Federal Regulations and Aging Infrastructure Mandate New Facility
Upper Thompson Sanitation District (UTSD) was established almost 50 years ago. Since then, they have been silently supporting and growing to meet the increasing water treatment needs of Estes Park. From humble beginnings, the UTSD service operation has expanded to over 4,300 households and 96 miles of collection system infrastructure in the Estes Valley. When the plant was built in 1976, it employed some of the most innovative technologies available and provided the highest level of treatment for sensitive waterways. This technology, coupled with unwavering commitment, has enabled UTSD to continue service even through moments of crisis, from fire to flood.
Although excellent care has been taken of the decades-old wastewater treatment facility (WWTF), the effects of age, changing building codes, and outdated equipment mean it is nearing capacity to treat wastewater to the high standards that Estes Valley’s sensitive environment requires. In addition, upcoming stringent regulatory treatment requirements related to nutrients, metals and temperature will be impossible to meet with the current facility. District Manager, Chris Bieker states, “The cost of maintaining our current infrastructure is not worth the investment because it will be obsolete nearly as quickly as it’s repaired. We also have the additional challenge of meeting treatment demand during the large fluctuations of peak visitation season in the summer. We are nearing the limits of processing ability now and need to prepare for tomorrow.” To face these challenges, UTSD has been laying the groundwork to relocate and expand the WWTF to a site near the current plant. This new facility will be able to handle community and visitor growth as well as the more stringent regulatory requirements now and well into the future.
With the large-scale improvements necessary to continue safe and efficient water treatment, additional funding is needed to finance the project. The UTSD sewer rate increase has been assessed at 11% each year over the next three years; 2021-2023, and diminishing increases for subsequent years. In 2021 this translates into an extra $5.33/month for most customers in the District. This fee will vary from customer to customer assessed as a flat rate fee or calculated on metered water use.
“As residents ourselves, we share this cost and are committed to use the resources we have available as responsibly and efficiently as possible” Bieker said. When completed, the new WWTF will meet upcoming strict water quality standards. The new WWTF will also serve future customer and community demands while continuing to preserve the clean water that preserves wildlife and the natural habitat. “It means we will be able to continue to be good stewards of our environment, continue to protect the headwaters, and ensure our quality of life,” states Bieker.
“Most people don’t think about the work we do at UTSD, but it is critical to maintaining our most precious resource, our water” says Bieker. “This is our home and we want to treat it right.”
If you have questions about the upcoming changes please visit UTSD’s website at utsd.colorado.gov.