EAB Meeting Minutes
May 11, 2004
Ramon Ajero Tom Bender
John Bartholow Glenn Gibson
Sherm Worthington Speakers
Marcia Van Eden Ben Alexander, Big Thompson Water-
Dave Swartz shed Forum
Dale Lockwood Guests
Stephen Gillette, Larimer County
Staff Solid Waste Dept.
Cheryl Kolus, staff liaison Doug Ryan, Larimer County Health
One citizen guest
I. Citizen Comments
II. Chair's Comments
Ray Herrmann mentioned a memo Dave Swartz drafted regarding getting West Nile Virus information into the schools before they’re out for the summer. The board unanimously voted to send the letter to the Board of County Commissioners with a copy to the county health department.
III. Commissioner's Comments
Tom Bender discussed the site visits to Environmental Stewardship Award winners and asked if we should continue them in upcoming years. He thought it was important to do so, even if it could be rather time-consuming and hard to schedule. Board members agreed to continue site visits.
IV. Approval of April Minutes
The minutes were approved with no changes.
V. Amendments to the Agenda
VI. Discussion Items
Water Quality: An Essential Element of Total Water Resource Stewardship, Ben Alexander
Mr. Alexander spoke about water quality with an emphasis on the Big Thompson watershed. He noted that regional water supply management and planning must include a comprehensive perspective of water quality to meet the needs of the communities being served. Essential elements of water resource stewardship include good long-range planning, procuring and perfecting water rights, defending water rights, maximizing water deliveries, assuring sound practices of operation and maintenance of collection, storage and distribution systems, and maintaining a strong fiscal policy that supports all these programs.
Larimer County water bodies used for drinking water include Carter, Loveland and Boyd Lakes, and Horsetooth and Pinewood Reservoirs. Green Ridge Reservoir will eventually provide drinking water.
Reservoirs are expensive to build and are especially vulnerable to water quality degradation, as are natural lakes, because in addition to storing water, they tend to accumulate nutrients as well. Reservoirs impact water quality for better or worse. Plains reservoirs are somewhat prone to suffering water quality problems.
To protect reservoir water quality, we must advocate minimizing the flow of nutrients into our entire water supply. When major water supply projects are being considered, water quality must be taken into account, not only from the perspective of the design and operation of the facility, but also of those downstream.
Ramon Ajero asked if considerations are the same whether it’s a new reservoir or the expansion of an existing one. Mr. Alexander said that we’re in better shape dealing with existing reservoirs because we know the effects of the reservoir already. With a new reservoir, potential effects are speculative. It depends on the land area affected and the water quality of existing sources.
External nutrient loading is a big problem. Reservoir eutrophication is often a direct result of this. External loading is the combination of the nutrient concentration in the water supply multiplied by the amount of water that flows into the reservoir on an annual basis.
Also, major changes to hydraulic flow regimes alter reservoir loading patterns.
Presently, about 50 percent of the Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) supply flows from Carter Lake south and east toward the area north of Denver, and 50 percent flows north and east through Horsetooth to the Loveland, Greeley and Fort Collins areas. With the growth along the Front Range, however, the trend is for water to be transferred south, and such changes are anticipated.
The major changes currently being contemplated in regional water supply planning require thorough analysis of water quality impacts to select the best alternatives for site selection, facility design, facility operation and source protection. Mr. Alexander said that proposals for every water storage project should strongly advocate nutrient control to protect the public’s total investment in its water supply.
Algae is a big problem due to too much nitrogen and phosphorus (from fertilizer) getting into the water. Algae growth can cause stinky, bad-tasting water, fish kills due to oxygen depletion, brown water caused by manganese release from sediments under hypoxic conditions, clogging of filters and bar screens, and canals that can’t carry their full capacity.
Horsetooth Reservoir is on the “monitor and evaluate” list due to its lack of oxygen, which is threatening fish populations.
Other consequences of increased nutrients include decreased electrical generation efficiency, increased facility maintenance expenses, and increased drag on boats. Nutrients are at the top of the list of issues that the Big Thompson Watershed Forum (BTWF) has determined it must proactively address by advocating changes in land use management practices that presently allow too much fertilizer to enter our water supply.
Many different kinds of algae are in the water, and they can behave differently, cause different problems or produce varied benefits. Under the water quality conditions we experienced in the summer and fall of 2003, types of algae that produce liver toxins, neurotoxins and dermatoxins were abundant in the C-BT water supply. These algae threaten the health of humans, livestock, pets, fish and wildlife. They were abundant enough to put the C-BT water supply in health risk categories necessitating that actions be taken and health cautions be heeded. Similar situations have occurred worldwide and are being reported more often in the U.S. when there is adequate sunlight, warm temperatures and an abundant nutrient supply. During intense algae blooms the water must be frequently monitored for toxins to reduce health risks to the public, livestock and wildlife.
Algaecide is one approach to controlling algae blooms. But several questions should be asked before applying algaecide: (1) Is a problematic algae bloom releasing algal toxins into the water? (2) How much toxin-producing algae are present? (3) What is the level of toxin already in the water? (4) If copper sulfate is applied to the water it will cause cell walls to rupture. Will that increase the amount of dissolved toxin present in the water? If so, where would the impacts occur and what would the impacts be? (5) Or, is the total concentration of toxin low enough that algaecide can be safely used because any rupturing of the cell walls would be irrelevant?
Reactive approaches such as applying algaecide have many undesirable features, but unless proactive nutrient reduction strategies are implemented, reactive approaches will be necessary.
When asked if anyone has looked at other forms of algae control, Mr. Alexander said more studies need to be done. It’s a big, system-wide problem.
The BTWF posts data on its Web site at www.btwatershed.org. The BTWF is collaborating with the Grand County Water Information Network on the West Slope.
Likely sources of nutrients in the Big Thompson watershed include: (1) domestic wastewater discharge, (2) high populations of large free-roaming mammals, (3) community and/or individual septic systems, (4) corrals or feedlot discharge, and (5) golf courses.
The BTWF is looking at other water quality issues aside from algae. Mr. Alexander said that the C-BT really got hammered last year. The Grand Ditch broke and the system is suffering from effects of drought, including the release of phosphorus from exposed sediments, warmer water temperatures due to reduced runoff, and weeds sprouting below the old high water line on some reservoirs. Colorado laws do not require phosphorus monitoring.
The BTWF put together a summary report and analysis by a professional limnologist (Water Quality of the Upper Big Thompson Watershed, by Alan D. Jassby and Charles R. Goldman; available at www.btwatershed.org). The BTWF works collaboratively with the US Geological Survey, which does nutrient analysis, and the City of Loveland Utilities, which does bacterial analysis. Horsetooth is the most monitored water body in the C-BT, but problems are system-wide. They are not monitoring Carter Lake; they would like to but have no financial support to do so.
When asked if there’s concern regarding water quality in the Poudre River, Mr. Alexander stated that the water quality is better and that there’s not much private land along the river to be developed. Forest fires (wild or prescribed) are the biggest threat, resulting in increased nutrients and mercury discharge from vegetation. Water that comes from burned areas is black.
Mr. Alexander responded to a question about magnesium chloride from roads, saying that it does show up in water data collection. He was also asked his thoughts about regulatory versus voluntary actions regarding water quality issues. He noted that environmentally responsible companies are offering help and funding. The BTWF, he explained, is a cooperative; it’s up to other agencies to provide regulations and enforcement. Mr. Alexander would still like to avoid a regulatory approach if possible.
In answer to another question, he said that not enough evidence exists to place Horsetooth Reservoir on the “303 D list,” a designation of impaired waters through an EPA program that is administered by states.
Mr. Alexander noted that everyone can play a role in reducing nutrients in our water supplies. Point-source discharges such as wastewater treatment plants should monitor their effluent for phosphorus and install treatment processes to reduce the amount of phosphorus discharged into streams. Manure from penned livestock should be physically prevented from washing into waterways. Fertilizer should be applied correctly to ensure that it’s all taken up by the grass, not transported into the water. Erosion should be controlled in all areas of the watershed where earth is being disturbed by roads or construction. Urbanized areas in the watershed—even small towns—should implement best management practices. And interested people can support the BTWF’s mission by becoming members (which can be done via the BTWF Web site).
Sherman Worthington and Lilias Jarding are new EAB members. Other board members brought them up to speed on some of the EAB’s recent issues. Lilias suggested adding more links to relevant Web sites in the meeting minutes where appropriate.
Stephen Gillette, director of Larimer County Solid Waste, updated the EAB on several waste issues. He said that the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the operation of the recycling center was made public today. It can be viewed online at www.larimer.org/bids as RFP 04-06. Some of the RFP’s highlights include the possibility of adding commodities (at least cardboard) to curbside collection, and perhaps installing a paper sorting line, as well as making the recycling center a break-even operation. Currently, there are only two payments left on the loan for the recycling center. The committee he had convened to help develop the RFP represented a variety of interests, and Mr. Gillette was pleased with their help and thankful for their commitment. He noted that Denver is currently soliciting bids to run its recycling center, also. Denver is looking for a company to run a single-stream (fiber and containers mixed together) operation.
Phase 3 (the northwest section) of the Larimer County Landfill has been filled and is being capped. It will be seeded in June. The Board of County Commissioners in April approved the landfill expansion. The solid waste department is still looking for a site to place a future landfill. The department is 2 to 3 years away from installing an active landfill gas collection system. Since we’re in an arid area, the landfill’s methane production is low.
The Red Feather Lakes transfer station will close July 1 because the land lease was not renewed. The department is negotiating a potential new site.
The department recently changed its name from Natural Resources to Solid Waste.
Ray Herrmann asked why the county does not have a separate area for yard waste collection. Mr. Gillette pointed out that clean loads of tree limbs are separated at the landfill and eventually ground into mulch. He said that to add a composting operation would likely bring complaints from neighbors regarding odors. Also, yard waste is not a big percentage of the trash dumped at the landfill, and other private companies are in this area that do composting.
The meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.