Aspen condo complex can hook back up with drain system
Residences at The Little Nell allowed on city system after 2016 sewage leak
Aspen city officials allowed a luxury condominium complex to reconnect to the city’s stormwater system Monday, more than a year after discovering a sewage leak that contaminated parts of downtown with E. coli.
The reconnection comes more than nine months after the general manager of the Residences at The Little Nell on Dean Street told The Aspen Times the problem appeared to be fixed.
However, April Long, the city’s stormwater manager, said tests at that time continued to show low levels of E. coli. Those E. coli levels, which are not indicative of a sanitary connection, later prompted state officials to require the condo complex to obtain an E. coli discharge permit that was issued in January, Long said.
Long said she spent the interim months confirming details about the discharge and the permit with state officials. On Monday, Long attempted to deliver a letter lifting the city’s cease-and-desist order forbidding connection to the stormwater system to Residences officials, but was unsuccessful.
The order is officially lifted once that letter is hand-delivered, Long said.
“While this has been a long process, it was important to us to be extremely thorough with our repairs and in compliance with both the state and city’s requirements,” Residences at The Little Nell general manager Alyson Gish wrote Monday in an email. “We are confident that the problem is fully resolved and our ongoing testing will ensure we do not have any contamination issues going forward.”
The problem first came to light in March 2016 after The Aspen Times ran an article detailing strong sewage-like odors plaguing the area near the fountain across from the Wheeler Opera House and along Dean Street at the base of Aspen Mountain.
At the time, employees at The Ski Shop on Dean Street had gone so far as to cover a series of stormwater sewer grates in front of the business because of the foul stench.
Officials from the city and the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District initially thought the odor was the result of organic debris that washed into the sewer and decayed. However, the city conducted tests after the article about the stench appeared and discovered E. coli and fecal coliform in the city storm sewers and the wetlands at Rio Grande Park.
Those man-made wetlands, which act as a stormwater scrubber before water flows into the Roaring Fork River, were closed for several days after the tests because of the harmful bacteria.
Gish told the Times in September that the problem looked to have been fixed after the company spent tens of thousands of dollars looking for and plugging the leak.
Long said the city will continue to monitor E. coli tests building officials send to the state and will conduct their own tests periodically, as well.
“We feel like it’s resolved,” she said.
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