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  • Dylan Anderson

Hayden's public works staff avoided public health emergency during flooding

Water overflowing from Dry Creek in Hayden surrounds the entrance to Dry Creek Park. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

Hayden’s public works staff was able to avoid a behind-the-scenes public health emergency amid flooding earlier this month as the strong flows put the town’s wastewater treatment plant at capacity.

Bryan Richards, the town’s public works director, told Town Council last week that they needed to bring in additional six-inch pumps from Routt County Public Works to keep wastewater flowing.

“It really was a public health emergency behind the scenes,” Richards said. “Sometimes people don’t understand how stressful those situations can be when you know you have a hazardous material, you’re watching it back up and you know there’s going to be serious implications for the community.”

But Richards credited his public works crew — some of whom had their own houses flooding — for keeping the plant working, and ensuring sewer lines didn’t back up across the town. Two of the town’s sewer lift stations were forced offline by flooding as well, but Richards said they were able to bypass them with additional pumps.

Additional technical help is expected to come to Hayden this week to get those lift stations fully operational, Richards said.

“Time and time again public works staff gets after it and gets the job done,” Richards said. “We weathered the storm at the wastewater treatment plant.”

The town’s water treatment plant that takes in water from the Yampa River was stressed as well, which required town staff to make adjustments to accommodate what quickly became a much dirtier river. The town assesses water quality into the plant with a unit called Formazine Turbidity Units or FTUs. Richards said they went from a river at 5 FTUs to water that was measured at 300 FTUs in just two days.

“We went from a river that was pretty clean to one that was pretty dirty,” Richards said. “When that happens, we need to make a lot of adjustments at the plant to make sure we’re on point.”

Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said it couldn’t be understated how much town employees and several community volunteers had worked during the flooding.

“I know that this has been tragic,” Mendisco said. “We have been working really, really hard and it has been community volunteers and town of Hayden resources.”

Mendisco said he was also prepping to look ahead to flooding that could come from the Yampa River in the coming weeks by meeting with hydrologists and engineers to mitigate potential impacts. Richards and Mendisco have been working through scenarios for what that flooding may look like and what the impacts could be.

“We are going to make it through this together,” Mendisco said.


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