Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Will EPA drop its Clean Water Act lawsuit against Colorado Springs?

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2018 at 12:44 PM

click to enlarge Storm drains in waterways in Colorado Springs require ongoing maintenance. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Storm drains in waterways in Colorado Springs require ongoing maintenance.
In the Independent's latest issue, we report that litigants in the EPA lawsuit against the city have expressed concern the federal agency might be willing to dump the case.

In a March 26 letter to the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and two other agencies that have intervened in the case note that downstream communities and farmers "have borne the brunt of the City of Colorado Springs' years of noncompliance" with the Clean Water Act and its stormwater discharge permit, as well as the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.

The intervenors are Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

This noncompliance takes the form of:

• Continuing failure to require installation of permanent stormwater controls for several large areas of new development and redevelopment, resulting in significant ongoing untreated runoff. This includes granting of waivers for controls to large developments of single family homes and "grandfathering" new developments using more lenient and outdated standards for pollution control requirements.

• Continued failure to accept responsibility for ensuring the operation andmaintenance of all permanent water quality controls required by the city's discharge permit, allowing structures to fall into disrepair.

• Systemic failure to implement required controls to reduce runoff and pollution from new development and redevelopment.

• Continuing failure to require design, installation, and maintenance of pollution controls at active construction sites. "The City is still not conducting inspections correctly or following up to correct deficiencies when identified," the letter says.

Read the letter here:
In its 2017 report on compliance with the drainage permit, the city showed it's stepped up inspections of job sites, though it hasn't imposed any monetary penalties.

The city declined to comment on the matter, but as the story notes, EPA Director Scott Pruitt met with builders and developers in Colorado Springs last fall.

Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Arkansas District who signed the letter, tells the Indy that the city's longstanding neglect of its storm drainage system doesn't engender much trust.

"There’s not a lot of faith there," says Winner. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We just want something in place that will last forever."

The most recent filing in the lawsuit is the setting of a pretrial conference for May 31.

In this week's edition, we also report the city's plans for imposing stormwater fees approved by voters in November 2017.

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