By Mark Browning
Water issues -- some of them quite serious -- dominated the Lyons Board of Trustees' workshop and meeting Tuesday night.
The BOT learned that a large grant the Town has been counting on to extend utilities to the Eastern Corridor (out Highway 66) is in jeopardy if the Town cannot solve water quality inflow problems at its new wastewater treatment plant.
To deal with that problem, the BOT voted to hire an environmental testing firm to take samples all over town in an effort to identify the sources of whatever is causing problems at the treatment plant.
To deal with another kind of water problem -- storm water drainage damaging property and streets in Lyons -- the BOT voted to create a new Storm Water Utility, at a cost of $10 per month per property.
Of the two water issues, the wastewater quality problem is the more pressing, given the possible impact on the Eastern Corridor utilities extension grant.
The gist of the problem is "BOD is bad." BOD stands for "biochemical oxygen demand", or how much oxygen it takes to treat organic matter in wastewater that flows into the treatment plant.
The organic material that can send BOD to unacceptably high levels can come from alcohol, sugar, garbage disposal products, fats, oils, grease or other sources.
Lyons' relatively new wastewater plant is permitted to treat up to 705 pounds of BOD per day. But in November, one test came in at 1,179 pounds. Four tests in December averaged 852 pounds.
If Lyons continues to exceed its permit limit for BOD, it could face state fines. But of a more immediate concern, the Colorado Economic Development Authority is not going to proceed with the Eastern Corridor utilities extension grant, including a new lift station, unless Lyons takes steps to solve its BOD problem.
No one knows for sure what's causing the problem. Faulty or missing restaurant grease traps are one possible source. Alcohol from brewing operations is another. But residences can also create issues from things like pouring bacon grease down drains or running a home business that produces organic byproducts.
To gather data on where the problems are originating, the BOT on Tuesday approved a contract with StS Environmental, LLC of Loveland for $11,214 to do manhole-to-manhole testing of wastewater essentially all over Lyons, starting in the next two weeks.
"The stakes are very high," said Trustee Barney Dreistadt. "We have got to address this now."
Mayor Connie Sullivan and other board members discussed the need to call local business owners together, explain the severity of the problem and explore ways the Town and businesses can work together to address it.
"We are not pointing fingers," Sullivan said, stressing that at this point the cause of the problem has not been pinpointed. "We haven't enforced all our ordinances in the past, but now we have to."
Town Engineer Joe Kubala gave a thorough factual background presentation to the BOT in Tuesday's workshop, explaining both the nature of the problem and the approach to be used in discussing it with businesses.
The Lyons treatment plant was designed to run three days per week, Kubala said, based on the Town's wastewater volume. But because of the sky high BOD levels, it is having to be run five days per week, with increased cost of about $4,000 per month for labor, power and treatment chemicals.
Kubala said he and other staff members intend to meet with local business owners and residents about the issue.
"Instead of 'You're cheating,' from a regulatory point of view," Kubala said, "we need more of a 'Here's a serious problem, how do we solve it?' approach."
One possible solution would be to re-permit the Lyons treatment plant to process the amount of BOD being experienced, but that would be very expensive and take considerable time, Kubala said. The Eastern Corridor grant might be jeopardized.
Instead, the BOT, at Mayor Sullivan's urging, directed staff to prepare an action plan by early March to address the BOD problem. Steps could include educating residents and businesses about how to reduce harmful organic compounds in their wastewater, a "pretreatment ordinance" requiring steps to be taken before wastewater enters the system, strict enforcement of "FOG" (fats, oil, grease) code compliance or surcharges to wastewater bills.
The other water-related action taken Tuesday was to create a Storm Water Utility, an "enterprise fund" similar to the Town's electric, water and wastewater funds. The $10 monthly charge per property would only be enough to fund initial basics -- most likely repairing damaged streets -- with about $40,000 in the 2018 Town budget for that purpose.
To address bigger, long-neglected capital improvement needs identified in a storm water drainage study conducted by the Town's Utilities Engineering Board, more funding would be needed. The Board agreed 6-0, however (Trustee Wendy Miller was absent), that it was time, after years of discussion for Lyons to take the first steps toward addressing its storm water drainage concerns.
In other items at Tuesday's meeting, the Board was informed that Lyons will receive $1,433,000 in funding for its new Public Works Building as a result of support from the Boulder County Collaborative, an inter-governmental group working together on flood recovery. The Cities of Boulder and Longmont and Boulder County made sacrifices to support Lyons, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen said, recognizing Lyons' urgent need for a re-built Public Works building after the old one was washed down the St. Vrain.
The Board delayed action on approving the lease of Lavern Johnson Park to Planet Bluegrass for the 2018 Rocky Grass and Folks Festivals. Mayor Sullivan and the Board wanted to see a guaranteed minimum payment to the Town for use of its park, since the Town will forgo income that could be generated from advance booking of its park during festival weeks. The Town and Planet Bluegrass split 50-50 the proceeds of camping and parking fees paid by festival goers, with between $38,000 and $45,000 annually coming to the Town.
In 2018, Planet Bluegrass will no longer lease Bohn Park for festival parking and camping, since the new Planet Bluegrass Annex is available. But Planet Bluegrass representative Brian Eyster said that property would limited to about 300 campers this year, with around 700 projected for Johnson Park.
Staff reports on flood recovery reflected that Bohn Park Phase I work is about 98% complete, with Phase II bids coming in under the maximum budgeted amount. A construction contract (with Walsh Construction) is being negotiated, with a notice to proceed with construction expected to be issued later this month.
A bid of $677,000 (under the estimated cost of $788,000) was recently received for the whitewater features (Black Bear Hole, October Hole, November Hole) of the Lyons Valley River Park project. A contract is being drafted, with construction scheduled to occur during the St. Vrain's low flow season.
Town Administrator Simonsen relayed one bit of disappointing news relating to flood recovery. FEMA funding is unlikely for a cul-de-sac the Town wanted to build at Fourth and Evans Street to help limit traffic flow through residential neighborhoods. Because no cul-de-sac was at that location pre-flood, FEMA has indicated it was not prepared to place a high priority on funding that aspect of street repair.
Reconstruction of Evans Street as a one-lane street, with signage limiting access to local traffic and some form of a speed-control hump, is still planned, Simonsen said. But funding for the cul-de-sac design may have to be sought from other sources.