Avon’s waste could help melt snow | VailDaily.com

Avon’s waste could help melt snow

Matt Terrell
Avon CO, Colorado

AVON ” Avon will likely melt snow on its future downtown sidewalks and plazas with the leftover, excess heat created by the wastewater treatment plant, the Town Council decided Tuesday.

The council, though, couldn’t decide exactly how much snowmelt system to install, and where the system would be placed ” which will have large impacts on the cost, design and environmental impact of building Main Street.

The town has long debated the environmental consequences of installing a snowmelt system on its new Main Street, which will be part of Avon’s new downtown. Snowmelt can make walking a lot safer, but it also requires burning fossil fuels and dumping tons of earth-warming carbon dioxide in the air.

The council gave a tentative “yes” to snowmelt in March, but only if it was minimized, and if it was done in an environmentally responsible manner.

The council was encouraged and intrigued by a partnership with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District to use the leftover, excess heat created by the wastewater treatment plant a couple blocks away to heat the streets instead of gas-fired boilers, which dump tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

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It takes a lot of energy to treat water and solid waste, and there’s a lot of heat that’s generated, but not reused. By capturing this heat and transferring it to a chemical mixture that would be pumped to downtown Avon beneath the streets, the sidewalks could be ice free and safer without near as much pollution.

The snowmelt would be boosted by a solar-thermal system, which heats water using the sun. A gas-fired boiler also would be installed to help the system perform well on the snowiest and coldest days.

“The functionality and attractiveness of the area is greatly inhibited if we don’t snowmelt,” mayor Ron Wolfe said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The excess heat also would be used to heat the Avon Recreation Center ” the town’s biggest polluter ” and reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 568 tons a year.

With design wrapping up on Main Street, the council will soon have to decide, once and for all, how much snowmelt will be used and where it will go.

Preliminarily plans called for around 48,000 square feet of snowmelt in the downtown area, mostly on sidewalks and plaza areas along Main Street and Lettuce Shed Lane, a pedestrian path connecting Avon Station to Main Street.

This plan would still require manual snow removal on the street with plows.

Wolfe wants to make sure that the snowmelt is strategically placed along Main Street so that manual snow removal won’t be necessary there. With so much money being invested in this new, rejuvenated downtown, Wolfe wants Main Street to be a pleasant experience without noisy machinery rumbling down the narrow, pedestrian-friendly road.

The Main Street design team will try rearranging where the snowmelt pipes would go, and return to the council at a later meeting for approval.

Councilman Brian Sipes didn’t seem totally convinced that snowmelting Main Street is the best idea. He said the heat from the wastewater treatment plant could be more focused on the recreation center and other town buildings.

Councilman Rich Carroll also expressed reservations about snowmelt, saying that the town has spent a lot of money on environmental initiatives, like wind power, and snowmelt seems to go against it.

The snowmelt system also will cost a substantial amount of money ” $3.68 million.

“Where’s the money going to come from?” Carroll said.

However, no one on the council said they wanted to see “zero” snow melt when asked by the design team.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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