During a meeting this morning, Feb. 8, the Pueblo County Commissioners filed a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs. According a statement from the board, “The Commissioners took this action because citizens of Pueblo County are perhaps the most directly affected by Colorado Springs Clean Water Act permit violations and the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners believe the County must have a voice in this case.”
The lawsuit, filed in November 2016 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, claims the city of Colorado Springs violated multiple sections of its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit issued by the CDPHE.
The alleged permit violations include failure to:
- adequately fund its stormwater management program;
- properly maintain its stormwater facilities; and
- reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable.
“These violations,” according to the board, “have led to increased E. Coli levels several times in excess of the acceptable standard, as well as erosion, sedimentation and increased flooding, all of which have impaired human health, the environment in Pueblo County, and recreational opportunities along Fountain Creek.”
By intervening in the lawsuit, the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners hopes to:
- support the EPA and CDPHE in their regulatory mission;
- ensure that stormwater control infrastructure within Colorado Springs is properly operated and maintained;
- ensure there are no conflicts or inconsistencies between the stormwater Intergovernmental Agreement recently entered by the county and Colorado Springs and any remedy, judgment or settlement entered in this case;
- require Colorado Springs to become, and then remain, compliant with the Clean Water Act, the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, stormwater regulations and the conditions of Colorado Springs’ MS4 permit, and protect against future violations;
- work with Colorado Springs to develop, implement and enforce its’ Stormwater Management Program as required by the MS4 permit; and
- prohibit Colorado Springs from discharging stormwater that is not in compliance with its MS4 permit or its SMP.
“Our primary motivation is to have a seat at the table, and to protect our stormwater IGA with Colorado Springs,” said Pueblo Commissioner Terry Hart. “There’s always the potential that a case like this will generate a significant fine, and we want to make sure that we’re protected. We don’t support fines — we’d rather see the money go into remediation.”
That’s the position of Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who has pointed out that the city’s limited resources would be better used to solve stormwater problems than to pay fines.
“We’ve developed really good relationships with Mayor Suthers and the present members of city council,” Hart continued. “I want to stress that we do cherish our relationship.”