CENTER — The Center Sanitation District is in the process of scheduling a USDA-required public meeting for its Waste Water Treatment Plan project, with the district’s engineering firm presenting at the meeting, publishing the required advertisement and taking meeting minutes.
The public meeting will be held on Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Center School District Auditorium. Copies of the meeting notice will be placed at town hall and the post office.
The sanitation district needs to renovate the waste treatment system and must take out a sizeable loan to do this. Waste water from one of three lagoons has been leaking and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) has issued an order to fix the problem, a Sanitation District spokesperson said.
CDPHE also changed the discharge permit from surface water to groundwater which means higher standards must be met. The new system will do all of this, bringing the water quality to near drinking quality with only a slightly high nitrate content.
At a December meeting with Center town trustees and Mayor Herman Sisneros, district members told the town they could expect monthly rates to double to cover the renovation costs. Currently monthly rates are $24.75 for residential and $32 for commercial users. Sanitation district bookkeeping consultant J.J. Bieriger said the town has about 800 paying users.
Sanitation board president George Welsh said at the meeting he believes Canon Potato and Idaho Pacific Corp. (IPC) are primarily the ones contributing to the odor problem from the irrigation ditch running alongside Highway 112. A lawsuit was filed by a town resident against the Sanitation District, Idaho Pacific and Canon Potato to address the smell and correct it.
All three entities discharge waste into the ditch. Welsh said the only one of the three required to test what goes into the ditch is the Sanitation District. Moe Jones said the treatment center’s water going into the ditch is “clear” and Idaho Pacific, who in January of 2018 completed an expansion project at their facility, is working to improve the quality of what they discharge into the ditch.
Welsh told the town the sanitation district is looking into purchasing a piece of property to run their treated water to so it would no longer be discharged into the ditch.
The sanitation district leases space and facility to IPC for the treatment of agricultural waste. The upgrades will meet the increased demand due to expansion and will make the facility cleaner for the discharge of water to the environment, Center Sanitation Board member Moe Jones explained.
“We have worked hard with them to ensure the sanitation district can serve (IP’s) needs in hopes their expansion provides additional employment opportunities for the residents in and around Center,” Welsh commented in an email Monday.
Jones said he is pleased that the loan will clean up the ditch water that runs through the town, removing any objectionable odor and making water available from the ditch “drinking water quality.” Sanitation District engineer Tim Marcotte was the overseer for the project.
Jones continued to explain that altogether the waste treatment facility for IPC is about $5 million with all of the included equipment they will have installed. The loan is provided to the sanitation district by the San Luis Valley Development Resources Group but is guaranteed by Idaho Pacific, who will make payments on the loan.
“The reason for the loan is that the sanitation district is the landlord and they (IPC) are the tenant and guarantee payment of this loan,” Jones said. The money helped Center transition from a lagoon system to a closed system, and much of the potato waste currently processed by the sanitation district is being dumped on local fields. The rest is treated and released to the ditch.
The loan is personally guaranteed by the chief executive officer of Idaho Pacific, Jones said, and will run for 12 years, with a balloon payment due at the end of the loan.