Steamboat Resort reported a sewage leak last month that closed a run |

Steamboat Resort reported a sewage leak last month that closed a run

The full extent of the spill won’t be known until the snow melts, though

Steamboat Resort
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Last month, thousands of gallons of sewage spilled down the slopes of Steamboat Resort and according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, no penalty has been issued to Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. 

Steamboat Ski Patrol detected the spill around 2 p.m. on March 17 when they noticed water coming out of a manhole on Vagabond, according to the public health department and Sarah Jones, director of social responsibility with the resort. An area about 5 by 15 feet of soil and snow was visibly impacted, according to the state public health and environment department.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. estimated the spill to be between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons that flowed west, or downhill, underneath the snow on the lower section of Vagabond, said the health department. The run was closed immediately and continued to be while crews addressed the spill. 

The sanitary sewer flow came from a 6-inch pipe about 3,500 feet east, or upslope of 3150 Burgess Creek Road, or the Slope Maintenance Building near the base of Thunderhead Express. The pipe originated from the on-mountain restaurants, and according to CDPHE, had minimal to no flow outside of business hours. 

The resort reported the spill to the state department of public health and environment on March 20 and also alerted the U.S. Forest Service, Mt. Werner Water and Routt County Environmental Health. 

Crews installed a successful bypass on March 19 around 12:30 p.m. The cause was identified as a root ball blocking the sewer line, according to the health department, which contractors removed before repairing the line. Crews also worked to clean up affected snow and soil. Mitigation of the spill was difficult due to terrain and the amount of snow. 

“At that time and since that time we’ve been working with them to make sure they are dealing with it within the terms of their permits that they have to operate on Forest (Service Land),” said Aaron Voos, public affairs specialist with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests. “There still is a lot of evaluation and assessment that is ongoing and needs to happen.”

However, the full extent of the leak won’t be clear until the snow melts, said Voos. 

“It’ll probably take a while to see what the severity of the impact actually was,” he said.

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An investigation by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. showed the sewage spill did not flow into any surface water, such as Burgess Creek, according to the health department, but Jones said the resort continues to monitor the waterway.

“We worked with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to report the incident and continued to communicate to ensure that we were meeting their requirements for reporting and mitigation,” said Jones in an email. “Per their instructions, we continue to visually monitor the snow and Burgess Creek for impacts from the leakage.”

Vagabond was closed for about 48 hours, said Jones, and when it reopened, the affected area was roped off.

Due to the size of the spill, the resort’s compliance history and lack of impact to surface, the state health department said no penalty has been issued. 

“The resort and USFS will continue to monitor the area and Burgess Creek as conditions change and snow melts in order to determine additional cleanup needed and will keep the department updated,” wrote a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Steamboat Resort plans to continue preventative maintenance on their sewer lines.”

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