Introduction — High-density development in the Conifer/South Evergreen community has unique challenges: 1) the extreme danger from wildfires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is exacerbated by the effects of high-density construction, the danger of wind-blown ember-created cascading fires, and the effects resulting form inadequate fire-fighting crews, equipment, water available for firefighting, site ingress/egress routes, and infrastructure; 2) since our drinking water comes exclusively from scarce groundwater withdrawn from the local fractured bedrock aquifer, supplies must be sustainable even during long-term drought conditions; 3) due to the effects on local groundwater when improperly treated wastewater is discharged into the environment, only the most advanced wastewater treatment technologies must be utilized; 4) the general lack of medical care facilities, especially for urgent or emergency care; and 5) adding to peak traffic congestion conditions creates an unsafe and unfriendly environment. Land use/development regulations and processes at all levels of Jefferson County government do not reflect the needs of our mountain communities.
Fire Protection — For fire protection and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the Conifer and South Evergreen community is served by the Elk Creek Fire Protection District (Elk Creek FPD). The District is staffed by a mix of career firefighter/EMS professionals as well as trained volunteers from the community, presently: Career Chief Officers (2), Career Line Firefighter/Paramedics (9), Volunteer Firefighter/EMS Providers (41), Seasonal Wildland Firefighters (2), and District Administrator (1). Elk Creek FPD provides other health and safety services to the community, including, wildland fire mitigation assessments; fire safety education; CPR classes; and a scheduled chipping service. For additional information, please go to the District website at: about Elk Creek FPD
Elk Creek FPD is classified as a combined volunteer fire and EMS department that operates under the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, specifically, NFPA 1720. It is important to note that, in 2019, the District averaged a total of 106 calls per month: 63 of those calls were for EMS, 36 were ambulance transport, and 7 were other, with an average response time of less that 10 minutes. Elk Creek FPD operates an Advanced Life Support (ALS) EMS capability staffed by EMT-P paramedic firefighter and EMT firefighters.
Importantly, Jefferson County zoning and permitting processes have, over time, failed to recognize that rural fire protection districts do not have the capabilities of urban departments and that these districts are unable to protect high-density residential and commercial developments. Elk Creek FPD EMS and ambulance services are currently operating at or near the District’s capacity to respond to all calls. Therefore, any significant expansion of response requirements, increase in population density, or construction of new medium and high-hazard structures, will exceed the ability of the District to protect life and property.
Potable Water Supply — Essentially, the only source of water along the U.S.-285 corridor — from Windy Point onward to Pine Junction — is groundwater pumped from wells drilled into the local fractured bedrock aquifer at depths ranging from 300 ft, typically, to 1,000 ft or more. Fractures in the granitic bedrock bear an amount of water that is proportional to the size, density, and total number of these widely-variable voids in the local geologic formation. At this time, we cannot generalize about the status of water levels our local area bedrock aquifers; however, we do know that local groundwater levels are highly dependent on parcipitation — from both rain and snow — and that the groundwater supply will decline significantly if water withdrawal is not balanced with aquifer recharge, especially during long-term droughts. An excellent explanation of various types of groundwater systems can be found here: groundwater in Colorado
Additionally, a potable water supplied from groundwater to public water systems must routinely tested in order to assure that it meets the quality standards specified in Colorado Regulation No. 11, the state’s implementation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The regulations require that all public water systems must meet quality standards for: a) dissolved minerals, for example, arsenic, lead, and uranium; b) volatile organic compounds, for example, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, carbon-tetrachloride; and c) contaminants for example, coliform bacteria, trihalomethanes, and nitrates/nitrites. A detailed expanation of drinking water standards can be found here: safe drinking water standards
Wastewater Treatment — Along the US-285 corridor, residential wastewater is treated by onsite treatement systems while wastewater from the three local commercial centers are treated at the Conifer Metropolitan (CMD) and Aspen Park Metropolitan Districts (APMD) — Jefferson County School District operates its own closed wastewater treatment system. Since Colorado water law generally requires that treated wastewater must be returned to the aquifer from which it was withdrawn, both CMD and APMD were designed with so-called exfiltration galleries by which treated wastewater (effluent) is allowed to infiltrate back into the local bedrock, thereby “recharging” the aquifer; however, these exfiltration gallery designs have generally failed to perform as expected — APMD has abandoned its attempt to exfiltrate its wastewater locally, instead, discharging effluent to South Turkey Creek. Moreover, the performance of effluent exfiltration galleries at CMD have been problematic on a number of points. A discussion of wastewater treatment policy within the local watershed can be found here: wastewater management policy
Additionally, effluent discharged by a wastewater treatment facility must be routinely tested in order to assure that it meets the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) specified in Colorado Regulation No. 22, the state’s implementation of the federal Clean Water Act. The regulations require that all public wastewater treatment systems must meet MCL standards for a number of contaminents including: coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids as well as pharmaceuticals and other contaminents of emerging concern. A complete expanation of wastewater treatment standards can be found here: clean water standards
Traffic Safety — As anyone who has driven along route between Morisson and Pine Junction then on to Bailey, traffic congestion along the U.S.-285 corridor has been problematic for some time. Additionally, peak travel times during holiday weekends frequently produce stop-and-go conditions while travel during bad-weather conditions can be extremely hazardous. Moreover, surface road access throughout the community is limited to only a few, generally poor options for crossing U.S.-285; severe congestion during morning and evening peak travel times; and only extremely harzardous options for walking, running, or cycling. Unfortunately, Jefferson County government has, for some time, ignored the vital public safety needs of the community by refusing to even consider vital road construction and improvement projects.
Medical Care — U.S.-285 corridor communities medical care needs are served by a single primary care medical office facility, Conifer Medical Center, which makes every effort to maintain a census of up to five medical doctors plus a number of physican assistants/nurse practitioners. Importantly, there are no emergency care facilities in close proximity so community residents must telephone 911 for EMS/paramedic service and transport by Elk Creek FPD to the nearest available emergency department in Littleton or Lakewood, some 20 – 30 minutes away. Unfortunately, if Elk Creek FPD has an overlapping call situation, mutual-aid EMS/paramedic services may need to be called upon, potentially delaying needed lifesaving efforts.
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