CDPHE requests additional well for Summitville

SUMMITVILLE — Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) superfund and site assessment leader Mary Boardman met via Zoom with Rio Grande County Commissioners during their meeting on June 23 to request permission to drill an additional groundwater monitoring well on county property near the Summitville treatment facility.

Boardman explained that there are two wells that are supplying water to the treatment plant but during dryer years like the one the area is experiencing this year, the wells do not supply nearly enough water.

“Currently, we use water diverted from the Inside Well located at the west end of the visitor area, along with water from a well and surface water diversion located on the Young property. At certain times of the year, these sources do not provide sufficient water for our needs which are industrial and domestic,” said Boardman.

Boardman continued to explain that the EPA has been funding about 90 percent of the costs that come from the treatment of toxic material in and around the superfund site for the past several years but that their time to aid in those costs will be ending in July.

“They do that for essentially 10 years after the construction of a water treatment plant," Boardman said. "That 10-year period ends on July 25. On July 26, the state takes over 100 percent of the fiscal responsibility of operating and maintaining the sites in perpetuity. In preparation for that, we are trying to ensure that we are in a good position to assume that financial responsibility and one of the issues that has come up is the issue of water supply.”

The treatment facility needs to have access to reliable, clean water for a variety of purposes throughout the season that the plant is operational. One of the main needs for the sustainable water resource is the chemical make down of the material that is processed through the plant. During the treatment process lime and polymer are mixed with water and fed into the treatment process.

“That is the biggest demand for the water supply,” she said.

There are two times of year that deplete the water supply from the current wells — in the spring and at the end of the season when water has dried up for the summer. With the two wells currently in use, the treatment facility mostly relies on the surface water tributary from Wightman Fork but this year the surface water has been in short supply.

To be sustainable for the future, the CDPHE is looking to drill a groundwater monitoring well to monitor groundwater levels and one that could potentially be converted into a third well if needed.

“We are planning to replace the 17-mile well on the Young property with the hopes that it will boost our production," Boardman said. "However, while having a driller onsite, we would like to install the new well to monitor groundwater in the location of 'SMSS New Well OPT 1' in the event that water from a third well is required in the future. This monitoring well would be installed so it could be converted from monitoring to production upon approval by the Division of Water Resources.”

Commissioner John Noffsker voiced concern about how drilling a third well could impact drilling additional wells if others are needed for purposes outside of the treatment facility and asked Boardman to research if that would have an impact on future projects.

“One of the concerns I have, is if we put a well for industrial and domestic use, if the county was doing some work up there as we’ve talked about in the past, do you have any idea how that would affect our ability to drill a well or access water for our own purposes,” asked Noffsker. 

Boardman did not have the answer at the time of the meeting, so the topic was tabled to a future meeting.