Pitkin County’s reaction to Lenado decision rife with inaccuracies

On Feb. 14, the Aspen Daily News reported on the recent decision and order of the District Court which found that Pitkin County had exceeded the scope of the road easement through our property and had damaged a mine reclamation project undertaken by us in 2001.

The article contained statements from Brian Pettet, the county Public Works director, and Jon Peacock, the county manager, commenting on the litigation and Judge Petre’s findings. We find that those comments contain not only factual errors, but display a mindset towards our reclamation efforts that is both casual and dismissive, and may explain why trouble arose in the first place.

In responding to the court’s finding that Pitkin County widened the road for parking, and undermined or reversed the results of a voluntary cleanup of mine wastes, we have this from the article: “Peacock said the snowmobile parking situation was at the heart of the lawsuit and that the drainage issues were ancillary to the landowners’ legal concerns. The latter was an issue because the county road crews, several years ago, had to correct a situation involving the pond, which had overflowed and left a foot of standing water in places on the public road.

“‘Part of the drainage system was failing and caused water to overflow and pool on the road’ Peacock said. ‘It had nothing to do with parking. It was a public safety issue, with that much water and mud. People were trying to traverse it.’”

To begin with, we don’t know how Jon Peacock has determined what our interests are or have been, but it’s fair to point out that we have never met him, and we can speak for ourselves. But his conclusion that the environmental issues were just a sideshow to our legal concerns illustrates the heart of the matter. He apparently thinks that the snowmobile parking lot is more important to us than the mine reclamation, a stunningly upsidedown way to look at the public interest.

Additionally, the part about the pond overflowing never happened. There are two settlement ponds in the reclamation design, an upper one above the road and a lower one. The upper one has never overflowed, and is protected by a culvert riser that terminates below the road level. The lower one is designed to overflow in a 100-year storm event, but never has. Additionally, there is no physical possibility, given the grade of the road in that area, that anything near a foot of water could ever accumulate.

Comments from Brian Pettet are no more accurate. He says “The Road and Bridge Department was responding to an emergency situation. The originally placed culvert was opened up because Frank and Daniels (efforts) were not working.” He goes on to say the “whole area is an old mine, in and of itself. There is lead everywhere in the soil.”

Brian is repeating an opinion he stated at trial, based on no facts and no expertise, that the mine reclamation we’ve done is not working. That would be news to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which permitted, supervised, and signed off on our reclamation after 11 years of work. It would be news to Walsh Environmental Group, the professional firm which designed the soil and water sampling protocols and the cleanup. It would be news to Ed Balzer, the local manager for Walsh with whom we’ve worked for 16 years. And it would be news to the CDPHE inspector who worked with us for years, who told us we should get an award for our cleanup.

And Mr. Pettet’s comment on lead being everywhere is meaningless.

Lead is everywhere, it’s just how much that’s important, and what people are exposed to. Apparently he is unaware that in sampling soil for lead, background levels are determined first and compared to the suspect soils.

And there was no emergency. Go up to the 10th Mountain parking lot in Lenado (which we have provided for free for the last 16 years) and take a look at the road and imagine how a foot of water could accumulate anywhere on the sloped road surface, which is graded downhill and to the side. The only low spot is the wetlands area that the county has been draining, as the judge pointed out, but that’s not on the roadway.

These issues are not new. We have been repairing damage done by

Pitkin County to the mine reclamation project for the last 15 years, we have given the county copies of the permitted plan to have on file, we have discussed these problems ad nauseam with county staff, and we have asked the CDPHE to intervene in the past.

Given the staff response to the findings of the court, I guess we can expect this to go on.

Daniel Delano and Frank Peters