Pond odor at Spanish Peaks pushes diners inside

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – The Big Sky Water and Sewer District board tackled a number of topics at their regular monthly meeting on July 17, most of which come back to the ever-pressing limitations on wastewater storage and disposal.

The first order of business brought Lone Mountain Ranch General Manager Ryan Kunz to the table to discuss the ranch’s request to increase its Single Family Equivalent (SFE) allocations for a loose 10-year plan to construct two to three additional cabins, additional employee housing, an event facility, a restaurant bar, and hot soaking pools.

The board suggested that this would not be a problem, but asked Kunz how granting the request might also benefit the district—wastewater drainage fields being a hot commodity—a quid pro quo angle the board has been taking when entities look to the district for something. Kunz expressed confidence that the district would be able to gain access to a pasture on the property for drainage use.

Jon Olsen, director of development and engineering at Lone Mountain Land Company, shared an unpleasant situation at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club that quickly assumed priority status for the board. The “Hole 10” wastewater storage pond, also the one closest to the clubhouse, has been giving off such a strong, offensive odor that it has forced outside diners to move indoors on a number of occasions this summer.

After much discussion about what might be the cause, the district’s water superintendent, Grant Burroughs, established that the wastewater being pumped up to the club was coming from a currently unaerated district pond. Olsen said that two solar-powered aeration devices to be used on the surface of the Spanish Peaks pond were en route, but Burroughs was also tasked to find a solution on the district’s end, which will likely entail repairing its pond’s underwater aeration system.

In another urgent matter, while the board was unanimously pleased with the rate of irrigation on the Big Sky Resort, Yellowstone Club and Moonlight Basin golf courses, that rate needs to continue at or near current levels for the next 76 days to free up enough pond storage space before irrigation season ends in October.

“Bottom line, this is all working but we can’t have any hiccups with it … for the rest of the summer,” the district’s general manager Ron Edwards said, adding that if Big Sky sees an abundance of rain they “won’t make it.” Edwards said that the current average daily rate of treated wastewater being pumped onto the Big Sky Resort golf course hadn’t been sustained for a full week since the season started.

In closing, Edwards said that an update on the district potentially working out a win-win arrangement with Westfork Water and Wastewater, the private utility company that owns and operates the water supply system for the Firelight development, would be provided at the next meeting of the district.

Around the boardroom table, eyes lit up at the possibility of the district being able to access high-capacity drainage fields on the property—and the relief that it would bring to the ongoing pressure of wastewater disposal.

Visit bigskywatersewer.com for details about the August meeting of the Big Sky Water and Sewer District board.