EPA orders Red Cliff to hand over documents
Red Cliff failed to provide status reports on its drinking water system for two years in a row and now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering the town to submit them or possibly face fines.The order concerns missing consumer confidence reports for 2000 and 2001. Towns are required to annually file the reports, which list the source of the town’s drinking water and if any problems were detected during the course of the year. An order was first issued in 2002 to then-mayor Betty Sandoval and the operator of the drinking water facility. Diane Sipe, EPA director of technical enforcement, said the town did not provide records of those reports then. The most recent order, submitted to the town last month, demands those reports again and names the entire town as the defendant. If Red Cliff does not deliver the reports, the town could be fined up to $32,500 per day or be issued a court injunction ordering the town to comply, according to the EPA order. However, assessing fines is not the goal, said Peggy Livingston, an EPA attorney.”We want to see them comply and not have to consider administrative penalties,” she said.Earlier this year the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment admonished the town to fix its failing water treatment and wastewater systems. The town’s residents have endured on-again, off-again boil orders to ensure drinking water is safe when the water plant fails. The wastewater system doesn’t treat water properly, dumping contaminated fluid into the stream below. The town is considering replacing both plants and is searching for ways to pay for that. There is no connection between the EPA’s order and that made by the state health department, Livingston said.Mayor Ramon Montoya did not return calls for comment but Town Trustee Jim Bradford said the town was run by a different administrator in 2000 and 2001 and there is the possibility that consumer reports were never generated in those years. If that is the case, Sipe said, the town will be asked to use the data they have for 2000 and 2001 to create reports.The EPA began requiring towns to submit reports about their drinking water systems in 2000, Sipe said. “They were relatively new requirements,” she said. “There was a little more noncompliance in the beginning. This probably occurred during that initial reporting phase and there may have been less familiarity with the requirements.”Nowadays town submit those reports to the state’s department of health instead.Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555, ext. 607.
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