The town of Palisade is taking the next step forward in its effort to upgrade its sewer treatment by sending its wastewater to the Clifton Sanitation District.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees directed staff to sign an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Clifton Sanitation District. The agreement sets the framework for how the process will work, Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson said.

“It’s a bulk rate agreement,” Hawkinson said. “So we’ll have just one pipe that brings all of Palisade’s sewer to Clifton and we’ll have one lift station with a meter on it and that’s how we’ll be charged. Palisade will still have it’s own independent sewer.”

The town will still be responsible for the sewer lines and meters in town, Hawkinson said, as well as tap fees and industrial pretreatment. The town will also retain control of its ability to approve developments within its jurisdiction, she said.

“That’s part of the agreement, too,” Hawkinson said. “Palisade can build out. They (Clifton Sanitation) can’t say, ‘No you can’t do that development.’ ”

The town currently operates a wastewater treatment facility that uses lagoons, which will not meet the state’s standards, Hawkinson said. She said they looked into the best option for replacing that system.

“The board back in 2019 directed staff to start looking into our sewer system lagoons,” Hawkinson said. “The Colorado Department of Public Health has given us notice that our lagoons in the next couple years will not meet ammonia standards and we cannot use the lagoons any longer.”

The study looked at the possibility of the town building its own treatment plant, but found that option would cost twice as much as sending the wastewater to the existing Clifton treatment plant, Hawkinson said. That facility is at about 50% of capacity and was designed to one day handle the Palisade wastewater as well, she said.

Consolidating wastewater treatment is a common practice, Hawkinson said. She pointed to Eagle County, where the town of Edwards has a plant that handles the waste from the surrounding towns. This method also has environmental benefits.

“It’s better for the river,” Hawkinson said. “So consolidation is the better environmental choice instead of the town building its own treatment plant, which would also cost twice as much.”

The town is in the process of applying for about $14 million from a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan and grant program. Hawkinson said they are completing the necessary studies to complete the application, which will take until the end of summer.

The board voted unanimously to approve signing the IGA. Trustee Jamie Somerville said he was glad to get to this point, since the process has taken several years.

“I want to just commend staff on a really, really long process and it’s nice to be able to finally vote on this,” Somerville said. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time.”