Saturday, June 6, 2020

Mt. CB Water and San disputes conditions of discharge permit

Hearing coming sometime this year

by Mark Reaman

Issues over a recently approved Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District wastewater discharge permit from the state that contained some strict provisions will be decided through a court hearing. These are the same provisions and conditions in the permit that the Water and San District has repeatedly objected to over the last year and half, but the state has insisted on the conditions as part of the permit renewal after concerns raised by property owners located below the wastewater treatment facility.

The Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a final renewal permit for the district on December 31, 2019. The Mt. Crested Butte Water and San sent a notice of appeal and request for a stay to the division on January 29. On Monday of last week the division granted the Water and San’s request for an “administrative adjudicatory hearing” over the permit. At the same time it denied most of the elements of the requested stay so the district will have to abide by most of the stricter protocols included with the issuance of the permit until a resolution has been reached after the outcome of the adjudicatory hearing.

The Mt. Crested Butte wastewater treatment facility is permitted to discharge 1.2 million gallons per day of treated effluent into Woods Creek that then flows into Washington Gulch and the Slate River.

When asked for a comment on the situation, MaryAnn Nason with the CDPHE wrote last week in an email, “The permit contains many conditions to protect Woods Creek, Washington Gulch and Slate River aquatic life and to protect the drinking water of those who use downstream wells close to the river. For instance, the permit limits the discharge of metals (like copper, zinc and lead) because those metals can significantly harm fish.

“The permit also limits Total Inorganic Nitrogen to protect downstream drinking water supplies. Total Inorganic Nitrogen acts as a limit for ammonia, nitrate and nitrite. At high levels, nitrate and nitrite can harm young infants by decreasing their ability to transport oxygen to their tissues. Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District has challenged all of these permit terms.”

Nason explained that the permit became effective February 1 and has a five-year term. “The permit allows us to regulate the entity and hold them accountable,” she said.

Nason followed up with a statement from the division explaining, “On February 10, the Water Quality Control Division issued an order granting Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District an administrative hearing on certain permit requirements, including the permit’s limits for metals to protect aquatic life and nitrogen limits to protect downstream drinking water supplies. This hearing will likely be held in the coming year.”

Continuing, Nason wrote, “Affected community members may seek to intervene in this hearing by emailing Meg Parish at meg.parish@state.co.us.

“In the order, the Water Quality Control Division also agreed to put on hold the permit’s new final limits for zinc and copper during the hearing process, but declined to put on hold any of the permit’s other requirements,” Nason added.

In its January appeal of the permit conditions, the Mt. Crested Butte Water and San stated that the state division calculated its most recent effluent limits assuming zero flow in Woods Creek and Washington Gulch for every month of the year.

The Mt. Crested Butte district’s appeal says that is absolutely false. It states that there is water flowing in both places all year-round. It also objected to what it said was the division changing the terms of the Renewal Permit.

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