Extension requested for comments on pollutants
April 4, 2019
At their Tuesday night meeting, the Thermopolis Town Council — with council member Dusty Lewis absent — took up two issues, both of which have ties to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The first was the April 17 deadline to have comments to the DEQ regarding a permit that would allow for millions of gallons of tainted water carrying tons of oilfield pollutants from the Moneta Divide oil and gas field, to come into Boysen Reservoir and Wind River each month.
Mayor Mike Chimenti noted he’s submitted a letter to Kevin Frederick, administrator of the DEQ Water Quality Division, voicing his concern that the town is just now becoming aware of the April 17 comment deadline and requesting an extension of the comment period by no less than 120 days. The letter also states that the town supports the Hot Springs County Conservation District’s request that a DEQ representative come to the community for a public meeting. This meeting would allow people to get informed and make educated comments on the proposed permit.
Chimenti added he’s sent copies of the letter to the Hot Springs County Farm Bureau, Hot Springs County Commission, Senator Wyatt Agar and Representative John Winter.
Lee Campbell said he did quite a bit of work when he was the town planner, and found most Wyoming towns have taken very aggressive measures to protect their water sources, such a large land purchases, drilling of new wells and expensive upgrades.
This is a huge issue, Campbell said, and will take hundreds of hours to find out what’s really going on. He was also interested as to how much degradation is currently going into Boysen, noting the algae blooms indicate there are nitrates and phosphates going in.
A second issue raised at the meeting came from Director of Public Works Ernie Slagle. “It’s time to do tire shredding again at the landfill,” he said. The shredding was done in 2017 and he’s been informed there are as many, if not more, tires than what we had back then. In October of 2017, 487 tons of tires were shredded at a rate of $150 per ton, for a total $73,050.
Slagle has already put forth a request for $75,000 for the next fiscal year to cover the costs. He said the crew that shreds them are coming next week for a tour, as they have a couple jobs west of Thermopolis, and are expected to return a few weeks after the tour — way before the next fiscal year — to begin the shredding.
Another pressing issue is the DEQ has made a visit to the landfill, didn’t like the number of tires and wants to know what the plans are for them. They were told there was money being budgeted for shredding, but a DEQ representative will be back to make sure it’s being done.
As for other options for the tires, Slagle noted if there isn’t any market for them they’re not going to go anywhere. While there is a facility in Salt Lake City that reclaims tires, Mayor’s Assistant Fred Crosby said, he recalled the rate would still be $150 per ton but there would also be added hauling costs.
Slagle is also concerned that tires are still being found in dumpsters and piled up by them. Those tires are separated from other garbage when they go to the landfill, adding to the problem. There has been some discussion that the town is undercharging for tire dumping, though Slagle said if the current rate of $3 per tire were increased it could worsen the problem.
Crosby noted the cost of a shredding machine could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $600,000.
Clerk/Treasurer Tracey Van Heule noted in order to pay for the shredding service this year, the money would have to come from the sanitation reserve. Mayor Mike Chimenti suggested possibly delaying payment for the service until the new budget is in effect, but Van Heule cautioned it would cause issues when it comes to the annual audit as it would still be considered an expense for the current fiscal year. There is money in the sanitation reserve currently, but it would mean less that could be set aside next year for large capital expenses.
Council did approve a motion to take the money from the sanitation reserve to pay for the service, though Slagle was advised to do what he could to save money, possibly even negotiating a different rate.
In action, council approved replacing a decorative light pole in the 500 block of South Sixth, which was struck and broke early Monday morning. Crosby believes the pole had already been replaced three times, and the total cost for each is about $3,500 — $3,000 to $3,200 for the pole and the rest for labor to install it. Insurance typically covers half the cost.
Later in the meeting Crosby and council expressed concern about main Street Thermopolis signs stating “Welcome to Main Street Thermopolis Historic District” being hung from the decorative poles. They weigh significantly more than the current decorations and have more surface for the wind to hit, which could cause the aluminum poles to be damaged or to break. It was suggested the signs be modified to be lighter and have less wind resistance.
Also at the meeting, John Gardner took the Oath of Office as the newest member of the Thermopolis Police Department.
Mayor Chimenti signed a proclamation that the week of April 14-20, 2019 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in Thermopolis. The proclamation states Congress and the President of the United State have established the second week of April as National Telecommunicators Week, and those communicators are a vital link between those seeking relief and responders. Residents are encouraged to express appreciation to the telecommunicators for their diligence and professionalism in keeping the town and its citizens safe.