Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Orders Denver Water to Pollute our Waterways. Greenway Foundation Sues to Stop the Practice

The Greenway Foundation
On April 19, 2018, The Greenway Foundation entered into litigation for the first time in its 44 year mission to Revitalize Rivers and Reconnect Communities.

Since 1974, The Greenway Foundation (TGF) has been a leading force in the resurrection, reclamation and revitalization of the South Platte River and its numerous tributaries. Thanks to the support of everyone reading this appeal and so many more, over the last four decades these priceless urban waterways have evolved from polluted and abandoned eyesores into once again our community’s greatest natural resources. Whether you value over 100 acres of riverside parks and natural areas, 100 + miles of multi-use recreational trails or more than 100,000 linear feet of stream corridors now healthy enough to sustain numerous species of native cold water fish, these vital environmental assets are testimony to the longstanding goal of TGF that “one day, the best place to live, work and play will be along the banks of the South Platte River ”. “One day” is today.

This 20 inch rainbow trout was caught & released by John Davenport on 5/18/2018 from Shoemaker Plaza. It was part of an experimental March 2017 stocking of 14 to 16 inch trout. They have thrived in this stretch of MileHi Stadium- Elitch Gardens – Confluence Park, moving back and forth for food, shelter and cool temperatures. Denver anglers and visitors are enjoying this new catch & release fishery.

But now, a new threat is facing this very Watershed due to a recent mandate by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) requiring Denver Water to add orthophosphates to all of its water supplies. Given the interconnected nature of the metropolitan area’s water and wastewater systems the impacts of this decision are regional, affecting multiple utilities and more specifically our plea to you, we need to protect the precious surface waters and ecosystems in the watershed. CDPHE’s claimed basis for this ill-advised decision, (made without consulting the public , concerned groups or even TGF), is to reduce lead in our community’s drinking water systems – a goal shared by everyone in both the public and private sectors, and TGF. But there are other options!

Orthophosphates do, indeed, control corrosion of lead water pipes but their introduction into water systems also triggers increased algae growth, creating harmful algal blooms (HAB’s) which can be harmful or even toxic to drinking water, body contact, aquatic life, birds, mammals and beyond. There are other water treatment measures that also help control levels of lead in drinking systems, including pH adjustment, without the potentially deadly counter effect involved with the use of orthophosphates. Moreover, the introduction of orthophosphates as the treatment method, once implemented, is irreversible. Thus, the damage to the watershed will be continuous and also irreversible.

Despite numerous appeals to CDPHE from TGF, Denver Water, Aurora Water, the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and many other related public entities to enter into a collaborative discussion of this critical matter, CDPHE unilaterally initiated this ill-advised mandate.

Therefore, at the June, 2018 Meeting of TGF’s Board of Directors, the Board Members instructed my office to take legal action in District Court, asking the Court to issue a stay involving the decision to require the use of orthophosphates in drinking water. We are joined in this litigation by Aurora Water and Metro Wastewater Reclamation District. It is important to note that this is the first time that TGF has ever been involved in litigation of any kind in its 44 year history. TGF’s longstanding approach to doing business in serious matters of this nature has always been to “cooperate and collaborate instead of legislate and litigate”. Cooperative approaches were offered to CDPHE in this critical matter to no avail.

TGF and the other parties involved in this matter are ready to voluntarily and immediately request that the court stay the current legal proceedings if CDPHE will, in turn, issue a stay regarding their decision to mandate use of orthophosphates in our drinking water system. Collaboration can, indeed, triumph over litigation. This offer has been made directly and repeatedly to CDPHE as well as to the office of the Governor of Colorado, including this letter to Governor Hickenlooper that was sent to the Governor by my office last week on Thursday, June 7th. Again, to no avail.

Everyone reading this appeal is strongly encouraged to reach out to the Governor’s office as well. The Governor has the unilateral authority to issue the requested stay of CDPHE’s decision.

Reducing lead in service lines is a goal shared by all. That stated, CDPHE needs to re-evaluate its decision involving the addition of orthophosphates as a means of achieving this goal and, instead, select other effective treatment measures that to do not adversely and permanently harm our watersheds and reservoirs. The Greenway Foundation is firmly dedicated to engaging with anyone and everyone to see this goal evolve to reality. However, as long as CDPHE’s decision involving the use of orthophosphates remains in place, TGF’s unwanted but unavoidable leadership in the related litigation measures will remain in place.

I welcome any and all questions, thoughts, suggestions regarding this critical issue. I will periodically post related updates as this matter moves forward.

As always, your support of The Greenway Foundation is greatly appreciated!

Jeff Shoemaker

Executive Director
For more information or to donate, please visit


One Comment on “Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Orders Denver Water to Pollute our Waterways. Greenway Foundation Sues to Stop the Practice”

Have a Comment? Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.