On September 6, 2017, the Albany County Commissioners signed a purchase agreement to buy approximately 5000 acres east of town from several holding companies owned by the former Warren Land and Livestock Company (now Doug Samuelson). The acreage connects the eastern edge of Laramie to the Medicine Bow National Forest and would provide excellent outdoor recreation opportunities as well as aquifer protection (the proposed purchase covers about 13% of the aquifer protection area). The purchase price is $14 million – about $2500/acre – and the county has a year to raise the money (currently the county has no funds available for this kind of project). City Land Contract DRAFT
The county commissioners appointed a “supercommittee” comprised of local leaders to manage the fundraising effort. The supercommittee is chaired by State Senator Chris Rothfuss and includes State Representative Dan Furphy, City Councilor Bryan Shuster, UW Trustee Kermit Brown, County Commissioner Terri Jones, Laramie Rivers Conservation District director Tony Hoch, and former State Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite. Other community members can participate on subcommittees focused on aquifer protection/wildlife/recreation, economic development, and communications. The Wyoming Community Foundation will act as the fiscal agent for contributions toward the purchase, thereby making these contributions potentially tax-deductible for the donor.
At their December 6th meeting, the supercommittee decided to develop a website to facilitate public input (location to be announced).
The City of Laramie Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) ultimately decided that they would not “relax” the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan (Table 15.08.040.A Prohibited Activities.) list of prohib uses
The proposal to relax Prohibited Uses was based on a memo by a city consultant and supported by City Planning staff. The memo and subsequent staff proposal would have allowed application to develop over the Aquifer and allow for “Project Specific Report Eligibility.”
If this recommendation had been adopted, developers could have bypassed the prohibited activities to allow use and storage of hazardous materials over the aquifer. The final decision means that new businesses that use or store hazardous wastes will not be allowed to operate over the aquifer.
This decision was recommended by the Environmental Advisory Committee, urged by ACCWA and hundreds of citizens in petitions, letters to the editor, and attendance at scheduled meetings and was finally made by the City P&Z.
HAS THE AQUIFER BEEN CONTAMINATED?
The 2013 East Laramie Waste Water Feasibility Study evaluated 115 private wells and found that “approximately 65% of the East Grand area wells that were sampled show nitrate contamination, with 4% of the wells exceeding the EPA Drinking Water Standard for nitrates which is 10 mg/l.” [link]
Background nitrate concentrations fall between 0 and 2 mg/l. Recent monitor well data on the east side of Laramie encountered concentrations as high as 8.7 mg/l, but there are very few wells specifically designed to monitor aquifer contamination.
Regular sampling of the Laramie municipal supply wells has shown little indication of contamination, although an increasing trend in nitrates has been suggested [report link] and comprehensive sampling for the full suite of possible contaminants is quite rare.
ACCWA has concluded that historical aquifer contamination is largely confined to local areas of septic system recharge, but does not accept “barely legal” as an acceptable drinking water quality goal. We recognize the great value of the present, generally high quality of the Casper Aquifer, and seek to maintain that quality through appropriate preventative management strategies.
Septic system effluent, highway accidents, hazardous chemicals, animal waste, herbicides, pesticides, “urban runoff”, chemical spills, and improper chemical disposal can all add contaminants to the aquifer. The CAPP includes discussion and a local inventory [link]. Standard hydrogeology textbooks identify the importance of septic tanks [textbook link].
ACCWA accepts the compromise that identified the western boundary of the aquifer protection zone as the point at which 75 feet of undisturbed Satanka Shale is present. But mapping of that criterion must be based on the best available science, not the policy preferences of regulators. The county mapping is known to be in error and should be corrected. [link]
ACCWA strongly opposes the censorship of valid scientific data that is presently included in county regulations. [link}
The 2013 East Laramie Waste Water Feasibility Study evaluated 115 private wells and found that “approximately 65% of the East Grand area wells that were sampled show nitrate contamination, with 4% of the wells exceeding the EPA Drinking Water Standard for nitrates which is 10 mg/l.” [WWC Sewer Study]
- 5th Street PCE Plume. The DEQ is investigating the recently-identified PCE plume along 5th Street. PCE plume
The majority of the protection area is owned by two entities – Warren Livestock (and subsidiaries) – 41%, and Mountain Cement – 15%. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the University of Wyoming, and the State of Wyoming own isolated tracts across the recharge area – total 23%, and the remaining portions, closest to the city, are divided among many small land owners. This patch work of land owners makes aquifer management and land acquisition complicated.