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BGWSD - Wastewater Treatment a Brief History

Wastewater treatment is not a popular dinner party topic. It will never be on the cover of Vogue magazine and it is not likely to show up in your social media feed. However, it is a critical function that no community can be without. Every community has a responsibility to ensure that their waste is not polluting their own water source or the water source of another community. In our community, the Baca Grande Water and Sanitation District (the District) is charged with this duty of protecting public health, and environmental stewardship. We are proud to provide this service to our community and would like to share a little of its history with you.

Wastewater treatment in the US was largely unregulated until 1948 when congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. This Act was the federal government’s first attempt at reducing pollution of interstate waterways. The Act saw major changes in 1972 with the passing of the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act established the framework for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the discharge of pollutants into public waters. The Clean Water Act made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant into waters of the state without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit. This permit system governs most wastewater treatment in the US including the wastewater treatment performed by the District.

The District’s wastewater treatment story started in 1971 with the construction of two wastewater treatment facilities. These facilities were roughly identical and were creatively named Wastewater Treatment Plant #1 and Wastewater Treatment Plant #2. Wastewater Treatment Plant #1 was located just south of Mobile Home Estates Subdivision more commonly known as Casita Park and was constructed to serve that subdivision. Wastewater Treatment Plant #2 was located where the District office is today and was constructed to serve the Chalet 1 area. In 1974, Wastewater Treatment Plant #3 was constructed near the North-East corner of Wagon Wheel Road and Camino Del Rey. Waste water treatment Plant #3 was intended to serve the Chalet 2 area, however, the facility was not used for many years because no houses were in the service area.

In the early 1980’s the District expanded the infrastructure in many of the subdivisions. Wastewater treatment Plant #1 and #2 were replaced with lagoon systems and two more lagoon systems were added to serve newly expanded areas. One of these was the Stables Lagoon which was located just west of the Baca Stables and the other was the Cottonwood Lagoon which was located west of Ridgecrest Way. During this time the District had a total of five small wastewater treatment systems which served their respective areas until 2004.

In the early 2000’s the District began and wastewater treatment regionalization project to combine four of the five treatment systems into one centralized treatment facility. The facility was completed in 2004 and was named the Aspen Institute Wastewater Treatment Facility (AIWWTF).  In 2002, the District signed an agreement with the Town of Crestone and began treating the town’s wastewater shortly after the AIWWTF was completed. In 2013, the Mobile Home Estates Lagoon was replaced with a pump station that transports the wastewater from the Mobile Home Estates subdivision to the AIWWTF. Since 2013 the AIWWTF has served as the sole wastewater treatment facility for The Baca Chalets 1, 2 and 3 subdivisions as well as Mobile Home Estates subdivision, and the Town of Crestone.

Today the AIWWTF is faced with several challenges including new regulatory permit limits, treatment capacity limitations, aging infrastructure, and health and safety concerns. All of these factors have lead the District to explore the options of building a new wastewater treatment facility or rehabilitating the existing facility to meet current needs. As one might imagine, each of these options costly and will have financial impacts on all District constituents. The District is investigating different funding opportunities and thoroughly vetting our data to ensure we make the most informed decision possible for the future of wastewater treatment for our community. We are dedicated to be thorough in our vetting process and being transparent with community about the many factors that will play into this decision. 

By Gary Potter 05/2024