Silt looks into sewage dumping case |

Silt looks into sewage dumping case

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SILT, Colorado – Town officials in Silt plan on enlisting the aid of state and federal authorities to determine if someone has been contaminating the town’s sewage system.

A Rifle man was arrested here Tuesday evening after an alert town employee caught him allegedly dumping the contents of a septic truck into the sewer through a manhole in the Painted Pastures subdivision.

Andrew Owens, 26, of Rifle, was issued a ticket and released after being stopped by Silt police shortly after 5 p.m. He was charged with a misdemeanor offense, tampering with the municipal waterworks, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Owens had been seen a short time earlier by Joe Lundeen, projects manager for the public works department.

Lundeen, on his way home after work, reportedly saw Owens with an Owens Septic truck parked in the unoccupied subdivision, apparently emptying the truck through the manhole. The company, according to officials, is owned by Owens’ father.

After spotting Owens, Lundeen called his boss, public works director Gerry Pace, who told him to get to the scene and hold the truck and driver for police.

But, according to Pace, when Lundeen arrived and confronted Owens, Owens quickly packed up his gear, jumped in the truck and drove off, heading east out of town.

Lundeen attempted to tail the truck, and apparently the driver turned around somewhere between Silt and New Castle and headed west.

He was stopped by police at the eastern edge of Silt, according to Police Chief Levy Burris.

Pace said the town’s sewage treatment plant has experienced several incidents when monitors of the treatment mechanisms have indicated the presence of something that was not sewage. Several times this year and last year, he said, the oxygen-demand monitors have “spiked,” indicating something was interfering with the processes.

“We’ve been on the lookout for somebody dumping on us,” Pace explained.

And, according to Burris, the monitors spiked again “about 30 minutes after the dumping incident” allegedly occurred.

Town administrator Betsy Suerth said of the incident, “We have a suspicion that there are petroleum products in it.”

Pace, who did not witness the incident, said those who were there told him that “it smelled like oil.”

Samples taken from the Owens truck will be tested by a company linked to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

If the tests detect the presence of a contaminant, she said, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Attorney General’s office are on standby to begin an investigation.

“This stuff,” Suerth said, “goes right through the [sewage treatment] plant,” because the plant is designed only to treat normal sewage. “It goes right into the river.”

Garfield County Environmental Health Director Jim Rada could not be reached for comment on the incident.

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