Heavy Metals Found in Southeastern El Paso County Ponds

These are photos of the two ponds in southeastern El Paso County.
They were taken last year by a landowner whose property is right next door.
He was concerned and surprised because the water was such a bright blue color.
Another El Paso County resident, Elvin Henderson tells me ... one of his cows wandered into this field, drank the water and died. He says two other pregnant cows miscarried soon afterwards.
Elvin says, "One of the cows died within 50 to 75 yards of the ponds. We knew they were in it because there were tracks and cow manure all over the ground and the pond itself and then we had two cows abort their calves."
The landowner's photos and complaint made their way from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Attorney General's office to the state health department.
Its team of inspectors collected samples three months ago which revealed high concentrations of heavy metals.
Kip Petersen with the Cherokee Metropolitan District says, "Sounds horribly scary doesn't it? Cadmium, beryllium, cobalt, nickel, zinc, copper... I think those were the six and some at thousands of the allowable drinking water standard."
Petersen is the general manager of Cherokee... which provides drinking water to more than 18,000 residents in El Paso County.
What alarms him... the close proximity of the ponds to one of Cherokee's wells just 500 feet away.
He says this well was initially shut down and tested... finding no problems with the water.
The water is back online. Still, Cherokee must now test the well on a quarterly basis and even send out employees weekly to monitor its output. The extra work has already cost the district $5,000.
Petersen adds, "I'm hopeful that there will be punitive action taken. Obviously remedial action has to be taken."
The state tells me a research and development chemist who works here at this Colorado Springs company is the sole operator of the ponds.
I found Shawn MacMillan at Diamond Materials Tech, Inc. He told me he was doing the work at the ponds as an independent contrator for Diamond Materials Tech and had his company's permission to proceed with the pilot project.
MacMillan gave me a piece of scrap nickel to explain the idea behind all of this. He calls it a state-of-the-art concept.
Instead of sending off the company's waste to an approved landfill, he wanted to go green... constructing these ponds... letting the liquids evaporate, leaving behind solid metal.
Then this material would be sold to a scrap metal dealer who would recycle it.
MacMillan says the nine to 12 month long operation had him transporting between 10,000 to 100,000 gallons of material from the Springs plant to this property which belongs to a friend in southeastern El Paso County.
He says he was monitoring the site and had no idea anyone questioned it till federal and state officials called him.
He says once he was aware how close the ponds were to Cherokee's well... he became concerned and immediately shut down operations as directed.
MacMillan says the good news... his idea worked. The bad news... the proper permit was never obtained.
Warren Smith with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says, "We are still weighing our enforcement options. There are penalties that can be assessed under the statute. It's a little early to talk about that just yet."
Smith says both MacMillan and Diamond Materials Tech could be fined.
He says both are cooperating with the state and the ponds have been drained.
Next, the liners will be removed and the ground water and soil underneath the ponds will be tested... making sure none of the metals can make their way to Cherokee's well.
Diamond Materials Tech gave us a statement saying it operates over and above state environmental requirements and has complied with all requests. It says it's continuing to review the situation and take appropriate action to ensure a satisfactory conclusion.
Health department officials vow to stay on top of the matter to ensure the water and the environment are protected.


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  • by Gary Location: Colorado Springs on May 14, 2010 at 06:58 AM
    The good news is the chemist says it Works!! Of course he says it works he came up with the scheme. Does it really work? There have been huge million dollar projects such as this that did not work What testing do we have that it worked, his viewpoint? Great that should do it . Do we have any authority in Colorado that enforces this? I am not sure whose jurisdication this is? Does anyone know? Other states would never allow this to happen. Why does Colorado Springs take such a hoo humm approach?
  • by Jim Location: El Paso County on May 9, 2010 at 08:33 PM
    Thats gotta be about the ugliest state of the art concept I've ever layed eyes on. But hey; the good news is that the chemist says it works. The bad news is that "he got caught".
  • by Rex Location: Calhan on May 9, 2010 at 01:17 PM
    Thanks for the heads up. Companies should be held more accountable for there actions when it could pose a threat to our drinking water.
  • by Gary Location: colorado Springs on May 4, 2010 at 08:35 PM
    Why is no one asking why Dave Hacker the Vice President of the Water Board and a former employee of DWT and Friend of the founder John Hodsden not being asked his involvement? The water board is a public customer owned board? They need to be aware of this connection
  • by Terry Location: colorado springs on May 4, 2010 at 08:28 PM
    There is far more to this story. 1. The Vice President of the water Board is Mr. Hacker, who is a former employee of Diamond Wire Technology, So you have a water board member helping with this process? 2. The company has been in business for over 15 years. Old name was Diamond Wire Technology, just got sold to a large corporation from Switzerland. Old address was 1605 S. Murray. Anybody asking what has been happening to the hazardous waste all those years. Hate to see the clean up bill the old owner of the building at Murray had and by the way Murray address is right next to a stream on Murray and Fountain 3. The chemist works for Diamond Material he is not a subcontractor The management knows full well what is going on. They should have their doors shut!
  • by Tom Location: C.S. on May 3, 2010 at 06:10 PM
    I would like to know what keeps this "state of the art" concept from overflowing onto the grounds in the event of heavy rainstorms etc. Also, how does this chemist expect the evaporation process to have any value during sub zero temperatures? I find it hard to believe that anything finds its way to a recycler. If so, they shouldn't have a problem showing receipts from the recycler. They're lying to the media and the epa. It ******* me off to think they might get away with this.
  • by Peter Location: El Paso county on May 3, 2010 at 04:35 PM
    how many times did this pond get washed out with last years heavy rains
  • by El Pasoan Location: El Paso on May 3, 2010 at 08:41 AM
    I would give KKTV its due credit in the reporting of this possible environmental incident, however because of its lack of making any efforts to share this with the local news reporting agencies is just downright ignorant! It brings no surprise to me at all! There has been NO REPORT OF HEAVY METALS IN EAST EL PASO COUNTY!! KKTV, I hope you let the local reporting agencies aware of what you reported! I'll be watching for your story to "surface"!
  • by Don Location: Pueblo on May 3, 2010 at 08:24 AM
    Going green? Gotta be kidding; looks more like a get rich quick scheme. I hope the taxpayers aren't left holding the bag on this one. Diamond Wire should have asked to see the proper permits and license of this chemist. One can only hope that the attorney general, Dept of health, and EPA get to the bottom of this mess. If this is "going green" we're in trouble!
  • by John Location: Peyton on May 2, 2010 at 06:44 PM
    You would think that upper management would have a better handle on this. To let an atrocity such as this to happen in the first place is totally unexcusable. My bet is that this has gone on much longer than they claim.
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