Mesa County will allow a local septic service company to expand its operations at a Whitewater facility with a history of odor complaints from neighbors.

Commissioners approved an amended conditional-use permit for the Deer Creek Facility after limiting the number of trucks to 10 per day or 150 per month. The 96-acre property, located directly east of Bridgeport Road off U.S. Highway 50, about a mile north of the Delta County line, was abandoned by Alanco Energy Services a couple of years ago. Goodwin Septic Tank Service is now retrofitting its disposal facilities.

Commissioners questioned the applicants and an engineer who designed the facility about the volume of traffic and concerns about odors prior to approving the proposal during an hourlong hearing Tuesday morning.

The commissioners acknowledged that past usage of the property had been controversial, and that there were numerous complaints about odors.

The plan is to take one of those ponds and use it for solid waste, to dispose of soil contaminated with hydrocarbons from the mining industry. Goodwin plans to use the other large pond for liquid waste, including sewage pumped from septic tanks and portable toilets, as well as industrial waste. The adjoining property will continue to be used for "land farming," a waste-treatment process in which sludge is tilled into the soil.

Gerald Knudsen, the engineer who designed the facility and represents Goodwin Septic Service, said using the existing lined ponds for disposal would help owner Brent Gale mitigate the cost of cleaning up the Alanco facility. Since the ponds are double-lined, they would need to have the liners removed and be filled with soil from the berm currently blocking the neighbor's view of the ponds. He estimated it would cost as much as $500,000 to do that. Instead, Goodwin can use the lined ponds as disposal cells for hydrocarbon-laced soil from mining operations for permanent disposal. When those are full, they'll be covered.

"It just seemed like a good way to solve problems and have everyone move on with their lives," he told commissioners.

Commission Chairwoman Rose Pugliese said she wasn't convinced that the odor problems were caused only by industry-related waste when Alanco was operating the facility. Goodwin has operated its own disposal facility next to the bigger pools since 1996, using it for grease and other waste.

Commissioner Scott McInnis pressed the applicants on the issue of whether an allowance of up to 300 trucks per month was necessary, as well as whether the conditions on minimizing dust and odors would be sufficient to handle triple the maximum traffic previously permitted.

Commissioner John Justman asked if a limit of 150 trucks per month would be sufficient for the septic service company's operations. Gale agreed that would be adequate at this time.

Only one neighbor, Thomas Panter, spoke at the hearing, Panter, who said he has lived full time in a nearby off-grid yurt on the east side of U.S. 50 for about six years, described Gale and his business as good neighbors. He said he preferred the proposed operation to the one that Alanco was running with the produced water.

"We did have several times when we were nearly run out of our place," he said, but added that he has no serious reservations about Gale's expanded operation.

The permit allows Goodwin to dispose of waste at the property Monday through Saturday during daylight hours, and on Sundays in case of emergency, but only if the Panters are not at home.

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