Piñon Rest Area nowhere close to reopening - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Piñon Rest Area nowhere close to reopening

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A southern Colorado interstate rest area closed due to safety and sanitation problems will not reopen anytime soon, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).  The southbound I-25 Piñon Rest Area between Fountain and Pueblo in northern Pueblo County closed April 1 after its one-of-a-kind sewage system filled to its brim with waste decades before it was designed to.

"We're incredibly disappointed that the system didn't work as it was said to us," said CDOT spokesperson Michelle Peulen.  The waterless system was installed in 2013 as a replacement for a standard septic system that became overwhelmed by overuse by the thousands of travelers who drive that stretch of I-25 per day.  The waterless system was touted as being sustainable "forever" due to its design.  Waste from humans would drop onto a thick bed of Ponderosa Pine bark, where it would then be sprayed with a fine mist which would encourage the waste to decompose and evaporate naturally.  "It'll last forever.  It will never have to be maintained or added to again," CDOT explained in April 2013.

It did not last forever.  It didn't even last four years.  "The septic system couldn't handle the volume of usage," Peulen said.  The waste vault filled to the brim, creating a sanitation and safety hazard.  The first priority after closing the rest area was to clean out the massive amount of human waste at a cost of $200,000.  Next was to solicit bids from contractors to replace the system.  "Unfortunately the company that installed it is no longer in business, so we don't have someone to service it," Peulen said. "Other contractors aren't willing to service a product that's not theirs."  The lowest bid to replace the system was $2.5 million.  "Right now, we simply don't have the funding," Peulen said.

Given the hefty price tag and the close proximity of Pueblo for road-weary southbound drivers, fixing and reopening the southbound Piñon Rest Area is nowhere near a top priority for CDOT, even after stating initially that the rest area would reopen in six months.  "There is no estimated time for reopening at this point," Peulen said.  "We were under the impression that we would have a self-sustaining system that wouldn't need any upkeep, wouldn't need any maintenance, the waste would simply take care of itself."

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