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Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District ‘cooperative’ in EPA investigation

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District is spending about $7,000 to $8,000 on soil sampling and an outside consultant to test the environmental impact of the floor drains under the department’s truck-washing area.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating the district’s drainage system since an anonymous call earlier this year by someone within the department. The district has not been cited but will have to make some changes to be in compliance with EPA regulations.

Drainage at the fire station flows into a dry well that percolates into the ground. The concern with washing facilities, according to EPA environmental scientist Craig Boomgaard, is whether any motor-vehicle work is being done in that area or if the undercarriages or engines of trucks are being washed.

Soaps aren’t a problem because most are biodegradable now, Boomgaard said. The Snowmass fire district is generally just washing the outside of its vehicles there.

The district would still need a truck-washing permit, which would require periodic soil sampling, Boomgaard said. Based on the cost of the soil sampling the district is doing now, board member Tom Dunlop estimates that would cost about $2,000 to $4,000 per year.

“What we’ll do is we make people take a sample of the wash water, and then we have a toxicologist review it, and we also compare it obviously to regulation maximum contamination limits, Safe Drinking Water Act, and as long as their criteria are below those concentration levels, then they’re fine to operate a truck wash or a car wash under our program,” Boomgaard said.

Boomgaard works in the underground injection control program in the agency’s Region 8, headquartered in Denver.

The district hired an outside consultant to assist in conducting a soil-sampling test of the Owl Creek fire-station premises. Dunlop said that the fire board reviewed the results June 10. Dunlop said the board was continuing to evaluate a sample that showed elevated levels of diesel and gas residue in a small area on the property.

The levels are in “such small quantities that it could be a one-time event,” Dunlop said. “The small amount could have been put there as long ago as 30 or 40 years ago.”

The district is going to excavate the soil in that area, take it to a repository and fill the hole with clean soil material, which Dunlop said it wants to do regardless of how the EPA reacts.

As of June 10, Boomgaard hadn’t received the results. Any issues found on his staff’s review of the sampling could rule out permitting as an option, he said.

The district also could choose to close the floor drains, connect to the town sewer system or put in a holding tank, Boomgaard said.

“We don’t dictate your solution … as long as it meets our rules and our criteria,” Boomgaard said.

Boomgaard and another EPA employee did an on-site inspection in early May. Once the district decides on a solution, it has 90 days to resolve the problem.

“They’re investigating some options, but generally, it’s 90 days,” Boomgaard said. “But we do have latitude. If people are acting in good faith and being cooperative, we can give them more time.”

Boomgaard said the district has been “above and beyond cooperative.”

“They’re really looking to do the right thing, and they’re really looking to find a solution that works best for this problem,” he said.

The investigation began because someone in the fire department made an anonymous phone call to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, according to Dunlop and Chief Steve Sowles.

Boomgaard said the call reported that the well on the property was overflowing into an adjacent parking lot, referring to the Snowmass Chapel/Anderson Ranch lot. That hasn’t happened for a few years, Dunlop said, not since the current dry-well system was put in to mitigate the problem.

The department transferred the case to the EPA because it falls under the agency’s underground injection program.

Dunlop said he was disappointed by the anonymous accusations coming from within the department. Dunlop has lived in Snowmass Village for more than 35 years.

“We feel it really has been an attempt to cast a shadow over the reputation of the fire board,” he said. “We all took it very personally.”

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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