Steamboat Springs After numerous warnings to Duckels Construction, the city planning department has issued three citations for violations relating to soil erosion control problems at the company's Long View subdivision construction site.
The construction company, if convicted of the misdemeanor, could face up to $2,997 in fines for the three tickets and owner Fred Duckels could potentially face 180 days in jail. In addition, the company could continue to be fined daily if the erosion problem isn't remedied.
"Duckels is in violation of the construction site management chapter of their building permit," city and county construction site inspector Sandy Fiebing said. "I tried to work with them on this to see if we could get it under control. They aren't preventing sediment from running off the site. They need to implement the erosion control plan and fix the problems."
Fred Duckels didn't return phone calls Tuesday.
According to a construction site management plan, Duckels is required to dispose of drainage water in a manner that prevents flooding, erosion or other damage to any portion of the site or adjoining areas. The company is also responsible for revegetation in the event that the construction project is stopped for 90 days or more. According to Fiebing, Duckels is in violation of both these stipulations as well as the Steamboat Springs revised municipal code, which states it must follow city building permit regulations.
"There was massive grading that took place on the site last fall and the company hasn't done any work since then. They didn't revegetate the site and that's a major problem," Fiebing said. "There's water and soil runoff all over the site. It's draining into the ditches and running into the Yampa River. I've given them at least three warnings myself and the building department has been up there all over the course of the last month. We can't issue a stop-work order because they're not working, so this is our only course of action."
Although Fiebing said that Duckels made an effort to place hay bales in ditches where most of the muddy water is running towards the river, she said the runoff was so extreme, it simply ran over and under the hay.
"This contractor hasn't responded to our warnings, but he was visibly upset when the citations were issued," Fiebing said. "He's real concerned and he's taking this pretty seriously. All I want is for him to get in compliance and stop the erosion from going into the river. It's too bad it came down to this."
The city Planning Commission requires construction job sites to abide by regulations as stipulated in their building permits. The city makes periodic inspections of job sites to ensure the site management plan is being followed.
Although this is the first set of citations handed out in Routt County this spring, the inspector placed a stop-work order on the Mountain Vista project run by M.J. Miller Inc. Excavating and Construction on April 4.
"The stop-work order was lifted today and we can go back to work tomorrow," M.J. Miller owner Mike Miller said Tuesday. "We had two options after all the other things we tried to maintain the silt. We have to haul the muddy water off site and we have to add aluminum sulfate to the water."
Aluminum sulfate is a chemical that binds to the silt in the water, causing it to sink to the bottom of silt ponds.
Miller said that, unlike Duckels' three warnings, he was given one warning to get into compliance with the building permit stipulations on erosion before the building department said it would shut his job site down.
"They've worked really hard to correct the situation and the site is looking better," Fiebing said.
Mike Zopf, director of Routt County Environmental Health, said that he's noticed improvement on construction sites around Steamboat.
"The way the law is set up, property owners and contractors can use whatever tools and techniques are available to deal with erosion control," he said. "We're happy to see people are using their imaginations to come up with whatever tools will work."
Although hauling water off a site is expensive, it seems to be working, but the idea of adding chemicals to the mix isn't and ideal one, Zopf said.
"There's a question about the regulatory status of the chemical process. This probably isn't the real answer to this problem. We'd rather see sufficient sediment ponds to catch the runoff," he said.
Common erosion-control practices include installing silt fences and hay bales to help catch soil. In extreme cases, silt ponds and drainage systems are used to help alleviate the situation.
Runoff can carry a variety of materials such as soil particles, pet and livestock wastes, fertilizer, oil and other pesticides and toxic chemicals that inhibit fish breeding practices, fish growth and overall aquatic existence on the rivers.
Duckels has a mandatory court appearance in municipal court at 5 p.m. on May 3. A municipal court judge will be the final decision maker in the ongoing soil-erosion battle, Fiebing said.
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