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Wapiti Meadows Wetlands
Report & Photo Gallery


WAPITI MEADOWS WETLAND is the first created wetland using treated effluent from a domestic wastewater treatment facility in the state of Colorado. Upper Thompson Sanitation District in conjunction with The Colorado Department of Health, EPA, and The Bureau of Reclamation are jointly engaged in a study for the purpose of developing site-specific wetlands classification and numeric standards for Wapiti Meadows Wetlands. Because the lack of appropriate standards for discharging of treated effluent into wetland areas, the Division recommended and adopted a temporary modification of existing quality for the wetland portion of Segment 2 of The Big Thompson River in August 2006. This would allow sufficient time to conduct the evaluation.

The Upper Thompson Sanitation District (UTSD) is located on Bureau of Reclamation property just below Olympus Dam. The District discharges its treated effluent to the Big Thompson River and also discharges up to .250 MGD of its treated effluent into a wetland in Wapiti Meadows just north of the treatment plant.

The idea of discharging to the meadow was a plant operator's idea when it was observed that the meadow was actually an intermittent wetland and attracted a variety of wildlife during the spring runoff. The District began the regulatory process of notifying the appropriate authorities to divert a portion of the treated effluent to the meadow to enhance habitat diversity for flora and fauna.

UTSD and Wapiti Meadows Wetlands Wapiti Meadows is within a flood plain and is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and maintained by the Estes Valley Recreation District. The District has an agreement with the Bureau through a Special Use Permit to discharge to the meadow. The District has been discharging to the wetland since 1996 and has maintained regular flows to the wetland. The treated effluent to the wetland has a designated pipe with a flow meter that channels the water through a culvert and down into the meadow. The flow may be terminated at any given time.

In 2002 WQCD redefined Wapiti Meadow Wetland from a created wetland to a tributary wetland and determined that it may not be appropriate to utilize the same dilution flows for permit limits for the wetland as are used for the discharge to The Big Thompson River. Revised effluent limits for discharge to the wetland would likely need to be based on significantly reduced dilution or no dilution and might pose a problem for the District.

Several options for resolving this problem have been considered, including treating the effluent to meet more restrictive limits, ceasing discharge to the wetland, or determining if ambient based site-specific standards for the wetland would be appropriate. It was decided by all parties that developing site-specific standards was the preferred option.

For the last 2 years The District's Plant personnel and biologist's from The Bureau of Reclamation have been collecting data to support site-specific standards for Wapiti Meadows Wetland. The supporting evidence from the data collected will be put into a Report and presented to the Water Quality Control Commission in late March, 2009 with a rule-making hearing scheduled for June 6, 2009.

The Water Quality Control Commission extended the temporary modification for these constituents until 12/31/2014. During the interim, Upper Thompson Sanitation District, in consultation with the Division, EPA and CDOW, will prepare a Plan of Action to continue sampling of water into and out of the Wapiti Meadows, characterize the functions of the wetland, explore regulatory and treatment alternatives, and develop a proposal for the appropriate classification and standards for the wetland.

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