Colorado allows 39 companies to pollute the state’s waterways with E. coli, chlorine and more. 17 of them have repeatedly exceeded their limits. | SummitDaily.com

Colorado allows 39 companies to pollute the state’s waterways with E. coli, chlorine and more. 17 of them have repeatedly exceeded their limits.

In just 18 months, 241 violations were recorded and an environmental group worries cuts to the EPA will worsen the problem

Bruce Finley / The Denver Post

Colorado public health officials went after owners of the London Water Tunnel for discharging pollution to waterways in Park County. The tunnel was cited in an assessment of water-quality data for frequent releases of pollution that exceed amounts it is allowed to discharge under its state permit.

While Colorado permits 39 major industrial facilities to release thousands of tons of pollutants into waterways each year, 17 of them exceeded their legal limits a total of 241 times in an 18-month period, an analysis of federal compliance data shows.

The pollution discharged above permitted amounts included cadmium, copper, chlorine, ammonia nitrogen, arsenic and E. coli bacteria spilled into such waterways as the South Platte River and Boulder Creek.

State and federal enforcers in Colorado rarely penalized the polluters.

Local leaders on Thursday lamented the lack of action and warned that proposed federal funding cuts could hurt the ability of enforcers to do more. Trump administration officials have proposed cutting the roughly $230 million a year sent annually to states in recent years to about $150 million.

"Clean water is a fundamental necessity for a strong state and country. The cleaner the water is, the cheaper it is to treat, safer it is to drink, better it is to use for agriculture, and the more fun it is to recreate in," Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck said Thursday. "We all need to be rowing the same direction to provide clean water. That includes having a strong EPA to ensure we get the water quality we all deserve."

The environment advocacy and research group Environment Colorado commissioned the analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data, a compilation of information states must collect under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which aimed at ending industrial pollution of rivers and streams. The California-based contractor Frontier Group conducted the analysis, and Environment Colorado unveiled it Thursday in Golden.

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