Who will own and run the plant?
By Kristy Acuff
How much water will be needed for residents and who will ultimately own and operate the wastewater treatment plant are two primary issues that emerged from Friday’s public hearing over the Corner at Brush Creek. According to the developers, residents at the proposed Corner at Brush Creek will use an estimated 50,000 gallons of water daily at full build-out. The question then is: where is it going to come from?
According to project engineer Tyler Harpel, who spoke at Friday’s county public hearing, one well may be sufficient to supply the need but the project proposes two wells just in case.
“We have tested many wells in the adjacent areas which, by themselves, produce the flow needed for this project, so we anticipate needing to drill only one well. Anything we drill cannot have any others within a 600-foot radius, which minimizes the impact to existing wells in the area,” said Harpel at the hearing. “We aren’t intending to pull water directly out of the Slate River. The water will come from one or two wells that pull from the ground water aquifer. After the water is used and treated, most of it will discharge back into the Slate River so there is very little net loss to the river.”
Gatesco representatives said that because the proposed project falls outside of the East River Sanitation District’s boundaries, developers will construct a stand-alone wastewater treatment facility, similar to the one in Crested Butte South. The facility will discharge into the Slate River.
“Citizens can be very wary of treatment plants, but look at the one in Crested Butte South,” said Harpel. “Boaters enter the river directly adjacent to the treatment plant’s discharge pipes. The water that comes out of the plant is cleaner than what is already in the river in most cases because it has been disinfected.” If the plant used chlorine as a disinfectant, any water discharging back into the river would first have to be de-chlorinated to prevent contamination to the riparian systems.
East River Sanitation District director Mike Billingsley stated at the hearing that ultimately, the county would own and operate the treatment plant. “In section 12, H4, of county land use regulations, it states that ‘the developer shall provide the county deed to the plant and the board of commissioners will provide an operator for the system,’” stated Billingsley. “That means the county will own the wastewater treatment system and have to provide an operator to run it. I just wanted that to be made clear.”
“This proposal is unusual in that it is solely rental properties and there is no homeowners association tied to it. Normally, with a development, the HOA takes over ownership and operation of the wastewater treatment,” said Cathie Pagano, county director of community and economic development, during a subsequent interview. “The county attorney and I are looking into the legality of the plant’s ownership. Frankly, we are not sure about who will own the plant ultimately.”