Climax Molybdenum asks for huge molybdenum increase in local drinking, ag water
What is molybdenum?
Molybdenum does not occur naturally as a free metal on Earth; it is found only in various oxidation states in minerals. The free element, a silvery metal with a gray cast, has the sixth-highest melting point of any element. It readily forms hard, stable carbides in alloys, and for this reason most of world production of the element — about 80 percent — is used in steel alloys, including high-strength alloys and superalloys.
The main known function of molybdenum in humans is to act as a catalyst for enzymes and to help facilitate the breakdown of certain amino acids in the body. Molybdenum combines with sulfite oxidase to catalyze sulfur-containing amino acids that are crucial for human health.
Average daily intake varies between 120 and 240 μg/day, which is higher than dietary recommendations. At levels of 5,000 mg/m3, molybdenum is immediately dangerous to life and health.
A proposal from Climax Molybdenum to increase allowable molybdenum concentrations in local waters was met with surprise and relative confusion Tuesday during the regular meeting of the Grand County Board of Commissioners.
County Water Quality Specialist Katherine Morris and Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer delved into a proposal the county received from Climax Molybdenum, a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan and operators of the Henderson Mill and Mine complex, to change state regulations regarding allowable molybdenum concentrations in water. The decision to change the standard is under the purview of the state’s Water Quality Control Commission, not Grand County.
According to information provided by Morris and Moyer, the state commission is set to decide on the issue at a hearing on Dec. 12.
The standards for allowable molybdenum are set by the state and changes to those standards can impact both drinking water and agricultural water uses. Climax is proposing increasing the allowable standard for molybdenum concentrations in domestic drinking water from 210 micrograms per liter to 9,000 micrograms per liter. They are also seeking an increase in allowable molybdenum levels in agriculture water, from 160 micrograms to 1,000 micrograms.
County Commissioner Rich Cimino indicated he was not supportive of Climax’s proposed increases.
“The standard is the standard, and safety is safety, why would we relax it?” Cimino asked rhetorically.
County Commissioner Merrit Linke echoed Cimino’s comments.
“These are factors of what, 20, to change the standard?” Linke asked. “I don’t think we are going there. If it was a little bit, if it was going from say 210 to 300 maybe that is justifiable, but factors of 40, I don’t think so. No, would be the answer for me.”
No reason for the proposed increase was discussed during the meeting.
Windy Gap Reservior bypass project cost set at over $15 million
A review of the Windy Gap Reservoir modification and connectivity channel was also on the agenda Tuesday.
Moyer highlighted that the application for an amended decree and bypass water rights has been submitted to the appropriate water court by Northern Water and the Colorado River District.
Value engineering has been performed on the project, which helped lower the anticipated infrastructure costs of the bypass by roughly $1 million. After adding in approximately $1.4 million for NEPA permitting, monitoring and administration, the total cost of the bypass project is set at $15.6 million.
Moyer informed commissioners that funding for the project is still about $5 million short.
“We have ongoing efforts for fundraising,” Moyer said, highlighting several tours conducted in the last month with prospective foundations, such as the Walton Family Foundation, which toured the project site in late September. Moyer will attend a funding meeting for the project at Denver Water facilities this week and has more follow-up meetings next week.
Moyer also provided a brief update on the ongoing Learning By Doing adaptive management process of which Grand County is a party.
After briefly highlighting the successful completion of the Fraser Flats Habitat Project this fall, Moyer delved into what the Learning By Doing group has on deck for the coming year.
“We are coming up with public-private-partnership, river restoration funding guidelines/matrix,” Moyer said. “When we have public funding we need to really look at, if this is a private landowner and don’t have money to put into the project, how do we treat that? Do we ask for public access? These are public dollars and we need to be very careful and consistent with how we utilize them and come up with a matrix. We are doing that as well as identifying a 2018 and 2019 project right now.”
County Commissioner Kris Manguso questioned where funding for future projects for the Learning By Doing group would be derived, to which Moyer answered that those funds come from the management committee as designated by the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.
Moyer specifically highlighted $4 million is earmarked for Learning By Doing, but funds will not released until after the Gross Reservoir Expansion project receives final permitting.
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