Avon scraps stink law | VailDaily.com

Avon scraps stink law

Matt Zalaznick

The Town Council gave preliminary approval last week to repealing the law it has been using to battle foul odors exuded by the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plant in Avon.

Until last year, neighbors of the plant – particularly those who live in the nearby Sunridge apartment complexes – had constantly complained of noxious odors creeping from the facility into their and homes. The plant’s streak of sweet smells over the past year, however, led the Town Council earlier this summer to stop enforcing the law it was using to fine the plant when residents complained.

“Things are going to happen, and what we need to do is respond as quickly and thoroughly as possible,” Plant Manager Bob Trueblood has said. “I think we’re doing an excellent job.”

The Town Council apparently now has enough faith to scrap the stink law and hammer out an inter-governmental agreement with the plant to deal with odors and other problems.

“If it doesn’t work out, we can look at passing another odor ordinance,” said Avon Town Manager Bill Efting. “But I hope that never happens, because the last couple of years the Sanitation District has done a great job trying to solve the problem. They’ve really made a good effort.”

The Water and Sanitation District has gone to court almost every time it has been fined by the town for an odor complaint. The district last year even convinced a judge to strike down one of Avon’s stricter stink laws.

“This way we can work on the problem instead of wasting money on lawyers and court costs,” Efting said. “Because when we fine them, we’re also fining ourselves.”

Councilman Mac McDevitt has also said less time in court means more time solving problems.

“I didn’t realize the amount of time it’s taking (plant) managers to defend these things,” McDevitt said. “And we recognize that they have made significant improvements over the past year and a half.”

Trueblood said the district is continually upgrading its wastewater treatment equipment to prevent what agency officials call “odor excursions.”

Trueblood said there’s only been two substantial complaints about odor in the last 14 months, and he would like neighbors to call the plant as soon as they smell anything odd.

“We need people to call us and let us know when they first detect something,” he said. “We’ve had calls; we’ve absorbed the smell quickly and there hasn’t been a second call.”

But repealing the law doesn’t mean the plant is off the hook.

“We contemplate them continuing to improve, ad nauseum,” McDevitt has said.

This summer, the plant plans to relocate chemical tanks to prevent those smells from seeping out, Trueblood said. And in early October, the plant will upgrade its “air handling” system by installing new fans. To do that, the plant will have to take the system off-line for a few days, Trueblood said.

“It is possible people might pick up a musty odor while that’s happening,” Trueblood said.

Those odors shouldn’t extend too far beyond the plant, however, and workers will install backup equipment to keep most of the smell from escaping, Trueblood said.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing July 22 before it takes a final vote on repealing the stink law.

Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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