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Sewer tap moratorium killing Bayfield builders
3/30/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
Bayfield home builders should not be shut down because of businesses putting too much food residue into the town sewer system.
That was the message from some audience members at a Bayfield Sanitation District work session held March 19 to consider options to keep the treatment lagoons operating within state permit limits.
Audience members involved in the building trades wanted a solution that would allow more sewer taps to be sold as soon as possible.
The town and sewer district imposed a moratorium on new sewer tap sales as of Feb. 21 to avoid a state-imposed moratorium on issuing building permits. This way, builders can get permits and do construction if they are willing to gamble that they will get a sewer tap when the building is almost finished.
Town and sewer district manager Justin Clifton advised that the most immediate goal is to give the state a lot more confidence that the treatment plant will stay within permit limits while the new plant is built.
Assorted fixes already approved or being discussed won’t increase plant capacity, he advised the builders. “I don’t know how the request (to the state) for increased taps would go,” he said.
Town and district engineer Brent Adams said, “Typically you go to the state (to ask for more capacity) after you have some period of performance data.”
Clifton said the dilemma is that the district needs to sell more taps to pay for the interim improvements. He and sewer board chairman Ed Morlan met with state officials in Denver on March. 16 to explain the complexity of the situation. County Commissioner Joelle Riddle and State Sen. Jim Isgar also attended.
“We told the state if we could pull out $2 million from thin air, we’d do it,” Clifton said. “Even the $500,000 doesn’t really exist. … You can hot-rod the lagoons to increase compliance confidence, or you can do a package plant.”
He continued, “The district and town wouldn’t suggest spending a lot of money without knowing it’ll get us somewhere – to have a clean river and to be able to recover the money with tap sales. The decision isn’t just ‘Is it good enough?’ Is it appropriate for the district to spend the money?”
Clifton said the state officials acknowledged the lagoons have been improved enough to handle 800 pounds per day of organic loading in summer (versus the permit limit of 600 pounds), but the plant was getting 1,200 pounds per day in January – when the lagoons don’t work as well because of the cold.
“No package plant will give us that,” Clifton said. “We’ll likely remain at a deficit (of capacity versus loading) regardless. … The package plant (idea) has gone around and around to where it’s this mystical solution. It’s a big fat assumption.”
The main solution is to reduce organic loading coming in, Morlan said. The district is working with businesses on that now, and urging residents to eliminate any food garbage or milk going down the drain.
Audience members pressed the need for new sewer taps.
“Every day you wait, the news travels fast,” Mike Pascha said. “It’s going to take a long time for Bayfield to recover. It (system improvements) should have been done years ago.”
The district could be fined if it doesn’t do interim improvements, Morlan said.
“That won’t hurt as much as we are being hurt,” Mesa Meadows developer Ted Caferral responded. “I’d like to see more than 30 permits a year for the next two years … I’m shut down. I have inventory I can’t sell. The loading doesn’t come from residential. It’s the commercial. So we are fixing the problem and I’m out of business.”
“It’s not as simple as high commercial users,” Clifton said. “All growth happened for too long without improving the infrastructure.”
The high-load commercial customers are bringing in plans to reduce their loading and they are installing sampling ports, he said.
“If what you ask the state for doesn’t increase capacity, what do we get out of it?” Caferral persisted.
Clifton said the worst case would be to have tap sales shut down until construction starts on the new plant. “Shut the entire economy down for the summer … We have to sell taps. That’s not a threat. It’s just the situation. Once so much time goes by, the damage is done” to local businesses, he said.
Sewer board member Todd Demko agreed, “The economic impact for not being able to build is too high. If we can’t lift this (tap moratorium), we’re all sunk.”
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