Controlled cattail burn to proceed — town will take no more questions

February 24, 2015

controlled burn, Silt

Partial view of wetlands in downtown Silt between Kum & Go and Inter-Mountain storage units.

Partial view of wetlands in downtown Silt between Kum & Go and Inter-Mountain storage units.

This afternoon about 3:00 p.m. while I was out walking my dogs, Silt Police Chief Levy Burris left a message on my answering machine. Burris said that the test burn went as planned today and the controlled cattail burn will proceed Wednesday — tomorrow — as planned.

Burris described this schedule:
10:00 a.m. — Briefing
12 noon — Staging
1:00 — Raging inferno

Burris added that the whole thing should be done between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. “under optimum conditions” — whatever that means.

From the EPA to the CDPHE to the Army Corps of Engineers, I made several calls this morning to try and find a human being to talk to about this situation. I left a message with some guy at the CDPHE Air Quality Control Division. Early this afternoon, about 1:00 p.m., I spoke with Pat McLachlan who had approved the burn permit for this fiasco. McLachlan told me the permit was approved for the controlled cattail burn because it was designated as a firefighter training exercise. Indeed, at Monday night’s SiltBOTs meeting, the reps from Colorado River Fire Rescue said that fourteen regional firefighters will participate in Wednesday’s controlled burn. That’s a big reason why it has to happen tomorrow.

During my conversation with McLachlan I provided him with this brief history of the cattail wetlands east of Kum & Go: For decades at the site of what is now Kum & Go there was a business called Reed’s gas station and garage. In the late 90s the station’s underground gas tanks were determined to be leaking and the station stopped selling gas. For several more years it operated as a mechanic’s garage. In addition to the leaking gas tanks, used oil and old tires were dumped in the cattail wetlands for no one knows how many years — likely for decades. The leaky old tanks weren’t unearthed until Kum & Go built their store in the mid-2000s.

I’ll give McLachlan credit, he did listen to me. Although he emphasized repeatedly that the permit was issued for a firefighter training exercise so under those circumstances the state had no other choice but to issue the permit.

After our conversation, McLachlan did contact Pamela Woods (Silt Town Administrator) and Chief Burris because Burris said so in his phone message. He said he had just talked to McLachlan via the Town Administrator. Burris said he told McLachlan “We had removed a few tires that we found down there and everything looks good as far as weather conditions.”

Obviously the Town of Silt orchestrated this controlled cattail burn as a firefighter training event in order to finagle a permit with as little scrutiny — from the state and the public — as possible. Furthermore the final decision to conduct this controlled cattail burn was made by consensus at Monday night’s board meeting. Not even a vote.

The public has the right to know how little regard Mayor Aluise, the trustees and the town government have for public health and safety and the environment as well as the people’s right to openly discuss this event in advance and have their questions and concerns addressed thoroughly.

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