In early July, increasing complaints about the state of the septic system at Cherry Acres, a mobile home community in Austin, led representatives of Impact MHC in Cedaredge, the managing company over Cherry Acres, to comment on the matter.
On July 8, Mikki Hines of Impact’s paralegal field support said that the company was expecting to have the project done by the end of fall. At the time, an engineer plan was due to the Delta County Health Department. According to Hines at that time, Impact was expected to receive an engineering report very soon.
Attempts to receive an update on this matter from Impact were unsuccessful.
However, according to Environmental Health Director Greg Rajnowski, who commented on the status of the project on Friday, the course of events unfortunately did not follow that planned trajectory.
No engineer plan has been submitted at this time, according to Rajnowski, but there are several other pieces to the puzzle — the story has changed since July.
“It’s not as simple as that,” Rajnowski said of the matter. “I would love to say that A then B then C then D, but what happened was is when we were looking at the situation, the existing permitted systems were going to require replacements. When you repair a system, that’s one thing and the existing permit would have covered that. But we’re actually replacing a failed system, and when that happens, that triggers a whole new, different part of the regulations which says everything on that property has to be brought up to the current Regulation 43, which is the state’s on-site wastewater regulation.”
This means that, for Impact and Cherry Acres, since their overall system for the whole park exceeds 200,000 gallons per day, it has to go through state review, meaning the issue no longer stops at the Delta County Health Department. The state has to review engineer designs for the whole park’s septic overhaul.
Rajnowski said that at this point, Impact MHC is in communication with the state to find out exactly what kind of septic system will be required to work for Cherry Acres, which Rajnowski said far exceeds that 200,000 gallon a day threshold.
Finding a proper system for that particular park does not appear to be an easy task either considering the terrain and the valley in the back.
“At first we thought that the problem was just going to be repairing or replacing a tank and that could have easily been done without having to go through the state to get their review but once we realized that, no, systems had potentially failed and needed to be fully replaced, that changes the game,” Rajnowski said.
As it stands, Rajnowski said that the current state of the septic system at Cherry Acres indicates that, until it’s replaced, septic tanks will continue to have significant issues and the chances of tanks backing up into people’s homes will remain to be too high of a probability.
Cherry Acres’ septic tanks are over capacity, and the number of mobile homes is increasing. To further that issue, a number of the park’s many trees have filled the already-limited space within the tanks with roots.
Impact Vice President of Human Resources and Risk Management Renée Poutre said in July that Impact acknowledges septic issues at Cherry Acres for approximately the last year, but four residents of the area have said that the problems span back further; up to 11 years.
Nine residents, who largely requested to remain anonymous out of fear of repercussion from Impact, affirmed during the summer that despite continued inefficiencies with the septic system, Impact’s next priority seemed to be to pave the driveways of each residence. All nine residents stated that they did not feel this was a priority.
Indicatively, and again without comments from Impact, the priorities have been rearranged now that the state is involved.
Residents and Rajnowski previously stated that Impact seemed to be in no hurry to get the project done. Now, however, Rajnowski said that he gets every indication that they are motivated to move on it and get it done.
“As far as I can tell, I’ve got an engineer talking to me, I’ve got an installer talking to me and I’ve got [Impact staff],” Rajnowski said. “We had a conference call about two weeks ago, maybe a little more, with the state about what the plan of attack was going to be and what kind of timeline there was going to be and I think Rocky [Baldozier, Impact associate] has been trying to push the state to be a little quicker, but probably not successfully.”
Even though Impact is now pushing the change, it unfortunately does not mean the project will be quick and easy, Rajnowski said. The nation still faces an extreme supply and equipment shortage, which significantly backlogs the project right off the bat.
“The state is going to take their time with the review,” Rajnowski said. “[Impact is] going to make sure it’s done right because the last thing they want is to be accused of not doing a good job.”
The DCI will continue to report on the status of the septic issues at Cherry Acres. To see recent coverage on the situation at Cherry Acres and Impact MHC, visit deltacountyindependent.com and search “Cherry Acres.”
Lucas Vader is a staff writer for the Delta County Independent. Follow him on Twitter, @lucasrvader.