The Mountain View Village Water and Sanitation District, which operates the septic system for the Mountain View Village manufactured home community, recently reported a discharge quality incident from late July. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), this is the eighth incident related to the special district located on U.S. 24 north of Leadville.

Lake County Director of Environmental Health Jackie Littlepage said she received a complaint regarding a discharge pipe connected to Mountain View Village that empties into Tennessee Creek on July 21. Prior to then, U.S. Forest Service Wilderness Ranger Steve Sunday said that several dispersed campers along Tennessee Creek reported strong odors emanating from the pipe. Littlepage said the complaints were redirected to CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Division (WQCD).

The Mountain View Village Water and Sanitation District officially notified WQCD of the incident on July 22, reporting “exceedances of biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids and failure to meet percent removal for total suspended solids,” according to WQCD records. The department then coordinated with the operator of the sanitation facility to assure system changes were made to improve water quality.

According to WQCD, test results taken shortly after the incident showed improvement of the water quality discharged from the pipe. The department said the exceedance was “short-term and the facility was able to promptly return to compliance.” Thus, the community’s sanitation district avoided penalties and formal enforcement. WQCD is currently monitoring Tennessee Creek water samples to assure continued compliance of the septic system.

“I want to stress that we take these sanitation plant issues very seriously,” said Mountain View Village Water and Sanitation District Manager Jordan Nodel. “There are intensive efforts underway to adjust plant operations so that the district can stay in compliance.”

Nodel said that while Mountain View Village’s sanitation system is less than 15 years old, the district operates on a fee-supported budget that is often inadequate. Despite a limited budget, Mountain View Village spent nearly $100,000 last year to upgrade the community’s sanitation system, including software that allows for virtual control of the plant. During the July incident, sanitation plant employees utilized the new technology to promptly respond to the exceedance.

In addition to the software, the Herald reported in 2016 that Mountain View Village received $86,000 in state grants to install dewatering technology, a common tool used in wastewater treatment plants to extract water from pools of slurry, or solids suspended in water, in a more efficient manner.

“The challenges we face, we deal with,” said Nodel, who added that the incident did not impact Mountain View Village drinking water supplies. “I think that’s the mark of a responsible district. We care about district residents and want to be good stewards of the environment, especially given Mountain View Village’s location in such a beautiful area.”

Despite upgrades to the district’s wastewater treatment plant over the years, July’s incident is the latest of eight infractions since 2013, according to WQCD. Four of those incidents temporarily impacted the water quality of Tennessee Creek, which joins with the Arkansas River just south of Leadville, and the remaining four were sewage spills that temporarily altered soil within Mountain View Village.

WQCD staff inspected the district’s wastewater treatment plant in 2013 and 2017 and are scheduled for another inspection during the upcoming inspection year, which extends from October 2021 through September 2022.

“We continue to provide monthly plant metrics and water samples, as is required,” said Nodel. “I don’t know what will come in the future, but I will say operating this plant is as much a science as it is an art, and we are working to fine tune the system in a way that works for everyone.”

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