Water Quality Control Commission
COMMITTEE ON JOINT AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
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07:40 AM -- Water Quality Control Commission
Patty Wells, Chair, Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC), General Counsel for Denver Water, explained that the commission consists of nine citizens appointed to achieve geographical representation and to reflect the water interests of the state. At least two members must be from the Western Slope. The commission is responsible for developing and maintaining a comprehensive and effective program for prevention, control, and abatement of water pollution and for water quality protection; supervises the administration of loans and grants from federal and other public sources; and issues and enforces rules and orders. She also introduced commission members attending the meeting including commissioners Barrilleaux, Butler, McConaughy, Sakata, Teague, and Wiant.
07:44 AM -- Energy Impacts and Water Quality Issues
Commissioner Peter Butler described the role of the WQCC in the regulation of oil and gas development (Attachment A). He explained that construction activities in Colorado that disturb five or more acres of land, including construction associated with the development of oil and gas wells, have been subject since 1992 to a requirement to obtain a stormwater discharge permit from the Water Quality Control Division. Permits require the development of a stormwater management plan that describes best management practices (BMPs) to be used to control stormwater pollution from a construction site, and periodic inspection to ensure BMPs are properly implemented. Beginning June 30, 2005, this requirement has also applied to all oil and gas construction activities disturbing one or more acres. He also described the WQCC interaction with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and other board and commissions that address water quality issues. Since 1989, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has been identified in statute as an implementing agency, with principal responsibility for implementing ground water quality standards for oil and gas operations. During 2008, the COGCC adopted new rules to protect public health and the environment from the impacts of oil and gas development, pursuant to HB07-1341. These rules are currently pending legislative review.
He explained that the 1996 amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act provided funding for the Colorado Source Water Assessment and Protection (SWAP) effort that assists public drinking water systems and other interests in developing plans to protect the source of their water. Throughout the state, 84 source water protection plans have been completed or are in development. Five of the 16 communities with "substantially implemented" source water protection plans are located in the energy development area along the Interstate 70-Colorado River corridor.
Paul Frohardt, Water Quality Control Commission staff, responded to questions from the committee regarding the regulation of produced water that is disposed through injection deep underground. He also described how stormwater discharge from oil and gas development sites is regulated. Commissioner Butler responded to questions from the committee concerning the source water protection program and the testing of water for mercury.
07:58 AM -- Mercury Contamination of Surface Waters
Steve Gunderson, Director, Water Quality Control Division, described the division's testing for mercury levels in fish. He also identified potential sources of mercury contamination including air born deposition from coal fired power plants, mining, and naturally occurring mercury in the geology.
08:05 AM -- Safe Drinking Water Policies and Programs
Commissioner Chris Wiant described the regulation of drinking water by the Water Quality Control Commission (Attachment B). He explained that n the 2006,oversight of the state drinking water program was transferred from the Colorado Board of Health to the Water Quality Control Commission. The Water Quality Control Division (WQCD), implements and enforces the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the commission's rules. To comply with new federal requirements, he explained that the Commission adopted new drinking water regulations that will be implemented over the next years. The Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule requires source water sampling for systems that use surface water (water from rivers and streams) as their raw water source in Colorado. The commission also adopted a rule that establishes maximum allowable levels for chlorine and carcinogenic chemical byproducts of chlorination in drinking water. Another recently adopted rule increases the inspection frequency for systems that use groundwater to every three years, and requires that systems take specific steps to ensure that their well water is either free from fecal contamination or is adequately disinfected. Commissioner Wiant also described recent waterborne disease out breaks in Colorado including the salmonella outbreak in Alamosa that sickened 435 people in March of 2008.
Ron Falco, Safe Drinking Water Manager, responded to questions from the committee concerning the regulation of community drinking water systems that use groundwater and proposed revisions of these regulations. Donna Davis, Chief Fiscal Officer for the WQCD, responded to questions from the committee concerning funding for infrastructure improvements for Alamosa. Mr. Gunderson responded to questions from the committee regarding infrastructure needs for Alamosa and potential federal and state funding sources for these improvements. He also described a proposal to use water discharge from the Newmont Mining Company's Battle Mountain Mine for irrigation as an alternative to water treatment.
Commissioner Wiant explained that Colorado has over 40 drinking water systems that are currently, or expected to be, in violation of the radium and or uranium Maximum Contaminant Levels established by EPA. He explained that treating drinking water to remove radionuclides is complex and expensive because of the concentrated radioactive residues that must be disposed. In 2007, the Division launched the Colorado Radionuclide Abatement and Disposal Strategy project to help systems comply. Each drinking water system that volunteered to participate received a comprehensive water quality analysis and technical review of its system to determine costs associated with centralized drinking water treatment. Mr. Falco responded to questions about the source of uranium contamination in drinking water source water. Mr. Gunderson responded to questions about the regulation of the Argo Mine superfund site by the State of Colorado and its ability to handle this cost that is currently paid for with federal moneys. He also described the Hazardous Response Fund and the state's ability to pay for superfund remediation.
08:34 AM -- Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Needs
Commissioner Gary Teague explained that many of Colorado's communities have water distribution, transmission and wastewater collection lines that are beyond their designed life. The WQCD has issued numerous "boil or bottled water advisories" due to the failure of water lines and the associated threats to public health. At its November 2008 meeting, the WQCC held a hearing and approved the 2009 project eligibility lists, which document Colorado's wastewater treatment infrastructure needs that exceed $1.96 billion and $1.18 billion in drinking water needs. He explained that the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" included moneys for water and wastewater infrastructure projects through the Department's existing Water Pollution Control Revolving (WPCRF) and Drinking Water Revolving Fund (DWRF) programs. Colorado is expected to receive $31.2 million for wastewater projects and $34.3 million for drinking water projects. If the final stimulus and annual DWRF and WPCRF allocations are awarded at the proposed levels, Colorado have over $71.6 million (WPCRF) and $66.9 million (DWRF) in loan capacity for 2009, (Attachment C and D). He also responded to questions from the committee regarding new Category 6 projects on the 2009 Project Eligibility List and how these projects will be funded.
The meeting adjourned.