliced open bulging sacks filled with reddish-brown sludge. They spread 3,500 cubic yards of the sludge across a flat area to dry, trying to extend the plant’s capacity to clean Gold King muck.

Generators rattle. A canary-yellow air tube snakes out the mouth as workers in helmets with head lamps hike in.

Down in town, Silverton and San Juan County leaders’ recent about-face — from a tribe-like mistrust of the EPA toward eagerness to get cleanup done at the Gold King and 46 other sites — is becoming more adamant. Some locals say they see economic benefits if mining’s toxic hangover can be cured. And Silverton’s town manager is broadening his appeal to the nation’s most ambitious geologists to make this a hub for hydrology research…

Next, the EPA must officially designate a National Priority List disaster and find a Superfund or other way to cover cleanup costs — action that’s delayed until fall. Then in the Superfund process, the EPA would start studies to find the best way to fix each of the Animas sites.

At issue is whether final cleanup should rely on water plants, costing up $26 million each, to treat mine drainage perpetually, saddling future generations with huge bills — or aim for a more complicated “bulkhead” plug approach that could contain acid muck inside mountains, perhaps using pressure sensors to give early warning of blowouts…

But Silverton and San Juan County leaders last month said they’re mostly pleased with EPA progress at the mine, though federal muzzling of front-line crews and access restrictions have impeded close-up inspection.

Outstanding issues include locals seek assurances water treatment will continue until final cleanup is done; a demand for reimbursement of $90,000 they spent — “They did pay one tithing, and promised more,” Kuhlman said; and a desire to close off an ore heap used by motorcross riders along the Animas…

A solution based on plugging likely would be controversial. State-backed bulkheads installed near the Gold King Mine “are what started this whole problem,” Commissioner Kuhlman said, referring to the plugs in the American Tunnel of the Sunnyside Mine, which backed up mine muck and doubled discharges from mines in the area — setting up the Gold King blowout. A bulkhead installed in the adjacent Red and Bonita Mine hasn’t been closed.

The appeal is that holding water inside mountains means the acidic muck, which forms when natural water leaches minerals exposed by mining, does less harm.

Lead abatement begins — The Lakewood Sentinel

Roman lead pipe -- Photo via the Science Museum
Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

From The Lakewood Sentinel (Glenn Wallace):

A recent sunrise saw Joe Centeno, a maintenance plumber with Jefferson County schools, already busy at work at Arvada’s Peck Elementary, changing out water cutoffs, connector lines and fixtures in hopes of improving the water quality.

The district’s effort to test water outlets at all 158 schools for high lead levels found 10 elevated level sites at the 50-year-old school — a sink in the teachers’ lounge, three sinks in the kitchen and six classroom sinks, some of which had bubbler drinking attachments.

“This is the guinea pig,” Centeno said. “We’ll see if this works.”

His best guess as a plumber was that the repairs should fix the problem, based on the scattered lead readings, as opposed to schoolwide contamination that would have required more extensive and expensive replumbing.

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.”