Telluride Town Council took a short field trip Tuesday morning during its regularly scheduled council meeting.
Council members and several town officials visited their Mountain Village neighbors to the north in order to discuss the proposed Telluride Regional Wastewater Treatment Master Plan. The plan has not been formally finalized, but it’s not likely to change drastically, Public Works Director Paul Ruud said.
The two-hour work session included a presentation highlighting immediate, short-term and long-term goals over the next 10 years.
“This is just the beginning of our wastewater treatment plant odyssey,” said Karen Guglielmone, Telluride environmental and engineering division manager.
The current wastewater treatment plant at Society Turn serves the communities of Telluride, Mountain Village, Eider Creek, Sunset Ridge, Aldasoro and Lawson Hill.
The plant is reaching its originally designed capacity, officials explained. Plus, Department of Public Health and Environment regulations through the Colorado Discharge Permit System have been altered over the years. (Colorado Water Quality Control Division stipulations regarding acceptable metals levels in the water also changed beginning this year.)
Those variables, in conjunction with an increased waste stream and new treatment options, make updating and eventually expanding the current plant paramount within the next decade.
“The steps taken now will have an impact on what we do in the future,” Ruud said.
Telluride, Mountain Village and San Miguel County officials will all have a say in the future of the wastewater plant.
“I think it’s nice to figure things out together,” Guglielmone said.
Immediate focuses include talking with commercial wastewater dischargers about pre-treatment agreements, seasonal restrictions on septage hauling to the plant and a receiving station for storage of septage, among other items.
Ruud called the more immediate objectives “stepping stones.”
The long-term plan, outlined until 2027, includes plant expansion to meet possible new state nutrient regulations.
The San Miguel Valley Corporation owns the land immediately around the current plant. Ruud said there have been “very preliminary” talks with corporation officials about possibly acquiring more land.
The total cost of all proposed master plan improvements would be in the $30-$40 million range. Telluride officials explained addressing future wastewater plans in annual budgets would help with the planning process. (Telluride had a specific focus on water and wastewater projects when sculpting its 2017 budget.)
The recently opened, $22 million Fruita wastewater plant was used as an example of what is possible, but Ruud explained Telluride’s wastewater flow is higher than Fruita’s, which calls for larger improvements.
Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton said none of the master plan objectives are necessarily “set in stone” just yet.
“There’s a lot more discussion that needs to be had,” he said.
The city continues to replace outdated water lines, update treatment plant technology, and develop better ways to store and treat water and wastewater.
Water and wastewater projects are covered through separate enterprise funds, which use taxes and service fees to raise capital.
“People don’t want to talk about pipes. It’s just not sexy,” Clifton said in a previous interview with the Daily Planet. “But when water doesn’t come out of the faucet, our phones will ring.
“There’s so much work behind the scenes just to make sure water comes out of the faucet.”
For 2017, projected Telluride Water Fund revenues are $2.6 million, while projected expenditures are $3.5 million.
Plans to replace more pipes around town and the Bridal Veil Basin are in the works for this year, including repairs to pipes that carry water through the Lewis and Blue lakes areas. The Mill Creek Water Treatment Plant is in need of equipment and holding tank updates, which are projected to be $278,500, according to town officials.
Clifton added that exploring alternative, outside funding options will be a hot topic at future meetings.
“How this is being financed is an excellent question,” Guglielmone said. “Everyone is struggling with that as will we in the next few years.”
Telluride Councilman Todd Brown theorized there will most likely be a utility rate increase to help with costs.
“The users are going to have to pay for it,” he said.
The formal presentation lasted just over an hour, leaving the rest of the time open for questions.
Telluride Councilwoman Kristen Permakoff suggested engaging local festival organizers in helping mitigate wastewater flow since such events contribute to peak wastewater periods.
County Commissioner Kris Holstrom was in attendance and urged all officials involved to take any environmental impacts, which she called a “huge factor,” into consideration.
Ruud said environmental impacts still need to be “flushed out.”
Both councils went their separate ways after the work session to finish their respective meetings.
Staff reporter Jessica Kutz contributed to this story.