County targets river polluters

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— Carwash fund-raisers are one of the activities the Routt County Department of Environmental Health has targeted as polluting the Yampa River.

Last week, Mike Zopf, director of the environmental health department, wrote a letter to the city asking it to speed up its efforts to deal with runoff that pollutes the Yampa River. He identified four activities that were polluting the river by mixing with the city's storm water runoff: car-wash fund-raisers at parking lots, parking lots that are power washed, mobile carwash businesses and carpet cleaning businesses that discharge dirty water into the city' storm water runoff system.

"I believe that we should act quickly to abate or phase out some or all of these activities, because there are solutions," Zopf wrote in a letter to City Manager Paul Hughes dated May 20.

The city is looking at a five-year plan for how to deal with storm water. The storm water management plan is required under the Federal Clean Water Act and a $10,000-a-day-fine is imposed on the city if the plan's parameters are not followed.

City Public Works Director Jim Weber said that constraints for charitable carwashes might be a part of that plan, but he doubts carwash fund-raisers will go away.

"To turn around and say these charitable carwashes are going away, I am not necessarily sure that is the manner that we are looking at it. There might be constraints associated with that, but what those will be I am not sure," Weber said.

The Federal Storm Water Management Plan is in the conceptual phase, and making changes under it is a lengthy process that requires council approval and ordinances, Weber said.

Zopf said his letter was intended to help the city identify causes of "nonpoint source pollutants," meaning pollutions that come from more than one source.

"Basically, it all boils down to the fact that the storm water system drains directly into the Yampa River," Zopf said. "Probably anything draining off of public and private property adds to the pollution leaking into the Yampa."

That means when businesses power-wash their parking lots, detergents, sediments, grease, oil and gasoline go into the city's storm water system and eventually into the river. The same contaminants also are drained into the storm water system during carwash fund-raisers held in parking lots. Mobile auto detailing businesses could use biodegradable detergents but sediment, grease and oil run still would run into the storm water system.

Zopf said carpet cleaning businesses also have been observed discharging dirty water into the city's curb and gutter system.

"These activities do not go unnoticed by the public. We routinely get calls from people regarding these items. I believe that the only reason we do not receive more calls is that people mistakenly believe that storm water goes somewhere else than the Yampa River," Zopf wrote in his letter.

The pollution that is caused by carwash fund-raisers is something that Frank Cefaratti wants to bring to the public's attention.

Cefaratti had to spend thousands to make sure his carwash business, Mountain View Car Wash, was not leaking contaminants into the river. He said organizations can use his carwash, for a fee, to host their benefits. He has held fund-raisers for Sept. 11, 2001, Columbine and the Boy Scouts.

"When you have a benefit car wash (on a parking lot), you are putting your soapy, dirty water directly into the Yampa," Cefaratti said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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