Carr residents unite against injection of septage and waste-water into farm land

Carr is an unincorporated community in Weld County, three miles east of Exit 293 on I-25, about 17 miles north of Wellington. “Some call it a ghost town,” according to Jay Warburton author of a piece about Carr for Wikipedia, but Christine Schneider, a Fort Collins Realtor who lives in the old Carr schoolhouse, tells a different story.

She guesses there are between 40 and 50 houses in town and between 350 and 370 addresses in the 80612 zip code. She’s lived in Carr for five years and says the commute to her work in Fort Collins is a small price to pay for the rural living she loves. “We have great neighbors, we know them all and they’re always there for each other,” Schreiner said.

That’s why she was able to gather 60 names on a petition and there were more than 20 people from the area at a meeting with Weld County officials in Greeley on Sept. 15 to discuss the installation of three 60,000 gallon oil tanks on 160 acres of land near Carr. One or two trucks a day will deliver septage and waste-water to the tanks for temporary storage.

The tanks are intended for storage of human waste that will be injected into the land on a weekly basis to serve as fertilizer for dryland crops. Carr area residents worry that their homes and wells are at great risk. They say soil in the area is sandy, does not hold moisture well and is not conducive to the growing of crops. Today native grasses cover most of the area. Topsoil is basically non-existent in the area according to Schreiner.

Residents fear that seepage from the tanks will affect the wells that supply their water and that odor may be a problem as well. Carr resident Amie Barker said in a letter to the Weld County Commissioners, “No human waste in Carr! We don’t want human waste drug out here to contaminate well water. There are plenty of other places with no towns around to do this.”

Cindy and Kevin Sullivan, who have owned and operated Sullivan Septic Service since 1992 tell the other side of the story. “We learned from the meeting with Weld County Council and local residents from the Carr area where our farm is located, that there is a lot of misinformation about our farming operation,” Cindy said.

The Sullivans own 160 acres adjacent to Carr and have placed three oil tanks on their property for the purpose of temporarily storing septage they plan to inject into the land to serve as fertilizer for their dry land farm. They plan to raise hay on the land.

Cindy Sullivan explains that the process of applying septage and waste-water has been going on in Weld County for as long as there has been waste-water in the Front Range. The process fertilizes crops grown to feed animals in non-irrigated areas.

The waste-water tests out at 99.05 percent moisture (water) per gallon and one percent solids made up of a small amount of nitrogen and organic material. In the process any trash is screened out and disposed of before the clean waste-water is injected into the subsoil with an agricultural soil injector. “This does an amazing job of increasing production of a dry land crop, grass, hay or wheat,” Cindy said.

Annual soil samples verify that nitrogen levels remain within limits. Setbacks of 500 feet from any residence or well are required by Weld County Health Department. The Sullivan project is approximately 3000 feet from any residences or wells at its closest point, more than six times the required distance.

“All waste-water treatment plants dispose of their by products on dry land crops and fields,” Cindy said. She also pointed out the Weld County Right-to-Farm statue that states, regarding tuck traffic on gravel roads for the purpose of farming: “an agricultural operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance when employing methods or practices that are commonly or reasonably associated with an agricultural production.”

The Sullivans look forward to getting their final permit from the Health Department so that they can begin their farming operation.

Meanwhile, on October 14 a number of residents of the Carr are will attend a 10 a.m. meeting at the Weld County building, 1150 O. Street in Greeley in hopes of hearing a decision that will prevent the injection of septage and waste-water into the Sullivans’ land because of its proximity to the town of Carr and area residences and wells.

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