Officials investigate poop found in Snowmass hotel drainage
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from a version published in the print edition of the Snowmass Sun.
Officials from the town and Snowmass Water & Sanitation District are investigating why fecal matter was discovered in drainage leaving the Viceroy Snowmass hotel last week.
Drainage from a pipe in a hillside below the hotel tested positive for the substance last week after concern was raised at a Snowmass Village council discussion on the Base Village development. Officials are now trying to find out where the drainage is coming from and why there would be fecal matter in it.
Town building officials are reviewing plans of the hotel and meeting with Related, the building’s owner and developer, to determine where the pipe is coming from, said Town Manager Clint Kinney on Monday. Currently, they believe that the pipe is meant to serve as storm drainage.
“For whatever reason, we don’t know this reason yet, but when you test the sludge that comes out of this pipe … it tests high for fecal (matter),” Kinney said.
The drainage isn’t impacting any drinking water, but it is a pollution issue that needs to be addressed, he said.
Town and water officials as well as Councilman Bill Madsen, who brought the issue to light at last week’s council meeting, visited the site on Monday. The water department took samples from an oil and gas separator in the hotel’s garage, which is above the site where the fecal coliform was detected.
“All the water that drains off the vehicles in the garage goes through an oil/water separator, and then we believe it discharges outside through that drain,” said Kit Hamby, Snowmass Water & Sanitation District manager.
Results from that test left the problem’s cause still ambiguous late Tuesday.
“There’s a high level of coliform bacteria in there, but coliform bacteria can be found in soils just about any place and every place you look,” Hamby said. “But there is a low level of fecal coliform bacteria in this tank, so I would say that the tests are sort of inconclusive on where or if there’s any contamination coming from inside the garage.”
Hamby made some preliminary recommendations to a representative of Related on Tuesday and was preparing to write an email to Mark Kittle, Snowmass’ chief building official.
“I don’t know if this (the garage tank) is the source of the problem,” Hamby said. “For all we know, there may not be a significant problem. We didn’t have a high flow coming out of the pipe when we took the first sample, and because it’s diluted out in Brush Creek, the dilution factor’s so great that it may not be any kind of health risk at all. That’s what we’re trying to figure out now.”
To determine that risk, water officials were testing various sites in Brush Creek on Tuesday. As far as continuing to determine the source, officials will continue to eliminate the possibilities, which also include other plumbing connections from the roof and maybe some that the officials aren’t aware of, Hamby said. The possibility of dogs defecating near the site or in the garage also has been discussed.
The water district has a robotic camera that can be sent into pipes, but Hamby is concerned that it wouldn’t be able to go far enough to detect the source in this case. Hamby is hopeful that the town’s study of the building’s construction sheds some light on the issue.
Steve Alldredge, spokesman for Related Colorado, declined to comment on Tuesday other than to say that the company is looking into the problem.
“We are currently investigating the issue, so it would be premature to comment,” Alldredge said. “We will share more detail when our analysis is complete.”
While no one is in “imminent danger,” it is an environmental concern that needs to be addressed, Kinney said. At certain times of year, the ditch emits an odor that many community members can attest to, said Kinney, although he added that neither he nor Kittle were aware of the problem before.
The site has tested positive for fecal matter at various times over the past five years, though, Hamby said. The water district notified Related and the Viceroy and also presented information to the Town Council once about a year ago, he said.
“It’s a pollution issue we need to make sure we’re watching,” Kinney said.