New Steamboat street sweeping facility intends to reduce pollution
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A new public works facility is expected to help reduce air and water pollution in the city.
The building will serve as a place to clean the department’s street sweepers and sewer grates and store the sediment that comes off the city’s streets. On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved a development plan for the facility at 909 Critter Court.
“Our street sweeping is a really important step the city takes to protect the environment, but to have a well-functioning street sweeping program, you have to have the facilities to maintain sweeper trucks and handle the waste that gets picked up,” said Kelly Romero-Heaney, water resources manager in the city’s Public Works Department.
When it snows, city snowplows push the snow off the road and put scoria, a type of rock, onto the road. With each tire that passes over it, the rock breaks down into a smaller particle. This sediment can wash into local waterways or pollute the atmosphere.
In the 1980s, this contributed to air pollution that placed Routt County and Steamboat in violation of federal air quality standards. In the 1990s, regulation and operational changes improved air quality in the Yampa Valley and brought the area into compliance with federal standards.
One of the changes that prevented pollution was more frequent street sweeping after winter storms. As the city’s streets dry out, street sweepers vacuum up the rock and grit three to four days after a snowstorm.
Street sweepers then head to the city shop, where the equipment is emptied outdoors and then washed inside. The grit dries outside until the city transports it to the landfill in Milner. Romero-Heaney said city equipment picks up more sediment from the roadways than it puts down during some winter months.
Romero-Heaney said the new facility will allow the grit to dry indoors, which will further prevent the sediment from running off into the Yampa River and its tributaries. Unlike the current setup, the building will be built to store sediment and wash public works equipment. Waste from the city’s storm drains will also be stored in the new facility.
“It’s hard to measure how many contaminants are leaving the site, but this will almost eliminate any risk that the pollutants that come from our sweeper program or sewer maintenance will get released into the environment,” she said.
Within the last five years, the city has had no significant environmental quality violations, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The project was a planned expense included in the city’s 2019 public works budget.
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At 7 p.m. Thursday, the Yampa River’s temperature was 72 degrees at a spot in the Chuck Lewis Wildlife Area south of Steamboat. That’s about 15 degrees higher than the typical average.