A stop-work order on the retired Montezuma-Cortez High School demolition project will be lifted Monday morning after a contractor agreed to closely comply with local and state requirements to dispose of the debris, according to district Superintendent Lori Haukeness.
A resident’s email on Wednesday evening alerted the school district to a potentially unauthorized and unsafe dump site on private land at 25370 County Road G, about 3 miles south of Cortez. The district issued a stop-work order on Thursday morning and announced plans for an investigation.
In a letter addressed to Iron Mountain Demolition and Project Manager Michael Dyer, Haukeness officially ordered a halt to all work on the demolition project at 7:55 a.m. Thursday, until Iron Mountain Demolition provided assurance that the firm was in compliance with all contractual and legal requirements. Colorado Springs-based Iron Mountain is the main demolition contractor for the project. Dyer declined to comment to The Journal and deferred all inquiries to the school district.
On Friday, Haukeness said in a news release that inert fill materials, such as concrete, from the demolition project had been deposited at the site, owned by Fish Brothers Land and Cattle Co.
The demolition contract with Iron Mountain states that the contractor must legally dispose of debris in compliance with all federal, state or local permits, rules and regulations, according to Haukeness. Subcontractors are bound to the requirements of the main contract, she said.
Iron Mountain reported that no hazardous materials from the demolition project had been taken to the Fish property, according to Haukeness’ news release on Friday.
To date, Haukeness said in another email, Iron Mountain hauled inert materials to the property. Before hauling the materials, she said, an Iron Mountain representative inspected the dump area and determined that it was appropriate for clean fill.
Iron Mountain has stopped hauling to the Fish property, and the remaining inert materials will be hauled to the Montezuma County Landfill and a concrete recycling facility to be determined, Haukeness said.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s permit granted to Iron Mountain, the first section of the school being demolished is asbestos-free. The permit specifies that debris should be dumped at the Montezuma County Landfill and makes no mention of any other dumping site. Asbestos is abated and removed from the building before demolition takes place, Haukeness said.
Glen Fish, president of Fish Brothers and landowner of the County Road G property, said Friday morning that he had been working with Iron Mountain to haul clean concrete, asphalt and brick materials from the demolition site to his property in order to level out portions of the land there. The material hauled to the property is clean demolition debris and does not contain harmful chemicals, Fish said.
Multiple conversations have taken place between Fish Brothers and Iron Mountain, and both parties have stipulated that the Fish land is not appropriate to receive materials with asbestos, Fish said. Iron Mountain has honored that agreement, he said.
The material is being used for agricultural purposes only, Fish said. His land is not a dump, and he does not accept trash or waste products at the site, he added.
The Fish property on Road G is zoned for agricultural use, according to Cortez City Planner Tracie Hughes.
Montezuma County Landfill manager Shak Powers told The Journal on Thursday that all debris dumped at the county landfill has been processed legally and safely, adding that the loads are regularly tested for asbestos, and all samples have come back clean.
“They all have been delivering what they said they would,” Powers said.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said no one had contacted him about the problem when it became public on Thursday morning, but by 10:30 a.m., deputy Bryan Hill had reported to the scene and said he would be investigating what demolition materials were being delivered to the property.
Cortez Mayor Karen Sheek said she first found out about the issue Wednesday night, through emails from the school district.
“It’s very unfortunate that this has happened, because the school district has done everything possible to make sure this project is done in a safe and legal manner,” she said.
Journal reporters Jacob Klopfenstein, Stephanie Alderton and Jim Mimiaga contributed to this report.