The sewer system in Westminster, Colorado is so overburdened and outdated, the city has been forced to ban development for the next 12 months. The City Council has enacted a moratorium on new development that would feed into the system.
The Big Dry Creek Interceptor Sewer system, which runs 22 miles, collects wastewater and sewage from two-thirds of the city, which has a population of 110,000 people.
The City Council, after being briefed on the age, condition and capacity of the sewer system, unanimously passed the emergency ordinance that freezes the acceptance of development proposals in the area for the next year. The freeze applies to large-scale development; not home renovations or projects.
With the moratorium in place, a consultant can now come out to inspect the sewer and gather data that will be used in the project to repair, expand and replace portions of the system.
The Big Dry Creek system, which dates back to the 1970s, was assessed in 2012 and 2015, and those studies found several areas of the system that were nearing the end of their lifespan. These areas, the studies concluded, were not able to handle growth and development in Westminster. Since 2008, the sewer flows have increased by 40%.
The city already had plans to overhaul its system in 2019, but an assessment from earlier in the year makes it clear that the sewer system is in dire need of repair. As is, Westminster is at risk of a sanitary sewer overflow.
An estimated 30-40 projects in the affected area may have to have their permits pulled due to the sewer issue. Premier mixed-use neighborhood and shopping areas will likely not be impacted by the development freeze.
The city will lift the freeze before the 12-month mark if possible. However, the sewer contractor will likely need nine months to fully assess the system.
News of the moratorium comes as another Colorado town had a sewer scare of a different kind. A bear was found hiding in a storm sewer.
The bear, believed to be 3-4 years old and weighing 250 pounds, made sure the coast was clear before emerging and running into an open space behind a nearby neighborhood.
A Colorado Parks Wildlife officer was on-site to shoot a rubber slug at the bear. The intention was to ensure that the bear maintained his fear of humans. Bears that are no longer afraid of humans and repeatedly return to neighborhoods to rummage through garbage are often put down.