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Metro districts deal with wastewater woes

The Environmental Planning department of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments is responsible for the county’s water quality plan under section 208 of the Federal Clean Water Act. Rich Muzzy, environmental program manager at the PPACG, said, “PPACG is the lead water quality management planning agency for El Paso, Teller and Park counties. We were designated as the lead water quality management-planning agency by the governor in the 1970s. And one of those functions as a water quality management agency is to develop a water quality management plan.” The 208 plan was last updated in 2003. Muzzy said a new draft of the plan should be released next month.Meanwhile, eastern El Paso County metropolitan districts are moving forward with their wastewater treatment plans.”The 208 plan encourages the consolidation of services whenever possible as it relates to water treatment facilities but it doesn’t provide real clear guidance on what’s going to happen,” said Kip Petersen, general manager of the Cherokee Metropolitan District. “It’s just the way the process works. The county has looked at it and encourages central water and sewer when feasible.”The Cherokee Metropolitan District in partnership with the Meridian Service Metropolitan District is building a new $30 million Black Squirrel Wastewater Treatment Facility south of Shriever Air Force Base. The plant is a mechanical wastewater treatment plant that will use modern sequential batch reactor technology, Petersen said. The new plant is expected to be operational no later than March 2010, he said.”The reason Cherokee is building a new wastewater treatment plant is not because of all the development in the district; it’s because the state and federal government have changed the stream standards that we discharge to and made them very much more stringent than what they used to be,” Petersen said. “And at our existing wastewater treatment plant here, (which is) a lagoon system, it cannot meet those standards. There’s no way it can meet those standards.”In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the Update of Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Ammonia. In Colorado, the Water Quality Control Commission did not adopt the standard until 2005, according to the WQCC regulation No. 31: The Basic Standards and Methodologies for Surface Water.The Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association published a document commenting on the impact of the standards. “Lagoon systems in particular will see the worst of this change. Many lagoon systems will need to make the transition to mechanical plants to meet the new requirements.” Cherokee Metropolitan District as well as Sunset Metropolitan District and Woodmen Hills/Paint Brush Hills Metropolitan Districts all operate as lagoon systems.The Sunset Metropolitan District broke ground on a centralized sewer system in May 2008, but the economic downturn stalled the plans. The plant had been planned for the intersection of Falcon and Peyton highways. Sean Chambers, project manager for SMD, said the plant would serve as a regional facility for the Upper Black Squirrel Basin. Chambers said the location was efficient because water flowed to it by the flow of gravity. “It was put in this location and designed so it could collect waste water from as far as Falcon and as far north as Peyton,” he said.”The main advantage we have out here is that this facility has already got a site application approval, which is a kind of lengthy process you go through with the state – providing different engineering, the location of other treatment facilities, the location of nearby wells. So, even though it’s 50 acres of raw dirt that we started moving around and never got any further with, the entitlements, in terms of state approvals and EPA approvals, are very valuable, and they’re approvals that take years to get.”The Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District and the Paint Brush Hills Metropolitan District are planning to build a wastewater treatment facility as partners. They plan to provide wastewater treatment for Sterling Ranch as well.At an August Woodmen Hills district meeting, Woodmen Hills manager Larry Bishop said that John McGuinn, WHMD district engineer, presented the required sewer report for Sterling Ranch for the preliminary plat, which is approved for up to 750 single family units. Bishop also said the Sterling Ranch plan ultimately includes 5225 units, which would result in $5.2 million in tap fees for Woodmen Hills and Paint Brush Hills.Bishop also announced at the meeting that Woodmen Hills and Paint Brush Hills had received a category 1 status for obtaining funds from the state revolving fund, and it could mean $11 million for a new wastewater treatment plant. The final determination will be made in 2010. “The reason we moved up is because we have a wastewater plant that’s not in compliance anymore and will not be able to get into compliance under its current configuration,” Bishop said. “Keep your fingers crossed, say your prayers at night, cross everything that you can cross and hopefully we’ll get that stimulus money.”

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