News 5 Investigates

Jul 3, 2014 11:21 PM by Eric Ross

Fort Carson responds to a News 5 investigation on water contamination

Fort Carson officials released the following statement today via email in response to a News 5 investigation which ran Wednesday:

"Fort Carson is in full compliance per the Environmental Protection Agency with its waste water treatment plant permit. Federal non-privatized waste water plants, unlike municipal waste water treatment plants, are required to report their releases of nitrate compounds to the EPA as part of the Toxic Release Inventory requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Fort Carson is one of the few Army installations that manage their own sewage treatment operations. Nitrate compounds are a natural by-product of the sewage treatment process and are the same process and breakdown by-product that occurs in residential septic systems.

Fort Carson has had two Clean Water Act Informal Enforcement Actions in five years which noted three deficiencies. These actions did not include fines and corrective actions have been taken to address the issues. Since the 1970s, Fort Carson has used reclaimed water for irrigation at its Cheyenne Shadows Golf Course. As part of the installation's Net Zero water reduction goal efforts, it is investing in a large-scale reclaimed water project to use treated water for irrigating large turf areas during summer months. The desired outcome is to use the majority of the reclaimed water generated on post for irrigation, and thereby reduce treated waste water released from the installation."

Original story:

Data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency shows nearly 850,000 pounds of toxic chemicals ended up in Colorado rivers and streams in 2012.

News 5 uncovers one of the largest offenders is Fort Carson. Digging deeper, we learned the military post has a history of violations. Some violations were verbal or written warnings, while others resulted in hefty fines.

According to the EPA, 143,000 pounds of toxic chemicals from Fort Carson made their way into Clover Ditch which runs into Fountain Creek.

"We don't want any toxins in our water," El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey said.

We brought our findings to Hisey, who just so happens to serve on the board for the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

"Regardless of whether it's in our stream or in our drinking cup, what we need to be concerned about is what's in the cup," Hisey said.

Ammonia, manganese compounds and nitrate compounds were all found in water samples across Colorado.

"Nitrate compounds come from things as simple as feces from wild animals, horses, domestic animals and fertilizers," Hisey said.

We also took our concerns to the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.

"There could be environmental and adverse health effects, especially impacting the aquatic life," Rich Muzzy, the environmental program manager with the PPACG said.

It can also take a toll on people if large amounts of contaminated water is ingested.

"It can cause diarrhea, the flu, and respiratory problems," Muzzy said.

Inspectors documented violations on 9 consecutive compliance checks dating back to January 2012.

Fort Carson also paid $45,000 in fines over the past few years.

"Fort Carson doesn't get any special consideration in these cases," Hisey said. "If they are discharging chemicals into the stream, they have to meet the same criteria and follow the same rules that everyone else does."

Fort Carson passed its most recent compliance check in 2014.

To view the full in-depth report on Fort Carson, click here:

Fort Carson File.pdf

Cargill is the number 1 water polluter in Colorado and Suncor Energy Refinery comes in third.

If you have a story you'd like me to look into and investigate, email me at eross@Koaa.com.

 

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