By Mike Dunn 

Citizens express concern over wastewater project

 


Alternatives cost prohibitive, Water and Sewer Board says

“I guess I have some real concerns with this project,” Saratoga resident Jeff Bullock said.

And he was not alone.

On March 6, the Saratoga Town Hall chambers were flooded with over 20 members from the community. It was the first time the Town of Saratoga/Carbon County Impact Joint Powers Board (Water and Sewer Board) had held a public hearing concerning the 2014 Wastewater Outfall Transmission Line and Pump Station Project.

Among those in the audience were fishing guides, landowners, town employees and residents of the Valley who simply care about the Upper North Platte River.

They were concerned the town has to now to dump their wastewater into the river. They were concerned that the Town of Saratoga will have to spend over $1 million on this project.

Water and Sewer Board Chairman Don Price, Will Faust, Richard Raymer, Russell Waldner and Sue Howe sat up front and were bombarded with questions from those concerned citizens.

Looking for Alternatives

For over 30 years, the town of Saratoga has dumped their treated wastewater into Hot Slough Creek.

That was until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got involved.

Fish habitat was discovered in the lagoons at Hot Slough Creek, changing the classification of the river from a class four, which excludes waters with fish habitat living in it, to a class two which includes aquatic life.

Meaning that amount ammonia needed to dilute the wastewater in the lagoon would be too high for EPA standards.

Thus, the Water and Sewer Board began the task of finding an alternative for the town’s wastewater.

After considering financial, environmental and efficiency concerns, the Joint Powers Board decided the best remedy to the town’s wastewater was constructing an effluent pump station and transmission line from the outlet of the Saratoga wastewater lagoons at Hot Slough Creek to the North Platte River.


Bullock was not convinced that the proposed project was the best solution.

“I don’t think that enough work has been done as far as involving community members, and making suggestions,” Bullock said. “I think that more work needs to be done before we begin this project. We need to look at more possibilities and including funding these possibilities.”

The Joint Powers Board said that they did look into several alternatives to the projects including wetlands and wastewater facility.

“We have looked at several options,” Price said.

Price explained using wetlands would not work. Town would not only have to construct an expensive new wetland facility in order sustain the amount of wastewater needed for the town, but would be inefficient in colder months.

“It probably wouldn’t work in colder temperatures,” Price said.

A mechanical plant was ruled out of considered as well.

“Just the initial costs is several millions of dollars,” Price said.

For the Water and Sewer Board, this project is not a matter of something they absolutely want to do, but something they have to do.

“In the best of all worlds, it would be nice just to leave it the way it is,” Price said. “But the EPA said we can’t do that.”

Government “Blackmail”

For Platte Valley resident Chris D’Amico, this project did not make sense. The town cannot dump into Hot Slough Creek because it has fish in it. The North Platte River also has fish in it. How does dumping into the river solve the problem?

“The next thing the (EPA) is going to tell you is ‘oh my god, you just raised the class of the river,’” D’Amico said.

“We are disturbing a Class II water and just putting in a Class I water. It doesn’t make sense,” D’Amico added.

The board explained it was a matter of dilution levels in the river.

“The same water that is going into the river after the project, is the same water that is going into the river before the project. It’s the same water, it’s just taking a different route to get to the river. The reason that we are putting the pipe in the bottom of the river, is to take advantage of the mixing of the current.”

Being forced to do this project still did not seem right to D’Amico and many others in the audience.

“Essentially (The EPA) are blackmailing the city of Saratoga,” D’Amico said. “It’s costing the city a million bucks … I think there is a time for somebody to put their foot down and say ‘you know what? We have more important things to do with that million dollars.’”

Other members of the public asked what would happen the town of Saratoga refused to do this project.

The board explained that non-compliance could lead to loss of all federal funding to the town.

“That is kind of the big hammer they hold over our head,” Faust said. “That was one of the questions (the board) asked initially.

Chuck McVey, operator for the Saratoga department of public works, said that it is important to note that the wastewater that will be going into North Platte River is not raw sewage.

“It is treated water. I would be more than happy to take anybody out there, I’ll take a glass from the bottom of the treatment plant and I will drink it myself. That water I have seen coming out of there, I have seen, personally, cleaner than anything coming out of that river.”

Several community members, including Water and Sewer Board members themselves, are still not entirely content with spending money on a transmission line to dump effluent into the river.

“I know when you get the information in the public notice, it seems like we didn’t look at anything and we just did this yesterday. But we have been working on this for a long time,” Waldner said.

The next Water and Sewer Board meeting will be 6 p.m., tonight at Saratoga Town Hall.

 

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