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Crimson tide originated at Meadows site

Ryan Graff

City of Glenwood Springs engineers met with Glenwood Meadows contractor W.E. O’Neil after two red flows formed in the Colorado River just below the Meadows site.City of Glenwood Springs engineers met with Glenwood Meadows contractor W.E. O’Neil after two red flows formed in the Colorado River just below the Meadows site.The red water flowed in to the Colorado from city storm drains, but originated at the Meadows construction site, where W.E. O’Neil has been doing heavy dirt work since last fall. The flows were visible from Interstate 25 and prompted some phone calls to city officials. “It looks bad,” said W. E. O’Neil superintendent Steve Kelley, “but there’s a lot of measures in place before the water gets into the storm system.”Before the runoff gets to the river it is sent through detention ponds, hay bales, and filter fabric, said city engineer Larry Thompson.But even with those measures in place, the runoff’s effect was still visible on the river, and had W. E. O’Neil workers trying to find a solution. “We have been taking measures through out these last storm events,” Kelley said. The company brought in a consultant to help with the problem and is trying to find ways to slow the water down before it gets to the river to give sediment time to settle out, he said. Even though the runoff is clearly visible, it is relatively harmless, Kelley said. The system W. E. O’Neil has in place rids the runoff of heavy, harmful silt, but can’t get rid of the color, Kelley said. “It’s just impossible to get rid of the color,” he said. “You can take a bottle of that water and put it on your desk, and it’ll still be red two days later.”Thompson agreed. “It is admittedly difficult material they’re dealing with,” he said.But the city has asked for documentation from W. E. O’Neil’s consultant on what more can be done. The city will also review W. E. O’Neil’s state storm water discharge and erosion control permit to make sure the company is fulfilling state requirements. The permit is a guideline to make sure that contractors do their best to keep water clean, said Mark Weinhold a hydrologist with the United States Forest Service in Glenwood Springs. Winter is typically a good time to do a lot of dirt work, he said, because frozen temperatures generally mean that there will be little runoff. W. E. O’Neil is doing all that it can to fix the problem, Thompson said. The sediment that has already been released is probably not problematic, said Mark Lacy, a fish biologist for the White River National Forest in Carbondale who has not looked at the problem. “This time of year, with the rainfall we just had, its probably not that big a deal,” Lacy said. The potential risk to wildlife in the river comes from sediment settling out of the runoff into the river and onto trout eggs. The sediment could suffocate the eggs, he said.Adult fish could probably endure the murky water or move to a clearer part of the river, he said. City Manager Jeff Hecksel received phone calls and e-mails about the runoff, and said he’d been out to look at the site informally. “There was a heck of a lot of water,” he said. The site’s detention ponds were full, and water running through the hay bales was the same color coming out as it was going in, he said. The runoff looks bad when it meets the river, but is not as bad as it seems, Kelley said.”Just a little bit of color goes a long way,” he said.


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