Black Mountain on hot seat Tuesday with county commission

On the heels of the state health department filing a lawsuit against it, Black Mountain Disposal is about to get the undivided attention of the Mesa County Commission.

The commission, in a rare Tuesday evening meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the county courthouse, will review Black Mountain Disposal’s conditional-use permits and certificates of designation that are issued by the county.

Black Mountain Disposal, which operates several evaporation ponds south of De Beque to dispose water used in the drilling of oil and gas, has been cited previously for violations of its state permits and has failed to comply with demands from the county and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The health department regulates solid-waste-disposal facilities.

The commission could decide Tuesday to do nothing or “revoke or suspend, require additional security to ensure that requirements are met or add additional conditions to the CUPs and/or CDs,” according to the commission’s agenda.

“We certainly have some serious concern with regard to the items that have been brought before us,” Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis said.

Meis said the Colorado Attorney General’s Office called him last week and told him it was taking legal action against Black Mountain Disposal.

The state health department filed a lawsuit Sept. 3 in Mesa County District Court against Black Mountain’s operators, Elaine Pratt Wells and Jeff Pratt, attempting to force compliance “with solid waste requirements,” according to the lawsuit. “The department also seeks penalties (up to $2,000 a day per day of violation) for the defendant’s failure to comply with regulatory requirements.”

The county’s complaints about Black Mountain are being raised by the Mesa County Department of Planning and Economic Development, said Donna Ross, director of County Code Enforcement.

She said the department has concerns regarding a spill that occurred at Black Mountain Disposal in 2001. Despite repeated requests by the state and the county for an explanation of what spilled, what has been done to clean the spill, and what future efforts at prevention are being implemented, Black Mountain’s operators have failed to satisfy the county and the state.

“We are concerned there is a (underground) plume that may have traveled off the site,” Ross said.

Meis said that up to this point the county has been relying on and leaning on the Department of Public Health and Environment to get Black Mountain to clean up its act.

“Because that is the state’s responsibility,” Meis said.

Meis’ challenger in the November election for the District 1 commissioner seat, Dan Robinson, said the county — and specifically Meis — has allowed the situation to fester too long.

“Mr. Meis is responsible as anybody for that whole mess. It is too bad that somebody doesn’t have the guts to lay it at his feet, because he is responsible for Black Mountain,” Robinson said. “To lay it at the feet of the state is irresponsible.”

Meis said he would not address Robinson’s accusations.

“It is unfortunate that he is choosing the low road,” Meis said. “I’m not going to engage Dan in his smear campaign.
All he is doing is discrediting himself with those that know me and know me a whole lot better than Dan does.”


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