Water trickles from a storm drain into Boulder Creek as a cyclist goes by on Friday in Boulder.(Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
Water trickles from a storm drain into Boulder Creek as a cyclist goes by on Friday in Boulder.(Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is issuing new guidelines for how the University of Colorado Boulder and other entities handle stormwater, including how stormwater is discharged into Boulder Creek.

A pipe spans across Boulder Creek from the University of Colorado Boulder campus and is connected to an unmarked building. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

“The existing and new renewed permit allows CU to discharge stormwater from places like campus roads, parking lots and construction sites into Boulder Creek,” department spokesperson Erin Garcia wrote in an email. “This kind of campus stormwater, if uncontrolled, could be a major source of pollution to Boulder Creek — including E. coli pollution.”

CU Boulder, Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District all operate under similar nonstandard stormwater permits, which require public education and outreach, illicit discharge detection and elimination, pollution prevention and managing stormwater at construction sites.

Some differences in individual permits are based on whether the entities discharge directly into surface water, which requires additional monitoring, public education and storm sewer cleaning.

CU Boulder discharges into Boulder Creek at several points, said spokesperson Josh Lindenstein, some of which are shared with the city.

CU Boulder’s renewed permit includes more protections for Boulder Creek, Garcia said, including closing a previous exception where some CU facilities may not have been required to put stormwater controls in place; ensuring permanent stormwater controls are built, maintained and operational; and making sure that the university effectively supervises construction sites so that polluted stormwater runoff is adequately treated and controlled before it goes into the creek.

“The permit also includes specific requirements for the university to address E. coli in discharges to Boulder Creek, including storm sewer cleaning, new E. coli monitoring and transparent public E. coli reporting through (the Environmental Protection Agency’s) ECHO database,” Garcia wrote.

CU Boulder declined an interview request about the new permit, which goes into effect in November.

“CU Boulder continues to be proactive and care deeply about protecting stormwater quality to help ensure a healthy, safe environment,” Lindenstein said in a statement.

The university has worked closely with CDPHE to ensure best practices and compliance, Lindenstein said.

“We are reviewing the newly issued permit to assess the changes and create a plan for continued collaboration and compliance going forward,” he said.

CU Boulder does not have a metric for how much stormwater the campus discharges each year, Lindenstein said.