Chemical plans leave bad taste in mayor’s mouth |

Chemical plans leave bad taste in mayor’s mouth

Lynn Burton
Staff Writer

A Pitkin County property owner is seeking a permit to use chemicals to control weeds above Carbondale’s Nettle Creek water plant.

Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig doesn’t like the landowner’s weed control proposal.

“It’s not justified to use chemicals for weed control there,” Hassig said. “It’s unnecessary and inappropriate.”

The property owner, Gary Snook of Aspen, did not respond to a reporter’s phone calls, nor did his attorney.

A weed management plan for the 55-acre parcel is the final unsettled issue in a lawsuit between Carbondale and the landowner. The town filed suit against GSS Properties after Snook’s construction project clogged up and temporarily shut down the Nettle Creek plant in the summer of 2001, said Mark Hamilton, an attorney for the town.

Damage to the plant occurred when an excavator accidentally dumped a bucket load of dirt into a tiny creek that feeds North Nettle Creek, Snook’s attorney Joe Edwards said in March.

The Nettle Creek plant sits on the shoulder of Mount Sopris in Pitkin County, about nine miles south of Carbondale.

Lance Clarke, a planner for Pitkin County, said Snook originally included a provision in his 1041 permit banning chemicals for weed control. Now Snook wants to amend the permit to allow chemicals.

Clarke said Snook’s 1041 land use permit amendment application can be handled as a staff review, but isn’t slated for discussion any time soon. He said Pitkin County is waiting for Carbondale to first okay the related weed management plan.

“Hopefully, Snook and Carbondale can reach an agreement,” Clarke said.

Pitkin County requires a 1041 permit before construction can occur in environmentally sensitive areas, Clarke said.

Carbondale gets its water from three sources: Nettle Creek, the Crystal River well field and the Roaring Fork well field. For decades, Nettle Creek water was virtually untreated due to its high quality, until federal regulations in the 1990s mandated plant upgrades.

“It’s a rare resource,” Hassig said, referring to Nettle Creek water. It’s also a fragile resource. “Our well fields are subject to surface water contamination,” the mayor said.

Hassig said the Carbondale Board of Trustees reviewed the lawsuit and Snook’s weed management plan after last April’s elections. He said the trustees determined that weed control can be accomplished without chemicals.

“It would be irresponsible to take any other position,” Hassig said.

Aside from environmental concerns, Carbondale opposes the use of herbicides and pesticides above the plant because chemicals complicate water testing procedures, Hassig said.

Town attorney Hamilton said if a weed control settlement isn’t reached, the issue could end up in court as part of the lawsuit’s final settlement.

Carbondale filed its lawsuit under provisions in Colorado’s Watershed Protection Ordinance. Hamilton said if the town goes forward in the lawsuit, it will argue it has the right to regulate chemicals above the Nettle Creek water plant.

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