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Stirring the waters

Wastewater industry fails in bid to eliminate protections

Colorado wastewater interests suddenly have withdrawn a proposal that would have gutted environmental and health protections for roughly half the state's small streams and creeks.

"There was a lot of disagreement over what we proposed," said Nancy Keller, chairwoman for the Colorado Wastewater Utility Council. "We had looked at it as a simple solution."

Last month, the wastewater council, which represents dozens of utilities across the state, asked the governor-appointed Water Quality Control Commission to end oversight of streams and creeks that flow slowly or are dry.

"It's a little hard for fish to survive in dry creek beds," Keller said.

But the Environmental Protection Agency, in a letter to state officials, said efforts to ensure the safety of drinking water would be significantly hampered with the proposal.

Of the 44 rivers, creeks and streams for which stream flows were reported last week, 22 were moving so slowly that, under the wastewater council's bid, they would have lost all environmental protections. West Monument Creek and Cottonwood Creek were among those targeted in the Colorado Springs area.

The proposal outraged John Woodling, a spokesman for the Grand Junction-based Western Slope Water Network, an umbrella group representing fishing and other interests.

"[The wastewater council] either isn't thinking of the ramifications or they really, truly are villains," he said. "Take your choice."

Though sources intimately involved with the process say the idea is dead for now, Keller promised to continue to urge state water commissioners to remove or change water regulations for the state's tributaries.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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