◆ Public comment opened September 1; Public meeting September 27.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing in Afton on the community’s municipal water source, the Intermittent Spring Tuesday, September 27, from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the Star Valley High School Auditorium. (Also known as the Periodic Spring in Swift Creek Canyon.)
The hearing will focus on a potential water quality and a potential water treatment system for Afton.
The EPA advises the spring is a ground water source that is under the influence of surface water and this may result in a new treatment system for the municipal water source.
The Town of Afton is addressing the EPA’s concerns, but first advising the community’s water is safe.
“First and foremost the town of Afton takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of the users of our water system,” Violet Sanderson, Afton Town Administrator said in an interview in August with SVI Media’s Weekday Wake-Up program. “There is currently nothing wrong with how we are operating our system, we are currently compliant. We’re not on a boil order.”
The concern centers around the possibility of ground water connection with the spring’s water. Noting a 2018 sanitary survey, Sanderson said, the federal agency suggests, “we might be under the direct influence of surface water.”
She added, “If that determination is made about our water system, then we will be subject to filtration. Obviously that will be a huge cost for the town of Afton. That will increase monthly fees for users of the system — to put a treatment facility in — that is a huge cost for annual operation and maintenance.”
Sanderson said all compliance regulations are in order for the town. “We are completely compliant with the EPA, currently based on the ground water rules that we have to be regulated by, and we have no outstanding significant deficiencies or anything like that,” she explained.
Sanderson pointed out the town continues to work closely with both the EPA and a state agency the Department of Environmental Quality regarding the community’s water.
The Town of Afton called for a public hearing with the EPA to keep the community informed.
“We had already requested a public hearing in Afton so that residents and people who utilize our system would have the information” said Sanderson. “It’s important to have the community understand that.”
In preparation for the September 27 hearing the EPA will opened a public comment period beginning September 1. “There is a public comment period and then the EPA is going to come and hold this public hearing. They will explain why they are questioning our water source and what it might look like for us in the future,” she said. Comments should be directed to: www.regulations.gov/docket/ EPA-ROB-OW-2022-0517.
Sanderson advised, “It’s important for the residents to be well informed on what’s going on and give any comments and concerns they have associated with the spring.”
Sanderson pointed out there have been no concerns regarding the community’s water source. “Historically the town of Afton has been regulated as a ground water source,” she said. “Because of that, we haven’t been required to filter or disinfect our water. We have a long standing history of good clean water.”
She cautioned, “Our concern is they are not taking full breadth of science to make this determination. It’s more of a risk mitigation perspective, suggesting some day there could be a concern. “
Sanderson said the decision to add treatment facilities will be costly. “For the EPA to make this determination, that could cost millions of dollars for our community when we really don’t have a problem.”
Again, Sanderson concluded and emphasized, “ I want to say we take seriously the health, safety and welfare of all the users of our system.”
A 2021 test was conducted to determine if the spring water was under the influence of surface water.
“The EPA collected two micro-particulate samples, and both of those samples show the presence of macro-organisms that require the presence of sunlight to grow,” explained Sarah Bahrman with the EPA. “They are only found in surface water. And specifically here, we found fairly high counts of chlorophyll containing algae.”
Bahrman continued, “We’re making two determinations, first is the periodic spring under the direct influence of surface water and second to determine if filtration is required.”
The full interview with EPA representative Sarah Bahrman, can be heard on the app, SVI News and at SVInews.com.