Colorado Spring Utilities disputes protesters’ argument about drinking water contamination

Local

A new concern about the Drake and Ray Nixon Power Plants was brought up at a press conference Monday.

There, environmental groups questioned the quality of drinking water downhill from the plants. They believe coal combustion residuals (CCRs) are seeping into drinking water.

Springs Utilities said they are required by law to monitor groundwater, and have found a low risk of any type of contamination.  

The Colorado Springs utility board voted in 2015 to decommission the plant no later than 2035, but these groups say that’s not soon enough. 

“That’s why we are here,” said Anna McDevitt with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “There shouldn’t be a question mark whether or not our drinking water is polluted. We are finding that toxic level of pollutants is leaking from the coal ash pit at the Clear Spring Ranch landfill, into the aquifer below it.”  

“When the coal gets burned it becomes a real fine ash, instead of going out the stack, it gets collected in big bags,” said Dave Padgett, Chief Environmental Officer for Colorado Springs Utilities.  

From those bags, the CCRs get moved to the Clear Spring Ranch site. It is dry and covered.

Additionally, Springs Utilities built a retention dam to prevent possible contaminated water from flowing downhill. They’re federally required to do frequent groundwater monitoring anywhere CCRs are stored. 

A report they released shows the pit is not affecting any water sources. 

“Is not hydrologically connected to groundwater source people use for drinking water,” Padgett said.  

All that information is available to the public. 

“We monitor site not only where we dispose of CCRs, retention dam to edge of the property to make sure we are not having off-site issues leaving our property,” Padgett said.

Padgett said the drinking water source in the Fountain Alluvial Aquifer is on the other side of I-25 from the Clear Spring Ranch site.  

Still, locals who live in the Midway Ranch area have concerns.  

“Right now, it’s an unknown if it’s in our water, so prove it,” said Midway resident Liz Rosenbaum. “We are not sitting by and let this happen.”

The utility said that any homeowners who have concerns about the quality of their tap or well water should contact them directly.

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