Last week the Silverthorne/Dillon Joint Sewer Authority learned it won a $1 million grant from the state to improve the quality of water discharged into the Blue River from the Blue River Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The announcement was made Friday by Gov. John Hickenlooper following the adoption this year of heightened standards by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. The new rules aim to prevent harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from reaching state waters, according to a governor’s office news release.
“Coloradans in rural and urban areas will benefit from these new water standards that improve and protect our water,” said Hickenlooper in the release. “This grant funding will help communities offset the costs of bringing their systems into compliance. In addition, the grants announced today will help ensure safe and healthy water for wildlife, agriculture, recreation and drinking water purposes.”
The Joint Sewer Authority was one of 21 municipal wastewater and sanitation districts in 14 Colorado counties to receive funding, the governor’s office release stated. The grants, which totaled $14.7 million, will assist with the planning, design and construction of water treatment facilities to meet Colorado’s new nutrient standards.
The Blue River Wastewater Treatment Plant requires an estimated $2.4 million in improvements to become Water Quality Control Commission compliant, according to a town of Silverthorne news release.
Specifically, the treatment plant lacks a process for removing nitrogen from wastewater, said Mike Bittner, operations superintendent for the Joint Sewer Authority and writer of the grant application. The plant already has a process for removing phosphorus.
The Joint Sewer Authority began design and engineering plans for the treatment plant upgrades when the state Water Quality Control Commission adopted its new rules, Bittner said.
Thanks to the state funds, Bittner said the Joint Water Authority would be able to start making upgrades much earlier than anticipated. The project, which was originally slated to begin in 2016 and end in 2018, is now scheduled to begin sometime next year. It could be completed as early as mid-2015.
“We were going to have to do these upgrades anyway and we never planned to raise rates, but we were going to have to save money and implement the upgrades in phases,” Bittner said. “The $1 million grant is obviously a significant grant, and we are delighted to be receiving it as it will pay for almost half of the nutrient management control improvements we are planning.”
Excessive nutrients harm water bodies by stimulating algae blooms that consume oxygen, kill aquatic organisms and ultimately result in smaller populations of game and fish, the governor’s office release stated. Nutrients are naturally occurring, but can become a contaminant when human sources — such as sewage, lawn fertilizers and emissions from power generators and automobiles — cause levels to exceed norms.
Funding for the program was made available by Colorado House Bill 13-1191, the Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant, which passed last session in the Colorado General Assembly. The legislation was sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, and Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, and Sens. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, and Angela Giron, D-Pueblo.
The Joint Sewer Authority owns and operates the Blue River Wastewater Treatment Plant located on Colorado Highway 9 north of Silverthorne Elementary School. The town of Silverthorne is the managing entity.
The facility is designed to treat four million gallons of wastewater per day and serves the towns of Silverthorne and Dillon, and the special districts of Dillon Valley, Buffalo Mountain and Mesa Cortina.
“We feel fortunate to operate a wastewater plant in Summit County where people care about the quality of their water and the health of the Blue River,” Bittner said.
The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, in neighboring Eagle County, also was among the beneficiaries of Friday’s announcement. It was awarded $1,372,401 in grant funding to assist with the planning and/or construction of upgrades to the Avon, Edwards and Vail wastewater treatment facilities.