The city of Durango needs to take advantage of the stimulus package money to upgrade the wastewater plant serving Durango. The plant went online in 1985 and discharges below the whitewater park at Santa Rita. Since then, Durango has grown rapidly and so has river recreation.
According to a Jan. 9, 2005, article in the Herald, the plant was nearing 80 percent capacity, which would require the city to begin considering financial options for expansion efforts. Through a series of articles from January 2005 through January 2006 regarding the plant, the state and EPA investigated operational deficiencies. In November 2004, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment ordered a cease-and-desist on the facility, citing numerous violations that occurred as early as 2001, when 25,000 gallons of untreated sewage entered the Animas, violating the state's water quality standards. To be exact, 57 raw-sewage spills were cited violations with potential impacts to human health and aquatic life that were not made public until the 2005 articles.
Since those articles, there have not been any updates to the status of the facility improvements, violations or plans on how the city will accommodate growth. An excellent example of poor city planning and infrastructure failure is our neighbors to the east. The city can learn from Bayfield's experience and begin planning infrastructure improvements to address future growth.
We could only hope the state of Colorado would not allow the plant to pollute the river Durango is famed for, but if it allowed Bayfield and Gem Village to continue to pollute those rivers for two years, do you think Durango's plant will be any different? We need to hold the city accountable for ensuring protection of pubic health and the environment, especially anyone who frequents the river and probably ingests the water at times. It would be wise for the city to utilize stimulus money to improve the infrastructure of the wastewater treatment plant and to avoid the future predicaments Bayfield is dealing with now.
Laurel Blatter, Durango