Wastewater pit permit OK’d over objections

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—The Mesa County Commissioners at the DeBeque wastewater pit hearing.Art to go with LeRoy’s story.Sent as DEBEQUE WASTEWATER 11-17.

The first phase of an evaporative-wastewater facility southeast of De Beque was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Mesa County Commission.

It took the commission four hours to approve a conditional use permit for the 803-acre facility to be operated by RN Industries, which is based in Roosevelt, Utah. The company operates five similar wastewater facilities in that state and two in Colorado.

Officials with the town of De Beque and area residents objected to the facility, as did the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which said the facility would spoil a winter gathering area for migratory animals. But the main issue was access to the site at 47901 V Road.

Access to V Road is off Interstate 70 at De Beque. The town had placed signs, limiting vehicle weights to 7,000 pounds, that would have made it impossible for a loaded water truck to access V Road through De Beque. An alternative route would take vehicles on a 67-mile detour. Those weight-limit signs have since been removed, said James Beckwith, attorney for RN Industries.

Beckwith said a decision in September by Utah’s 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said any widening of roads similar to V Road, which under federal law was built more than 100 years ago and crosses public lands, must be adjudicated between the county and the Bureau of Land Management. RN Industries contends the road needs to be widened from 22 to 60 feet.

“Our legal assessment is similar,” said Lyle Dechant, Mesa County attorney.

Dechant, who said the implications of the case “were a surprise to everyone,” asked Beckwith whether he thought Mesa County would be involved in litigation if the commission approved the facility.

“Yes,” Beckwith said.

Dechant, though, said he didn’t think litigation is imminent.

Commissioner Craig Meis said the county has had a good relationship with the BLM, and the two entities could likely work out any issues related to the widening and maintenance of the road.

The first phase of the development will involve building 74 acres of ponds. Beckwith said RN Industries can build six ponds a year and would reach full build-out with 40 ponds. Each pond would take 3 1/2 years to evaporate. The third and final phase of building would include land farming the residual material left in the ponds after evaporation. RN Industries was approved for a maximum of 40 loaded trips per day to the facility with production water from natural-gas drilling rigs.

De Beque Town Manager Bruce Smith said the town received the county’s report on the RN Industries proposal Monday. In response, the town wrote Mesa County a letter asking for a delay, which was not granted.

RN Industries still must obtain a certificate of designation and have a major site plan approved. Beckwith said it could be 16 months before the first trucks deliver water to the facility.


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