Snowmass Water and Sanitation District wastewater plant upgrade project is underway |

Snowmass Water and Sanitation District wastewater plant upgrade project is underway

Britta Gustafson
Special to the Snowmass Sun
A rendering of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District's future wastewater treatment plant.
Snowmass Water and Sanitation District/Courtesy image |

As demand for water continues to grow and new regulations on statewide wastewater treatment systems start going into effect, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District is striving to remain ahead of the curve and set an example for other water users throughout the west.

The water and sanitation district wastewater management plant, located next to the Snowmass Club Commons housing complex, is currently undergoing a major overhaul and expansion.

Upgrades to the current facility and a 44,000-square-foot expansion will allow the water and sanitation district to meet heightened state requirements for total removal of inorganic nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia from local streams and rivers. It also will improve efficiency as water demands increase.

Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013 issued Regulation 85, calling for the implementation of a strategic plan for all of Colorado’s water resources with a phased schedule for statewide wastewater plants to comply.

Each of the 44 water treatment districts in the state will now be required to start implementing these new regulations. Due to its size and location in a priority watershed, the Snowmass plant falls into the Department of Health’s first phase with a 2020 deadline.

“We are responsible and accountable for our water on both ends, useable and used,” said Kit Hamby, Snowmass Water and Sanitation District manager.

Hamby recognizes the concerns of a project of this magnitude, and “while taking into consideration the impact of the construction on our village residents our biggest concern is our local community.

“We are taking every opportunity to minimize neighborhood disruption,” Hamby said, “with an end result of cleaner water output, which is beneficial to everyone.”

The district considered 14 different processes and plant configurations to comply with total removal of inorganic nutrients before deciding on a University of Cape Town configuration with membrane bioreactor for enhanced biological nutrient removal.

“The water will come out cleaner,” Hamby said.

Upgraded state-of-the-art equipment — including a supervisory control and data acquisition and an industrial control system that interfaces with equipment — will allow the operation of the plant to be monitored 24/7.

Probes can now detect potential concerns on a minute-by-minute basis, even offering remote monitoring and management.

As an example, Snowmass Water and Sanitation District resident project representative Shea Meyer said, “if a restaurant dumps grease, we can detect it a good deal before it contaminates and clogs up the system.”

Additional improvements will include the installation of new high-efficiency motors and a new charcoal-odor control system.

“We also have to meet the demands at peak periods,” Hamby said, “and the new facility will be sized to meet those demands at peak-flow times of year.”

With a price tag of nearly $24 million, which Snowmass Village voters approved in May 2016 via a mill-levy tax, expectations are high.

“We have reviewed all of the possible build-out scenarios, and the remaining approved, but as of yet unbuilt Snowmass Village development … we have overestimated what the build-out could be, even still, adding a cushion on top of that,” Hamby said.

The new plant should last at least 30 years, potentially upward of 50 or 60, Hamby said, “assuming additional (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations do not affect us.”

Looking out over the heavy construction equipment and the site of the now excavated holding-pond, Meyer said the expanded, below-grade layout of the plant “will blend in with the golf course and existing buildings” and “hardly” be noticeable from Highline Road.

As one of only two underground plants in Colorado, below-grade construction does add to the cost. However, it also allows the 44,000-square-foot addition to be discreetly positioned beneath a grassy, energy-efficient, green-roof, the soil upon which will add insulation, saving on heating and cooling costs. Where the one-acre holding pond was previously located, the low-profile roofline of the new plant will now be at the same elevation as the existing wastewater plant.

Hamby said the lower level would be 17 feet below the grade of the existing parking lot, which he believes “will keep it consistent with what the town and our community would like to see … which is not much.”

Since 1999, the district has reduced water-treatment plant production costs by 26 percent, while the town has grown by over 22 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

The existing water treatment plant — one of the first major projects built in Snowmass Village in 1968 — will remain.

However, “A tremendous amount of retro-fitting of the original plant will support cost-efficiency measures that we are working hard to implement throughout the project in its entirety,” Hamby said.

The water and sanitation district employees have been working in-house, paring down costs upward of $1 million in savings thus far, according to Hamby.

“The district staff is working hard to save both time and money on this project,” said Jason Fineran, capital project manager.

Hamby said the pond excavation came with many uncertainties.

“Luckily we haven’t found any bones,” he quipped.

To date, 160,000 gallons of water and sludge have been fully drained from the holding pond, and the remaining material in the bottom of the pond has been pumped through the wastewater plant and dewatered. The dried material has been disposed of at the landfill, and after extensive testing, the ground soils have been deemed suitable for construction to begin.

After thoroughly excavating the existing holding-pond base, the initial phase of the estimated 30-month project will officially begin.

Once the concrete pour is underway, the project construction contractor, RN Civil Construction of Centennial Colorado, will prepare and issue a timeline for the project.

RN Civil project manager Dave Ortt said he expects the construction schedule to be available within the next week.

Hamby said quality, safety and cost efficiency would all take precedence over the 2020 deadline and that the district may ask for an extension if necessary.

“At this point, however, we are still in good shape,” Ortt said.

November marks the two-year anniversary of Colorado’s new water plan. According to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, “Colorado’s Water Plan is our state’s framework for solutions to our water challenges. It guides future decision-making and sets forth the measurable objectives, goals and critical actions needed to ensure that the state’s most valuable resource is protected and available for generations to come. Implementation at the state and local level is critical to Colorado moving forward.”

The Colorado Water Conservation Board offers an immersive story map that highlights the water plan’s implementation and tracks progress on some of the measurable objectives.

For more information, visit