Hurdles remain for waste facility

Two years after shuttering the troubled Black Mountain solid-waste-disposal facility near De Beque because of groundwater contamination, the Mesa County Commission this morning is scheduled to decide whether to allow the facility to reopen and begin accepting oil and gas wastewater.

But public documents and statements from county officials raise a host of questions about Black Mountain Recycling’s financial stability and whether the company, formerly known as Black Mountain Disposal, can or will clean up a spill, the extent of which remains unclear.

The company has yet to abide by several components of a state compliance order related to the remediation of the property, even though the deadlines for meeting those mandates passed months ago. An environmental consultant hired by Black Mountain to assist with the cleanup alleges the company has failed to pay more than $36,000 for services provided by the consultant. And within the last year Mesa County foreclosed on and sold at auction a Grand Junction home that was owned by Jefferson Been, the facility’s new owner.

Donna Ross, county development services and code enforcement director, said Wednesday that although Been appears to have a sincere intent to clean up a nearly 10-year-old spill, she is uncertain whether he will be able to carry it out.

“We do have questions,” Ross said. “Black Mountain has made some meaningful progress toward meeting the solid-waste compliance order, but many of the things that were supposed to be done under that order haven’t been completed.”

The Daily Sentinel was unable to locate Been for comment Wednesday. One phone number listed to him was disconnected. Been’s attorney, Scott Clark of Greenwood Village, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The county in 2008 suspended Black Mountain’s conditional-use permit and certificate of designation and closed its operations at 15655 45 1/2 Road after the company failed to report and clean up a 2001 spill and accepted more waste than its permit allowed. A year later, county commissioners agreed to allow the business to reopen if it met a series of state and county conditions.

In a written report to commissioners, Ross spelled out how those conditions haven’t been met:

Black Mountain hasn’t identified the full nature and extent of the contamination plume. Groundwater samples provided by the company have shown levels of benzene exceeding state standards.

The company still needs to deposit $28,370 into what’s supposed to be a $70,000 state trust fund that would go toward site cleanup if Black Mountain were unable to do the work itself.

Black Mountain hasn’t lined four evaporation ponds as required by state regulations. The company has asked for an extension to comply with the regulation until the end of next year.

The state filed a lawsuit against Jeff and Elaine Pratt, the former owners of Black Mountain, and Been, the current owner, for the original groundwater contamination and the company’s failure to abide by the compliance order. Mike Saccone, spokesman for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, said the case is scheduled to go to trial in April.

Ross said she also has concerns about Black Mountain’s financial stability.

Public records show the county last fall foreclosed on a home at 591 28 1/2 Road owned by Been and sold it at auction.

In addition, Walsh Environmental Scientists and Engineers LLC, which Black Mountain hired to help with the cleanup, filed a lien against the firm’s De Beque property in March. The consultant claims Black Mountain owes it $36,425 for labor and materials.

Clark Edwards, a Boulder attorney for Walsh Environmental, didn’t return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

In an effort to gauge Black Mountain’s financial situation and whether it can clean up the spill, the state and county have asked the company to provide copies of signed customer contracts, a budget and business plan for the facility and information about its assets and liabilities. County officials say they have yet to receive any of that information.

This morning’s hearing begins at 9 on the fourth floor of the county courthouse, 544 Rood Ave.


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