Aspen’s sewage leak lasted for more than a month

Apr 14, 2016

Closures continue at the western half of the Rio Grande Park as well as the Jenny Adair Wetlands in Aspen, though tests results on Thursday indicated E. coli bacteria levels are extremely low.
Credit Elise Thatcher

A sewage leak in Aspen lasted for at least five weeks. Those and other details are coming to light as authorities continue to investigate what happened in the basement of expensive condos next to the Aspen Mountain gondola.

City engineers have been investigating since March 1, when staff at the Residences at the Little Nell reported foul smells. Similar reports were also made elsewhere in the downtown core. It wasn’t until last week that city staff were pretty sure the problem was coming from the Residences.

“We took the samples at Dean Street and we took another sample near the Wheeler,” said April Long, stormwater manager for the city of Aspen. “And the only contributor to the Dean Street storm system is the Residences at Little Nell.”

More test results received this past Wednesday confirmed that E. coli and fecal matter were definitely coming from a sump pump under those condos.

But it’s still not clear if the sewage just happens to be in the groundwater from another building nearby. Both the city of Aspen and the Aspen Skiing Company confirmed the offending sump pump has been turned off. The Residences at The Little Nell are part of SkiCo’s hospitality division.

Portions of two Aspen parks have been closed to the public since stormwater runs through those areas. A round of tests Thursday shows E. coli levels are extremely low. Long says the parks may open on Friday or over the weekend.

The state environmental department hasn’t decided yet if the city of Aspen needs to clean the town’s stormwater system, but Long’s office is lining up a septic company to “vacuum” out the system anyway.

The city of Aspen has not yet determined what fines or penalties the Residences may face.