Friday, June 22, 2012

Fort Carson sewage spill and other enviro missteps

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Fort Carson Colorado Springs

Fort Carson, the Mountain Post south of Colorado Springs, is under investigation for an incident in which 10,000 gallons of sewage laced with oil flowed into Fountain Creek, the Pueblo Chieftain reports today.

The manhole overflow is being blamed on heavy rains earlier this month.

Here's what Fort Carson officials say about the spill:

The blend of industrial wastewater and rainfall runoff release occurred as a result of the installation’s industrial wastewater treatment system’s collection capacity being overwhelmed by rainwater introduced into the system from the big storm of June 6. The design capacity of the system was exceeded for a short period, allowing storm water mixed with industrial wastewater to overflow and then enter into B-Ditch about a mile away from Fountain Creek. It is estimated that up to 10,000 gallons of the wastewater/rainwater mix might have been discharged into the ditch. As soon as the overflow was discovered a Garrison emergency response crew responded by staking out the spill area and containing as much of the spill as they could. To assess impact, samples of the receiving ditch waters were taken. The spill was reported to the regulatory authorities right away. Water quality within the B-Ditch returned to normal conditions for the sampled contaminants (oil and grease) as of June 8. A few inches of soil from the impacted area will be removed and disposed of at a local landfill within the next few days.

Fort Carson complies most of the time with environmental laws, but it has had some missteps.

The post paid a $2,475 fine after state environmental regulators found Carson and its environmental contractor, Earth Tech, had violated the Colorado Hazardous Waste Act in 2005 and 2006.

The violations, as outlined in documents obtained by the Independent from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:

— Failure to make hazardous waste determinations for seven 55-gallon drums of liquid that was considered hazardous waste.
— Stored eight 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste in excess of 90 days without a permit.
— Disposed of material that was listed as hazardous waste "onto the ground at the Combined Landfill Area without having either a permit or interim status for the disposal of hazardous waste or treating the waste to levels below the Colorado Basic Standards for Groundwater."

Earth Tech said in the Compliance Order on Consent that it was merely working for Fort Carson and didn't have authority over the post's property and storage yard that was subject of the violations.

Fort Carson officials had this to say about the hazardous waste violations and fine:

The first two violations above that were outlined by the Independent resulted from a long-standing difference of opinion between the Army and Colorado as to how to handle water extracted from monitoring wells. The extractions contained small amounts of potentially hazardous waste. These violations did not include any releases of hazardous wastes or adverse effects to the environment.

The third violation involved leaking from a storage drum containing water extracted from monitoring wells. The leak started over the holiday period and was discovered by Fort Carson personnel and promptly reported to Colorado regulators in January, 2007. The leaked amount involved only approximately 25 gallons and, again, involved no adverse effects to the environment.

But that's not Carson's only problem. Additional Health Department records obtained by the Indy show Fort Carson was notified in February of 16 potential violations of the Colorado Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act, for which it could be assessed an administrative penalty of up to $15,000 per day for each violation.

Several of the violations involve air quality readings the state alleges were faulty. In another case, Carson put an engine into service in October 2009 without obtaining an Air Pollutant Emission Notice and paying an associated fee until July 2010. "Fort Carson incorrectly believed that the equipment met the definition of a non-road engine and did not need a permit until it had been onsite for over 12 months," state regulators wrote in its compliance advisory.

In several other cases, Carson put engines into service without the proper permits. The violations took place in 2010, 2011 and 2012, records show.

Again, Carson's comments:

Air quality violations were related to administrative oversight for emissions sources installed by government contractors without proper air quality construction permits during the rapid and sustained construction occurring as a result of the growth in Fort Carson. The garrison has since put preventative measures in place to ensure air emission sources scheduled for construction receive proper permits from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. The garrison environmental office continues to work cooperatively with all Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offices to ensure its environmental protection measures comply with applicable laws and regulations.

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