Sewer problem spurs fines, letters, notices

DEQ likely to hand out reprimands for north side sewer deficiency; ownership of line still in dispute

 


The Saratoga Water and Sewer Joint Powers Board (sewer board) met Wednesday to deal with routine business, but the long-running issue of the sewer line running under Hwy 30 that is causing issues for local business owners became murkier as Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) waded into the fray.

The sewer line that serves Happy Tails Dog Boarding and the Saratoga Feed Store has been problematic for months, with complaints to the board going as far back as March. According Pam Waldner, owner of Happy Tails, the sewer line backs up and causes sewage to collect on the ground where the two lines from the businesses meet a third line that runs under HWY 30 and connects to the Town of Saratoga’s main.

That line is a bone of contention between the business owners and the Town of Saratoga, with both parties claiming the other party is responsible for the line and its maintenance.

After months of arguing between the parties and deals and agreements that never came to fruition, engineers from the DEQ visited the site and met with the business owners and representatives from the sewer board.

At the end of that meeting, the DEQ said the sewer system was not up to code and was causing a hazardous condition, and that all three parties may be held liable and may be issued letters of violation, or Notices of Violation (NOV). A letter of violation is a more informal action, whereas the NOV is formal and can lead to investigations, fines or other actions.


“We look at the sewer collection system as a whole,” said Seth Tourney, one of the DEQ engineers who was at the meeting. “Is the sewage being transported from the customer generating the sewage to the plant.

“In this case, that is not happening.”

The DEQ, Tourney said, was trying to encourage the three parties to come to an agreement to find a way to work together to fix the problem. To that end, a letter was drafted between the owners of the two businesses and the town of Saratoga.

The owners of the business agreed to install a manhole on private property where the three lines come together, Waldner said. The two businesses would have paid for the manhole themselves, she said.

For its part, the city of Saratoga would install a clean-out point for the line that runs under the state highway.

Waldner said she and the owner of Saratoga Feed Store had agreed to the terms, signed the letter and sent it to the town for approval.

But as of Wednesday’s meeting, the town had not agreed to the terms in the letter and had not accepted the proposed deal.

Sewer Board member Richard Raymer said at the meeting that the decision to accept the terms of the letter or not must be voted on by at least the sewer board, and most likely the Town Council as well.

Saratoga Mayor Ed Glode, said that the key issue for the town is ownership of the line that runs under the highway. The town, Glode said, did not install the line nor permit it to be installed, and because of that the town does not want to accept responsibility for the line.

“The town is not in the position to take ownership of that line,” Glode said. “The line is not up to any sort of state code. How badly do you want to close the highway for a month while we’re fiddling with that?”

Last month, Raymer said the line under the highway was likely part of a “good old boy” deal, and was not installed by, or with the formal permission of, the town.

Glode agreed and said the line was installed about 40 years ago by a private landowner, adding that there were multiple illegal lines that have been installed around town.

“The DEQ had made a determination that it must have been the town’s line,” he said. “That’s outside their scope of authority to make the determination; they’re engineers, not attorneys.”

Tourney said the DEQ was not in the position to determine ownership of the lines, but looks at the issue purely from the standpoint of there being a violation.

“We’re coming from an outside perspective where it appears everyone involved has some sort of responsibility,” Tourney said. “So we’re putting pressure from our side saying ‘you guys need to come together and solve this.’”

Tourney also said that unless the town can produce evidence showing that it is not responsible for the line under the highway, the agency will continue to consider all parties liable.

Glode, said he believes that such evidence will be forthcoming. “We’re doing research between here and Cheyenne—this is not the not the only example in Wyoming of something like this going on—so how does this need to be handled.”

“I know that line doesn’t belong to the town,” Glode said. I just don’t have a document to prove that yet.”

 

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