Partners in grime

Public treatment plant would help clean oil, gas wastewater

Brian Woods, manager of the Clifton Sanitation District, describes how its plant would further clean wastewater from the oil and gas fields after the water is treated at private facility that would be built on the treatment plant site. The Denver company that would build that facility is seeking a conditional-use permit from the Mesa County Commission.

Mesa County planning commissioners will consider a conditional-use permit Thursday for a facility that would team with the Clifton Sanitation District for the first-of-its-kind partnership for treatment of oil and gas production water in Colorado.

Denver-based Concord Produced Water Services wants to move onto a slab of land on the Clifton Wastewater Treatment Plant site at 3217 D Road formerly used to park school buses. If the permit is approved, Concord plans to use the area to park up to 35 trucks per day that will drop off water produced during the oil and gas drilling process. The water will move from the trucks to Concord’s to-be-constructed pretreatment facility through an enclosed system. Concord will remove contaminants from the water, then shift it to the general supply at Clifton Sanitation for further treatment before being released into the Colorado River.

The technology isn’t new but the public-private partnership is, according to Clifton Sanitation Manager Brian Woods.

“To the best of my knowledge this is the only venture where a public wastewater treatment facility will accept this kind of process from a private company, possibly in the U.S. — definitely in Colorado,” Woods said.

The trucks will solely haul wastewater that rises to the surface during drilling activity, he added. 

“Fracking water is specifically prohibited” from entering the site, Woods said.

Woods said he has fielded about four calls from people concerned the treatment process will be an environmental hazard. He countered the process may actually help the environment by cycling water into the Colorado River and reducing truck traffic on Interstate 70 headed west of Grand Junction to dump production water at waste disposal evaporation ponds in Cisco, Utah.

Concord would remove any potential metals or contaminants of concern in the water before sending it to Clifton Sanitation and the water would go through an oxidation process, a reverse osmosis system and daily testing. Mesa County planning documents attached to Thursday’s agenda say less than two tons of potentially volatile organic compounds could be released in pretreatment, which is below the threshold for issuing an air pollutant emission notice.

Mesa County Planning Division Director Linda Dannenberger said the process will be permitted through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which means the wastewater will not be allowed into the Clifton Sanitation supply until it meets the non-hazardous wastewater standards all other waste in the system must meet.

“The district isn’t going to do anything that will endanger their treatment status,” she said.

Dannenberger added some neighbors may be concerned about the potential for spills from trucks. Speed will be controlled from 32 Road to the site’s entrance, she said, and a curve near the site on D Road has been improved recently in connection with a nearby gravel project.


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