DENVER, Colorado – The Avondale Water and Sanitation District in Pueblo County, Colorado is in big trouble with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for illegally rerouting a river.

The federal agency has ordered the Avondale district to restore the segment of the Arkansas River it re-engineered.

Avondale is located about 50 miles south of Colorado Springs and adjacent to the Pueblo Army Ordnance Depot where chemical weapons are stored.

Without the required permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the district constructed a channel 40 feet wide by 400 feet long through a sandbar in the Arkansas River and illegally discharged the dredged material on both sides of the new channel within the banks of the river.

The district also illegally constructed a berm across the existing channel of the river northwest of the Avondale Road bridge.

The Federal Clean Water Act prohibits discharges of dredged or fill material unless authorized by a Corps permit, but the district took these actions without a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, despite being informed by the Corps of the need to obtain a permit.

The EPA order requires the Avondale Water and Sanitation District to remove all unauthorized material placed into the river and to restore the river to pre-impact conditions.

Michael Risner, EPA Region 8 Legal Enforcement Director, said, “EPA is taking this action to protect Colorado rivers, wetlands and lakes and to provide deterrence against future violations of federal laws designed to protect valuable water resources.”

“The environmental impacts cited here could have been avoided if the district had followed the Corps’ guidance prior to commencing their activities,” Risner said.

The Arkansas River provides numerous functions and values, including aquatic and wildlife habitat, flood attenuation, groundwater recharge, recreation and aesthetics, the EPA said.

Placing dredged or fill material in creeks, streams, rivers, or wetlands can have adverse impacts on fish and wildlife habitat and their food sources, such as plants or insects.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit is required before performing any work that results in discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, which include lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.

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