Friday, April 11, 2008

Official's Response

Councilperson Doug Linkhart took seriously a letter I handed him and emailed me his reply in just a few days. In my letter, I called attention to the serious toxic pollution being added to Washington Park’s Grasmere Lake and City Park’s Ferril Lake (and various grasslands) by way of the input to our recycling system from Lowry Landfill Superfund Site at a rate of 15 to 25 gallons per minute. I included The List (of 158 pollutants and 10 radionuclides).

Linkhart’s reply:

Dear Mr. Trumbule:

Thanks for the letter you handed me Wednesday night (dated December 29, 2007). It gave me an opportunity to look into an environmental issue that is certainly worth being concerned about. Here’s what engineers from the City’s Department of Environmental Health told me:

It is true that there are a number of pollutants permitted: what’s important, however, is that the chart which you attached to your letter (for the Lowry Wastewater Discharge Permit) establishes an absolute upper limit to what can be released, or the permit can be revoked. The list of pollutants isn’t pretty, but these are materials already rampant in our environment, and the goal has to be to restrict them to the point of elimination. The engineers assure me these upper limits are small. More importantly, when blended at the nine-million-gallon Reclamation Plant (which focuses on removing other types of pollutants, like phosphates), the amounts are diluted to miniscule amounts.

Reclaimed water is never considered potable, and that message is posted widely. City engineers monitor all lakes regularly, and publish their reports online:

Reclaiming water is a far-from-perfect science. But I think the goal of conserving fresh water, while keeping our public parks alive and green, isn’t just worthy, but essential. We just need to keep improving the system as best we can.

Doug Linkhart

Councilman at-Large
1437 Bannock St., Rm 451
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (720) 865-8000 FAX: (720) 865-8003

My reply:

From: Gerald Trumbule
Sent: Friday, January 25, 2008 7:36 PM
To: Linkhartatlarge - City Council
Subject: Re: Response to your letter

Councilman Linkhart:

Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful reply to my concerns. While I disagree with most of the points provided you by the Department of Environmental Health, I don't expect you to become the intermediary between us. However, for your own information, I should point out that:

1. Records show that there have been many "exceedances" of the limits, and the permit has not been revoked. Also, in comparing the current permit with the previous one, the volume of all of the pollutants has been increased and the allowable level of one pollutant, Beryllium, was increased 2490%. Also, 5 new pollutants were added. Clearly the "allowable" levels are determined by what is coming from Lowry, and not what is safe for humans and animals.

2. Many of the pollutants and radionuclides are not "rampant in our environment" and certainly not in Ferril and Grasmere Lakes before the relatively pristine Denver Ditch water was switched to "recycled" water with the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site highly toxic water in it.

3. Adding more of a pollutant does not aide in reducing the amount to zero.
4. The adage "dilution is not the solution to pollution" is still true.

5. No amount of radionuclides should be added to our parks and lakes. These heavy metals do not evaporate and only accumulate over time. They are all carcinogens.

6. The City of Denver regularly violates the dictates of State Reg. 84, concerning the use of recycled water. For example, Reg. 84 states that the water should not be allowed to "puddle", but Denver is filling lakes with it.

7. If the amount of Lowry water is small, then adding it to our sewer water is unnecessary. Recycling the large volume of sewer water is, in itself, a good, environmentally sound idea. Adding the Lowry toxins, not so good.

The only purpose served by the current 50-year contract is to alleviate the cost of cleanup for the major polluters at Lowry, some of the largest corporations in our state. Incidentally, records show that these same corporations were directly implicated in the removal of one of our outstanding teachers at CU, who was making these same points public. Reference the American Association of University Professors report at

Your reference to the Lake Reports was very helpful. I followed up on it and spoke with the engineer who writes the reports. He was very cooperative, even promising to add some of the listed pollutants to his upcoming tests, and to provide me with the longitudinal data necessary to demonstrate the changes resulting from the addition of the Lowry water.

I look forward to working with you on this issue in the future, as I am sure that we both have the same goal in mind: to provide a clean and safe environment for the citizens of Denver. The solution is actually quite simple. The Lowry Superfund Site Industrial Wastewater Discharge Permit No. 2360-3-1A must be permanently revoked.

Jerry Trumbule

And Linkhart’s follow-up:

Dear Mr. Trumbule:

I’m glad you found some of the information useful, and city staff helpful. It can be challenging to keep up with technical information on every issue, so I appreciate you keeping me informed.

Best regards,
Doug Linkhart
Councilman at-Large


  1. Anonymous4:39 PM

    So what about playing in the city park / natural history museum fountains? Kids do that all the time. Is it potable, safe water?

  2. Very good question, to which I do not have the answer. Perhaps an email to your City Council person or directly to Parks and Rec would be in order. Let us know what you find out.

  3. Christian - I think this should help answer your question about kids being safe in the park - this is a FAQ for California Redwoods. But the California regulations on recycled water are very similar if not identical to Colorado's: