BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Some Boulder County neighbors are alarmed after learning the county plans to turn 40 acres of open space into an industrial scale compost facility. The land is located near Highway 287 and Lookout Road and includes designated wetlands and agricultural land of national significance.
While the project has been in planning for years, there’s been no public input. Neighbors like Nancy Davis only learned about it recently.
“We moved here 22 years ago because we loved everything that Boulder was about,” Davis told CBS4.
When Davis and her husband sunk their life savings into a farm right next to the open space, the idea that the land – protected under an historic conservation easement – would be developed, never entered their minds.
“That conservation easement was put there for a reason, it was for the public trust,” Davis explained.
Boulder County didn’t see it that way. It voided the conservation easement when it bought the land two years ago using open space money even as it planned to cut down hundreds of trees to make room for the compost facility.
“They’ll be grinding up asphalt and old drywall. There will be trucks with rotting waste and animal carcasses,” says Davis. “And one of the really, really terrifying things about this is they’re planning to accept biosolids. Biosolids are treated human sludge, that is human sewage.”
Davis says she and her neighbors have now hired an attorney and spent thousands of dollars on open records requests that show the county has held dozens of meetings about the project, conducted countless studies, and even commissioned renderings of the facility.
Andrew Barth with Boulder County Public Works – which took the lead on the project last summer – insists it is in the preliminary stages.
“This is not a done deal,” Barth added.
He says every effort will be made to protect public health and the environment.
“This fully enclosed facility, according to the technologies that have been used in other places, would mitigate odors, would mitigate groundwater penetration. It would mitigate impacts to all of the environmental concerns,” said Barth.
Davis, who has two daughters with auto-immune diseases, doesn’t buy it.
“We won’t be able to live here, but we won’t be able to sell this. We’re going to be ruined. I just don’t know how they can do this to people and then they’re out there saying they care about social justice, and they don’t. They absolutely don’t,” Davis said.
Barth says there will be plenty of opportunity for public comment going forward. The facility still needs approval from the Planning Commission, Parks and Open Space, County Commissioners, the state health department and Department of Transportation. In addition to health and environmental concerns, it will also increase traffic on an already dangerous stretch of Highway 287.