*/Grand Junction Sentinel/*
Wastewater rules will cost billions, opponents argue
By Charles Ashby <http://www.gjsentinel.com/members/46/>
Friday, March 16, 2012
DENVER --- The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission gave
preliminary approval to controversial nutrient-limiting regulations that
local water and wastewater officials say will cost them billions of
dollars to comply with.
After nearly three days of public testimony and several more hours of
deliberation, the nine-member commission gave its initial approval late
Wednesday of more than 600 pages of new regulations that are designed to
limit how much nitrogen and phosphorus can be in the state's rivers and
The final regulations will be reviewed again in May, with the new
regulations going into effect June 30, said Steve Gunderson, executive
director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division.
"The commission gave preliminary approval to much of the water control
division's final proposal regarding nutrients management," Gunderson
said. "The only major substantive difference is relaxation of the total
inorganic limitation for existing facilities from 10 milligrams a liter
to 15 milligrams."
He said the new rules will impact only the largest wastewater treatment
plants in the state, which account for 10 percent of all plants. Those
44 plants include the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant in Grand Junction.
Wastewater treatment plant officials statewide, who opposed the new
regulations, said it could cost them up to $2 billion in new equipment,
saying those costs will be borne by ratepayers. Persigo officials
estimated their new costs at upwards to $24 million.
Gunderson, who calls high nutrient levels one of the biggest
water-quality challenges facing the nation, said the limits are designed
to protect the state's waterways from too much algae. High algae levels
can create oxygen-dead zones that can kill plants and aquatic life.
*Gunderson said the state has been discussing nutrient levels for more
than a decade, and he urged the commission to act before the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency imposed even stricter rules.*
Opponents, who say the division's science behind nutrient levels is
faulty, argue there's no reason to approve regulations not required by
Environmental groups, however, praised the commission's vote. "After 10
years of careful deliberation, the commission adopted a reasonable
Colorado-based solution to phosphorus and nitrogen pollution in
Colorado's waterways," said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator for the
Colorado Environmental Coalition.
Loretta Lohman, Ph.D.
Nonpoint Source Outreach Coordinator
Colorado State University
Colorado Water Institute
3375 W. Aqueduct Avenue
Littleton, CO 80123