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Week in review

Staff reports
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado ” A two-year community health risk assessment of Garfield County residents found that there is not a “health crisis” because of rapid natural gas development in the county.

But an environmental risk assessment ” which was based on mathematical modeling of emissions from a single well ” found that people who are close to oil and gas operations may face higher health risks, like cancer, because of higher rates of benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen.

The modeling also found that people who are farther and farther away from gas operations may face lower health risks from potential benzene exposure, said Teresa Coons, senior scientist for the Saccomanno Research Institute at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, which conducted the two-year assessment along with Mesa State College.



“Those are probability statements,” said Coons, referring to the assessment’s findings regarding potential health risks near oil and gas operations. “We can’t say for sure that somebody will be harmed.”

Russell Walker, a professor of environmental science at Mesa State College who conducted the mathematical modeling, said his research showed that for distances up to a couple of hundred of yards from the gas operation he analyzed benzene concentrations could be significant.



GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Valley View Hospital executives, including chief clinical officer Deb Wiepking, made the decision earlier in the week to close the Roaring Fork Hospice Program by July 1.

“The issue for us is not financial,” Wiepking said. “We don’t do this to make money.”

The decision to close the program, which has aided terminally ill patents during their final days for more than 10 years in the valley, was due to a shortage of staff, volunteers, and patients, according to Wiepking.

“It was the human resource piece of it,” Wiepking said. “We gave it our best shot, we gave it six months and I thought we would have two more nurses the beginning of May and they fell through.”

According to Wiepking, the program was down to only one part-time nurse, Patti Mieley, who also happened to be the Roaring Fork Hospice director. However, Wiepking indicated that the hospital has known that closing the program was a possibility for a while.

“It was a very difficult decision and it breaks my heart that we can no longer provide this service for the valley,” Wiepking said.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” On Friday morning, Jason Carey received the e-mail he’d been waiting for.

The message was from the governing body of the United States Freestyle Kayaking Association saying that the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, which Carey designed and his company Riverrestoration.org constructed, was awarded the 2009 U.S. Kayak Freestyle Team Trials that lead to the 2009 World Championships.

Carey’s calm voice hid his excitement Friday morning.

“It’s everything we hoped for, and it came true,” Carey said.

For Carey, the whitewater park’s success means more to him than just a professional accomplishment. It’s testimony for a philosophy that he’s gained through the sport of kayaking.

“We do a lot of this work because we just believe in it and appreciate being able to introduce people to the river,” he said.

But now having the U.S. team trials in Glenwood Springs is like a dream come true for all involved in making the park a reality.

“That is awesome,” said whitewater park committee chair Joe Mollica. “We knew that this thing would eventually come, but we didn’t know that it was going to happen this fast.”

RIFLE, Colorado ” The city of Rifle announced on Tuesday that it will be home to one of the largest combined solar energy systems in the United States when the project goes online within the next five years.

Two systems of combined municipal photovoltaic solar rollouts are expected to operate at a total of 2.3 megawatts and be deployed over the next 20 years under a solar power services agreement (SPSA) with SunEdison, headquartered in Maryland, North America’s largest solar energy service provider.

A 1.72 megawatt photovoltaic system will go online at the Rifle Regional Wastewater Reclamation Facility ” the slated site of the new wastewater treatment facility ” and the other 0.6 megawatt system at the Colorado River Raw Water Pump Station at the Rifle Pond.

“This will happen at no cost to the residents and there won’t be anything like it in the state,” said Charlie Stevens, utility director for the city of Rifle.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Garfield County officials are seeking the help of a water attorney and a water engineer to help them comply with a bill the legislature passed this year.

That legislation requires developers of proposed developments of 50 or more single-family homes to demonstrate to local governments that the water supply for their proposed development application would be sufficient and stable.

A memo from the county attorney’s office said the law prohibits a local government from approving those developments unless it first determines that a developer has “satisfactorily demonstrated that the proposed water supply will be adequate.”

County commissioners, on a unanimous vote, agreed to give the county attorney’s office the ability to retain a water attorney and water engineer as the county begins complying with HB 1141, which was written by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison.

Deborah Quinn, assistant Garfield County attorney, said it was necessary to start seeking help immediately because HB 1141 is currently in effect, and that building permits that can fall under the law’s purview may be coming to the county.

County Attorney Don DeFord said the cost to retain a water attorney and engineer is expected to be around $10,000.


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