Demystifying Wastewater Collections: What You Should Know

To many Boxelder Sanitation District customers, the business of wastewater collection is a bit like an iceberg; the majority goes unseen. With more than 100 miles of sewer lines comprising much of the District’s infrastructure—and considering the nature of the water before it goes through our updated wastewater treatment facility—it’s not surprising.

But despite the sequestered nature of wastewater collection and treatment, we at the District place a high value on nurturing active partnerships with our customers, which is why we strive for education and transparency.

Our primary responsibility is to clean wastewater and return it safely to the environment. In fact, our treatment plant has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for its efficient and effective ability to treat the District’s wastewater. This is a group effort, which includes our Board of Directors, responsible maintenance of aging infrastructure, and educated customers like you—to name a few.

In order to have an efficiently running system, it’s important that all stakeholders understand what role they play. If there’s a backup, who’s responsible? The customer or the District? It all depends (more on that later!).

Before we dive into the details of wastewater collection, let’s take a high-level look at the District.


Overview of the District

Founded in 1965, Boxelder Sanitation District totals more than 10-plus miles of sewer lines that lead to our wastewater treatment facility, which was expanded in 2021. Just shy of 2 million gallons of wastewater is processed every single day, which totals more than 700 million gallons a year. That’s a lot of wastewater!

District customers are divided into two segments, each with its own billing and regulations: residential and commercial.

Regardless of what type of customer is producing wastewater, it all leads to our treatment facility and, after it’s cleaned and processed, back into our region’s waterways.


What’s involved in wastewater collections?

Once you flush your toilet, the journey of that wastewater might seem like a bit of a mystery. But trust us when we say that journey is a wild one, with twists and turns along the way. We know that because we’ve traversed every inch of that journey.

Wastewater collections is a vital element of our system. It’s how we collect wastewater from our customers and transport it to our treatment plant so it can be treated and returned to the environment. Boxelder Sanitation District’s wastewater collections division consists of four dedicated team members who oversee 104 miles of gravity-fed lines and everything else along the way. That includes five main interceptors (interceptors are main sewer lines that receive wastewater from collector sewers), six lift stations (which help wastewater move over inclines in landscape) and exactly 2,294 manholes (we’ve counted!). And because residents use drains and toilets around the clock, we work around the clock, too.

We like to make sure the flow of wastewater through miles of pipes is…well…regular. That’s why our Wastewater Collections division has their own dedicated fleet and gear to ensure safe and secure collections. The vac truck, jet truck and water truck handle the messy business, while the camera van gives us eyes inside the pipes.

The District also has eight new flow meters. Permanent flow meters are located in the main five interceptors, plus one in the Timnath Lift Station. We also have two portable meters for on-the-go monitoring. These new meters allow the District to access real-time data, create flow graphs during big rain events, and reference accurate data to assist in our collection system masterplan.

After the long but swift journey through pipes, your wastewater finally arrives at the treatment facility’s screening system. Getting wastewater to the facility is a HUGE undertaking, and just as important as the cleaning that happens in our facility.

It’s a lot of work, but we love doing it! So, that’s our part…now what about your part?


How do residential customers play a role in the process?

The main responsibility residential customers have—and it’s a big one—is to adhere to the Do Not Flush list. This goes a very long way in keeping the District infrastructure clean and happy, and to prevent backups in your home. But what happens if a backup should occur?

Call us! The District is more than happy to visit and check the main sewer line to determine the problem and next steps—however there is some fine print you should know about.

The pipes that carry waste from your home to the District’s main sewer line is known as a service line (aka lateral sewer) and that section is the property owner’s responsibility. The majority of backups occur in the service line, which the homeowner is responsible for maintaining.

Many of our customers are surprised, however, to learn that not all homeowners’ insurance policies cover costs incurred to service lines backing up into the home. This can potentially cause several thousand dollars of damage, so please review your policy to ensure you’re knowledgeable about what is, and isn’t, covered.

Of course, we consider ourselves engaged partners in our relationships with customers, which is why we go to great lengths to ensure infrastructure after the service line is constantly maintained and repaired. Read all about our infrastructure management and upkeep in this blog.


How do commercial and industrial customers play a role in the process?

Unlike residential customers, the District’s commercial customers have to follow a strict set of EPA guidelines before introducing their wastewater into our system. This ensures that the water is in a condition to be treated by our facility. This step is called pretreatment and the requirements vary depending on the type of business and operation.

The District currently works with 730 commercial businesses. These businesses include restaurants, breweries, manufacturing, marijuana dispensaries, auto repair, retail, offices and more. Within those 730 businesses, there are 30 different types of industry—from metal finishing to lab testing. So, you can imagine the range of contaminants that need to be filtered out before wastewater reaches the main sewer line.

Boxelder works with businesses to determine the type of pretreatment that needs to be completed. For instance, restaurants need to adhere to FOG standards, while metal finishing requires a different set of guidelines. Each business is responsible for purchasing and installing the required equipment for pretreatment, but the District is always willing and able to consult as a partner in the process.


Any other differences between residential and commercial/industrial?

Yes! Another major difference worth noting here is billing. Residential customers are charged a flat rate, which is determined based on winter averages. Commercial customers, however, are charged based on monthly usage.

To help our commercial customers with overall operational costs, we recently started an Irrigation Meter Program. From March 1 through November 30, non-residential customers may be eligible to benefit from participating in the Irrigation Meter Program for the measurement of the non-wastewater flows during this time period. Facilities with a minimum of 1,000 sq. ft. of irrigated property, or non-discharge activities such as evaporative cooling systems may apply for an “irrigation” or sub-meter to measure non-discharge consumption. Contact us to learn more!


Want to learn more?

We encourage customers to educate themselves about the wastewater collection process, the role they play in the process, and how they can best set themselves up for smooth, uninterrupted services. For more, peruse the FAQ section of our website, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.

How the District Approaches Aging Infrastructure

Boxelder Sanitation District Treatment Plant

Boxelder Sanitation District Treatment PlantWastewater treatment is a vital component to a healthy and vibrant community. As your sanitation services provider, we’ve been a trusted partner of northern Colorado residents for more than 50 years. What began as a District with less than 100 accounts in 1965 now comprises a vast system of infrastructure totaling more than 100 miles of sewer lines. That’s quite a large increase in scale over the years!

At Boxelder Sanitation District, it is our responsibility to provide reliable wastewater service to our community and we’re able to do that with constant and strategic maintenance of our system’s infrastructure. It’s not without its costs, and it isn’t always easy, but it sure keeps things flowing.

If you’ve ever wondered what makes up our infrastructure, how we maintain it, and why it matters to you, keep reading.


What is Wastewater Infrastructure?

Wastewater infrastructure is largely the piping—or sewer lines—that connect your residence with our treatment facility. From the moment you pour something down the drain to when it arrives at the facility, your waste has traveled through a network of pipes that also collects from other residential and commercial properties in the community. Specifically, 1,940,000 gallons of wastewater is processed daily by the District.

The District’s infrastructure extends beyond the sewer lines. It also includes the treatment plant, pumping stations, and pressure sewer lines. Together, those physical components work hard to ensure all the waste that is collected every day is treated and recycled into clean water that is returned to the river. But there’s more! In order to maintain our infrastructure, the District also has a fleet of vehicles, specialized maintenance equipment, and buildings used by the staff. Wastewater treatment is a complicated business.

With all of these physical and mechanical pieces of equipment working every day—and often around-the-clock—to treat the District’s wastewater, when is there ever time to maintain that equipment and how does that happen?

At the District, we pride ourselves in the efficient and proactive maintenance of our infrastructure. According to a recent report, 62% of sanitation utility services agreed that proactive asset management plans helped maintain their equipment (and their bottom line), rather than reactive response. Count us in that mix.


Why Does Infrastructure Maintenance Matter to You?

The immediate answer to that is, “It keeps things flowing.” But perhaps it’s helpful not to look at the District’s infrastructure as something that simply provides a service—it’s something you “own” an interest in.

Infrastructure costs are carefully considered by the District each year to determine the rates that customers pay, and in turn, we operate in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible to keep rates as low as possible. You can play a part in mitigating unexpected maintenance projects by being mindful of what you put down the drain. By avoiding sending fats, oils, greases, disposable wipes, and other unwanted objects down your pipes, you can help keep things flowing smoothly and keep operating costs—like maintenance—down.


How Do We Manage the Maintenance of all that Infrastructure?

The District has developed very specific standard operating procedures to ensure the efficient and timely maintenance of infrastructure, so services aren’t interrupted. This includes considerations like how items are inspected, what routine maintenance is required, and how that will impact the overall system.

Our proactive maintenance program allows us to get more mileage from our infrastructure and reduce the need for costly replacements. As you can imagine, replacing something like sewer lines can be quite an undertaking. As a responsible District, we evaluate all of our infrastructure—from sewer lines to our treatment plant to determine if components need to be repaired or replaced as they get older so that we can keep things flowing.


What are Some Recent Projects Focused on Aging Infrastructure?

 In the last eight years, the District has been actively rehabilitating sewer lines that have aged to the point that they are no longer reliable. This rehabilitation has been done by using the latest pipe lining technology, which involves the installation of a new pipe within an old pipe. Doing so avoids tearing up streets, inconveniencing residents, and causing prolonged service disruptions.

In addition to this, we have also developed a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan that projects into the future to predict infrastructure upgrades and replacement, allowing us to responsibly plan for costs. This also affords us the foresight to accommodate future growth, including the installation of new sewer lines, lift stations, and treatment plant upgrades.

We review the plan every year to ensure we’re on track and focused on project timelines.

What Can Customers Do to Be Proactive?

The most important and impactful thing a District customer can do to help sustain aging infrastructure is to follow the general guidelines of what you shouldn’t flush down your toilet. The other way you can help is to stay an active and informed member of the District. You can do that by staying tuned to our blog, keeping up-to-date with our news and notices, and reaching out when you have a question or concern.

22 Ways to Care for Colorado Water in 2022

Did you know? 2022 is a milestone year for water in Colorado.

Among others, it is the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact; the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act; the 20th anniversary of Water Education Colorado; and the year when the 2015 Colorado Water Plan will be updated to continue our long history of ensuring high quality water to support our state’s wide range of water uses and values.

Learn more about this year-long campaign and how you can help Colorado’s water here.

Boxelder Sanitation District’s Environmental Stewardship Extends Beyond Water

Boxelder has long committed itself to environmental responsibility. As a wastewater treatment provider, it’s in our nature. Our primary mission at the District is the safe and responsible treatment of our customer’s wastewater, and the return of clean water back into our region’s waterways. But our service to the environment doesn’t stop at water. Being an eco-conscious wastewater treatment district means examining every decision we make under the lens of sustainability—from major operations in our treatment facility to everyday office tasks.

It’s our hope that when people think of “green” water, they won’t just think about the Chicago River during St. Patrick’s Day.

So, what does all of this mean for customers and are there ways to help out? Read on!


Boxelder’s footprint and the environment

Boxelder Sanitation District is a special district founded in 1965 by a collection of property owners outside the purview of the City of Fort Collins’ services. Governed by a Board of Directors elected to guide the District’s strategic initiatives, Boxelder serves roughly 20,000 Northern Colorado customers covering four municipalities (Fort Collins, Windsor, Severance and Timnath) as well as unincorporated areas of Larimer and Weld Counties. In total, it’s a lot of people: Just shy of 2 million gallons of wastewater are processed each day—that’s more than 700 million gallons a year.

Wastewater treatment is vital to the health and safety of our growing region. The return of clean water to our rivers and reservoirs not only sustains life for our community and our ecosystem, but also helps ensure continued access to clean water for drinking, irrigation and recreation.

But clean water isn’t our only focus. In recent years, the Board of Directors has helped the District move toward sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives across our operations.

The biggest initiative—no surprise—involves the biggest part of our operation: our wastewater treatment facility.


Reducing Boxelder’s eco-footprint, while expanding its services

Rapid, sustained growth in the region has brought a lot of benefits, but also challenges. The increased demand for wastewater treatment is one challenge and was the catalyst for the recent Boxelder treatment facility expansion. But just as we’ve responsibly grown our physical footprint, we’ve responsibly planned for the reduction of our ecological footprint.

The best measurement to illustrate those efforts is Boxelder’s source energy use, which calculates the total amount of raw fuel required to operate a property; energy loss during generation, transmission and distribution is factored into the number.

Compared to benchmark figures measured in 2016, since we began major repairs, equipment upgrades and facility expansion, Boxelder Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plant has reduced its source energy use by 19%. In terms of savings, this has resulted in a reduction of total energy costs by 23%.

In addition, Boxelder has committed itself to reducing total greenhouse gas emissions, which are the total carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide gasses released into the atmosphere as a result of energy consumption on a property. Since 2016, Boxelder has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.

One more measurement we’re proud of—and still working to improve—is our U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Score. This is a score that measures how well a property is performing relative to similar properties, when normalized for climate and operational characteristics (all things being relative). Ranging from 1 to 100 (50 being the national mean and 75 the requirement for an Energy Star Certification), the score given to Boxelder in 2016 was a respectable 83. Since then, the District has improved that score to 93.

While we use these measurements to showcase the progress Boxelder has made to bring sustainability and earth-smart decisions to our operations, we recognize that they’re just a snapshot in time. Our Board of Directors and staff are committed to continuing, and building up, those efforts to ensure clean water and a greener level of service expectation into the future.


Be part of the solution: Reduce your paper

Conservation is a communal effort and that extends to Boxelder customers. While the responsibility of stewardship is ours, there are a number of ways customers can help us create a greener, more efficient service. The easiest way is to consider your mail.

We live in a digital age, which is why we’ve heavily promoted our paperless billing. In 2020, Boxelder had 479 requests to go paperless. In 2021, that number rose to 736 requests for a total of 30% paperless customers. The savings from paperless billing not only helps the District streamline operations, but it also reduces our overall operational footprint. Additionally, the District also offers an over-the-phone payment option with our interactive voice response system. Learn more about both on our website.

Customers can also help out by being mindful of what not to flush, which helps the District reduce its energy use. To learn more—or for a quick reminder—download this handy PDF guide.

Meet the Boxelder Sanitation District Board of Directors

In 1965, only those with a bold eye to the future could have predicted the region as it is today. Nearly 60 years later, the trends of staggering growth, innovation and demand—combined with natural beauty and thriving waterways—are defining characteristics of Northern Colorado. Boxelder Sanitation District has helped plan for and manage that evolution every step of the way through the treatment of the region’s wastewater. It’s quite an undertaking, which is why the District’s Board of Directors has been instrumental in shepherding the vision and mission since its inception in 1965.

The board was established with five elected members, charged with the authority to manage, control and supervise all the business and affairs of the District. Its original mission still rings true: To plan for the growth of the region and ensure the treatment system has the capacity for current and future customers of Boxelder Sanitation District. Additionally, the board—which still maintains five elected members—is expected to ensure that all regulatory requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are met.

Meeting growing demand over the years

There’s no better example of the necessity for a board of directors than the recent completion of the District’s plant expansion, illustrating how fiduciary responsibility, a steady guiding vision and management acumen can lead a years-long project to completion.

Over the years, the project has thrived despite external influences like recessions, bursts of population growth, shifting regulatory requirements, technological advancements, and even a pandemic.

It’s work, but someone has to volunteer to do it. In that spirit, we sat down with the current board members to learn a little bit more about what makes them tick and what they see are the biggest challenges for the Boxelder Sanitation District.


Meet the Boxelder Sanitation District Board Members


Dennis Gatlin

Dennis Gatlin joined the board in 2008, a move that was in step with his long history in community service and his particular passion for public health and the supporting efforts to maintain the vitality of Northern Colorado’s people and places. He’s also an ethics consultant and an orchid-grower (with 400 in his care) so clean water and its uses are particularly in his wheelhouse.

Since joining more than a decade ago, Dennis has immersed himself in the complexities of water—from where it’s sourced, how it’s used and where it’s headed after it hits the drain. Spreading that awareness is one of the key issues he sees facing the District. To Dennis, engaging the community with information and resources on important topics is critical.

“I always encourage community members to learn more and even invite them to attend a future board meeting, if possible,” he says. “We actively listen to any comments and concerns and always heavily consider feedback from our community. We’re here to help our neighbors address needs however possible and always welcome the opportunity to engage with residents on ways we can best serve the community we all call home.” 


Andy Chismar

Andy Chismar was elected to the board in 2013. As a former teacher of history and social studies, as well as a current member of the Knights of Columbus, civic involvement was a major draw to becoming a board member. The thought struck Andy after he learned about a study on the intrusion of groundwater into wastewater. With his interest piqued, Andy looked into how he could get further involved.

In his time on the board, Andy has been continually intrigued by how things have changed, and the continuous hard work that goes into the process of treating wastewater in order to safely return it to our water systems. It’s also made him more alert to what you can put down the drain.

What does Andy see as the biggest issue facing the District?

“Growth in the area,” he says. “Since I’ve been on the board, we’ve grown the District and had two plant expansions to meet the needs of the development. But based on what’s happening in the area, it will continue to grow. So, we’re ensuring that we can handle things in an equitable way to make sure people’s needs are being met.”


John Giuliano

The owner of a development company in Northern Colorado, John Giuliano brings a unique perspective to the board in that he’s worked with Boxelder for many years as a builder. Specializing in the development of unused farmland into build-ready lots for local contractors gives him a familiarity with the District, as does his even longer history with the board: His father was on the board more than 20 years ago.

“My dad would come home from board meetings and tell me about all of the great things they were working on,” he remembers. “That’s what introduced me to the industry and its importance.”

John was elected to the board in 2016 and during that time he has become more aware and appreciative of how his sewer bill is applied to the day-to-day operations by the District. “Now that I know how complex the entire wastewater process is, it shows just how efficient we are and must continue to be to keep costs down.”

The most pressing issues according to John come from keeping pace with government regulations. “While these are essential to our operations, it does create an ongoing challenge for any district to navigate.”


Nate Miller

Nate Miller always held an interest in governmental agencies, but it was the issue of pricing that got him involved in the District.

Nate began attending board meetings to learn more about how the cost of operations was impacting his bill as a customer, and when an opening on the board appeared, he filled the position. That was in the summer of 2019, and since then, his background in construction, purchasing and logistics has given him unique insight into understanding growth, development and the demands a growing population have on infrastructure like wastewater treatment.

Nate says that he used to be like everyone else—a “flush it and forget it” type of customer, but his time on the board has opened his eyes to the fact that there is a whole world connected via pipes beyond his toilet.

To Nate, changes to regulations from the EPA and other governmental agencies cause some of the bigger ongoing challenges for the District.

“The restrictions are changing and moving all the time—they keep moving the goal post,” he says. “[Our challenge] is making sure we can keep up with the changes and adjust the treatment plant to keep up with the regulations that come at any given time.”

Despite the changes, Nate believes the District is well-positioned for growth and for being able to continue to provide a high-quality product.

“It’s fascinating how environmentally neutral the plant is,” he adds. “How environmentally responsible Boxelder is.


Nick Armstrong

Nick Armstrong is the Board’s newest member after being elected in 2020, but he’s no stranger to community involvement.

Nick is the lead organizer of Fort Collins’ Comic Con and Start-up Week, the president of the Maple Hill HOA Board and a former candidate in the 2020 Fort Collins City Council election. Beyond that, he’s an entrepreneur and the “geek-in-chief” at a local marketing company.

Since his time on the board, wastewater issues and water conservation have become key interests for Nick, who believes everyone has a part in conserving water and ensuring high water-quality standards.

With that in mind, he sees water consumption and growth as two pressing issues for the District.

“Growth and future development are the biggest issues facing Boxelder,” he says. “Water consumption and treatment are key considerations to the development of any community—and as Fort Collins and Northern Colorado grow, the ability of every partner to be good partners with positive contributions will make sure we continue to have enough clean water for future generations.”


Become involved with the Boxelder Sanitation District Board of Directors

Regular Board of Director meetings are held on the third Thursday of every month, at 9 a.m., and are open to the public. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, and until otherwise noted on the District’s website, board meetings may be attended via electronic participation, including for public comment. Interested parties should contact the administration office for more information.

To learn more about the members, read minutes and agendas from past meetings, or see future agendas and schedules, visit

New Boxelder Plant Expansion Helps Keep Waterways, Future Clean

Wastewater isn’t something we typically discuss in everyday conversation. In Fort Collins, that’s often reserved for what’s new in town or what weekend adventures are on the horizon. But with the news that Boxelder Sanitation District recently completed the expansion of its new wastewater treatment plant, wastewater is suddenly a topic relevant to both of those Fort Collins staples. After seven years in development, the newly expanded facility is perfectly positioned to service future growth in the area, while also helping ensure residents have clean waterways for adventures to come.

Stellar service and the stewardship of our natural areas are two commitments that have driven the core mission of Boxelder Sanitation District over the years (the District’s name does come from one of our local waterways, Boxelder Creek, after all).

Beginning as a lagoon treatment system that serviced 100 accounts in the early 1960s, the District has kept in step with the rapid growth of Colorado’s Front Range for more than 50 years. With the development of a state-of-the-art facility in 2013 and the final phase of enhancements completed this summer, the new facility boasts increased operational efficiencies, meets evolving regulatory demands, and accommodates future growth.

Today, Boxelder is excited about its continued commitment to the return of clean water into the Cache la Poudre River and being able to do that more efficiently.

How are the enhancements funded?

The construction of upgrades and improvements to the Boxelder Sanitation District Wastewater Treatment Facility were financed by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA) State Revolving Fund Program. What does that mean, exactly? Great question.

The CWRPDA is a program administered by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) and provides low-interest loans to wastewater treatment programs like Boxelder. CDPHE works with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Colorado to sell bonds, the proceeds of which turn into loans for service providers like Boxelder. These loans allow for the undertaking of large-scale projects in order to keep up with growing demand, the flexibility to improve expensive equipment or processes, and the ability to fund enhancements that bring facilities up to evolving regulations.

To date, Boxelder has taken out two of these loans. The first loan—funded by monthly service charges and plant investment fees—was used to enable the development of the new facility in 2013. The second loan, which was applied to the most recent improvements completed this summer, was funded by new development fees since the additions were sparked by a need to keep up with growth and we believe that growth pays its own way.

What are some of the exciting new developments at the facility?

While the first loan created a new facility to match current demand, the second loan funded the upgrades and creation of essential processes to support future demand, including additional oxidation ditches, clarifiers, an expanded ultra-violet disinfection system and a new biosolids treatment system. In total, the new facility is able to treat wastewater in a way that creates cleaner water and trades out chemicals like chlorine—a win for residents and our natural areas.

The new biosolids treatment system has more control over the treatment process and is more efficient, which supports the goal of creating superior clean water, but also makes for a pretty interesting lesson in science. In the previous lagoon system, solids would sink to the bottom of the water. Every couple of years, a contracted company would come to pump the sludge out of the lagoon, which was an expensive but common and necessary solution. This system also complicated the overall treatment plant process with the potential release of phosphorous into the water.

How the Treatment Plant works: A very short lesson in wastewater treatment

 At the plant, wastewater enters the headworks facility and engages the primary treatment, which removes inorganic materials and grit via screens that rotate. The waste then enters oxidation ditches and clarifiers. In the oxidation ditches, microorganisms deconstruct matter and consume waste materials through a biochemical process.

Two types of microorganisms (we call them “bugs”), those that thrive in oxygen-rich environments, and those that prefer oxygen-deficient environments, do the heavy lifting here. Through the careful regulation of airflow, an environment that promotes aerobic and anaerobic activity is created, spurring along a faster and more efficient breakdown of solids than, say, naturally in a lake or river.

The next step involves the calming act of clarification. New clarifiers intake the wastewater directly from the oxidation ditches and make room for the water to slowly pool. This placid environment allows the properties of water—primarily density—to go to work. All of the once-suspended pieces of matter eventually begin to drop to the bottom of the clarifiers. Once those particles are safely on the bottom, the clear water leaves the clarifier and travels to an ultra-violet light disinfection system to eliminate any potential leftover organisms. Finally, the clean water flows back into our waterways.

Not only is this overall process safer for the environment, it’s also up to the newest regulations like Regulation 85, a nutrient regulation concerned with total nitrogen and phosphorous in the water released back into the wild.

Setting up a clean, healthy future

Higher density development means more wastewater in the District. While it’s not typically something people discuss in everyday conversation, it is something Boxelder is committed to addressing day-in and day-out, like it has for the last 50 years. That’s because in order for area residents to enjoy a clean, healthy future, there needs to be a service committed to transforming our wastewater into clean, healthy water.

You can learn more about the project at

For over 50 years, Boxelder has been here to serve

The history of Boxelder Sanitation District

The concept of “The American West” is something that’s mythologized not just in the United States, but all over the world. Manifest Destiny. The Wild West. People enjoying the beauty from “sea to shining sea,” as it goes. But while western expansion tamed the wild landscape via laid infrastructure like trails then railroad, and soon highways, another type of infrastructure was just as essential to bringing modern populations across the plains: water and sanitation.

Like the Europeans discovered centuries ago, densely populated societies create waste, and if that waste isn’t disposed of properly, society can fall apart very quickly. For an area like Northern Colorado, which has transformed from a once-important trading hub to a highly-populated area of modern commerce, sanitary sewer service is one of the pillars that has supported its growth.

For more than 50 years, Boxelder Sanitation District has acted as a reliable utility to ensure residents of this important area can enjoy clean living in their homes and places of business, while also enjoying clean recreation in the natural areas they love so much.


The history of Boxelder Sanitation District

With news reports that Colorado’s population is on track to grow by roughly 2 million people through 2050, it can be hard for new residents in the area to imagine what life must have been like back in the mid-20th century. Quieter in comparison. Maybe a bit slower and simpler if looking through the lens of nostalgic hindsight. But with a population that was quietly ramping up, sewer service was a hot topic for those in the know. That’s why, in the midst of growth, Boxelder Sanitation was formed.

Officially formed in 1965, the Boxelder Sanitation District was created as a Special District under Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. For the unfamiliar, other special districts also formed by this legislation included fire protection districts, water, health and parks and recreation services—all essential services for the current and future health of area residents.

The District was created by a group of forward-thinking, visionary property owners. These owners saw a need for sanitary sewer services in-and-around the intersection of I-25 and East Mulberry Street, and perhaps understood that the lack of plans to service this area not only caused issues for them at the time but also throttled any progress for future growth.

When the Boxelder Sanitation District was officially formed in 1965, it included less than 100 accounts.


The importance of sewer services

Before we jump from 100 accounts in the mid-1960s to Boxelder’s growth (which parallels the area’s growth) let’s take a moment to examine why sanitation and sewer services are so vital.

For anyone who has read up on the history of civilization, played the video game The Sims, or used a toilet, it’s clear that wastewater management and sewer systems are crucial elements to overall sanitation and disease prevention. Here in Northern Colorado, we’re not only gifted with tremendous open natural areas and pristine wildlife beauty, but also incredible water, whether in the stream or tap. Without a proper wastewater treatment system like the one managed by Boxelder, our environment and water supply would quickly become contaminated and spread disease throughout our population.

With the creation of Boxelder Sanitation District in the 1960s, those original 100 accounts became the cornerstone for ensuring this area would have proper wastewater management and clean water for generations to come.


The growth of Boxelder and the region

Since the formation of the District in 1965, the population of Northern Colorado has grown at breakneck speed. In 1960, Larimer County had roughly 54,000 residents. According to the most recent annual population estimate from the American Community Survey in 2019, that population clocked in at a whopping 356,899. That type of growth is indicative of the pace of growth Boxelder Sanitation District has experienced, which covers portions of Fort Collins, Windsor, Severance, Timnath and unincorporated areas of Larimer and Weld counties.

The extension of collection lines and treatment plant upgrades required for new development are paid for by developers seeking services under the District’s philosophy that growth pays its way. By operating this way, current Boxelder customers can rest easy knowing that the District keeps them as the number one priority—well, at least tied for number one next to clean wastewater.


Boxelder Sanitation District today

As forward-thinking as the original founders of the District were, they couldn’t have imagined how important to the county, and densely populated, this area would one day become. Today, the District maintains 100 miles of sewer lines and treats approximately 1,940,000 gallons of wastewater each day (that’s 700 million gallons a year). The reason why so much water is processed by Boxelder is because each household in the District uses roughly 100 gallons of water per day—that’s a lot of water. Businesses and commercial sites, like our beloved breweries, use even more. In an area where water is such an important and limited commodity, it’s essential that services like Boxelder tend to the treatment of our used water before it’s returned to Boxelder Creek and the Poudre River.

That commitment to the health of residents and the environment has not gone unnoticed. The Boxelder treatment plant has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its ability to treat wastewater. Learn more about that process over at our wastewater treatment page.


Clean water for years to come

Wastewater treatment is often considered a silent, yet essential, service for a happy, healthy life and we like to keep it that way. Boxelder customers shouldn’t have to think too hard about their wastewater—with the exception of much-needed and appreciated water conservation practices—because we’re here to make sure wastewater is properly cleaned in order to help maintain our fragile ecosystem. From the 1960s to the 2020s, that mission remains the same—though slightly bigger in scope today.

Meet Kevin Schmitz, one of Boxelder’s best

Kevin Schmitz
Kevin Schmitz
Kevin Schmitz, Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD) pretreatment technician.

On any given day you are likely to find Kevin Schmitz,  Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD) pretreatment technician, keeping a close eye on what goes down the drain. As the front line of defense for BSD’s industrial and commercial customers, Kevin takes his role in keeping dangerous chemicals and contaminants out of the Poudre River seriously.

Keeping the river pristine is a primary goal and of immense value for BSD and Kevin. Having been with BSD for three years, and in his role as a pretreatment technician for one year, Kevin is quick to note that wherever commercial customers deal with chemicals, he will be keeping a close eye to ensure all rules and regulations are followed.

“Everything I do is to ensure the safety and health of the Poudre River,” he said. “I’m the first line of defense against harmful water coming into the Poudre. Our primary objective is to put all treated wastewater in the Poudre cleaner than what is already there.”

In order to do that, Kevin and the team at BSD issue permits to companies enabling them to discharge approved and tested wastewater down the drain, while regulating other companies that have zero discharge permits. A zero discharge permit means that the chemicals produced at the facility must be disposed of properly by taking them offsite and not sending them down the drain.

Kevin, who is often out in the field working hand-in-hand with BSD customers, loves the variety of his job. He gets to be behind the scenes with customers who create everything from lawnmowers to fire trucks – things he never knew went on in Northern Colorado before working at BSD.

“I really enjoy seeing all the amazing stuff that gets built in Fort Collins,” Kevin said. “I had no idea there was such a wide variety of products that get built here; it’s just really cool to see.”

While Kevin and BSD have an Enforcement Response Plan, something BSD worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on, they are fortunate in that they don’t have to use it often and that companies in Fort Collins share in BSD’s goal of keeping the Poudre safe.

While Kevin has worked in a lot of jobs, he’s never found one like BSD where the team is so close that they are like family.

Here at BSD, we have a crew full of hardworking team members like Kevin working diligently to ensure that your wastewater needs are met. These are the unsung heroes of BSD – now the next time you see wastewater go down the drain you have a better glimpse into what we do here day-to-day for you.

Boxelder Receives Award for Wastewater Treatment Plant Permit Compliance


Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD) received a Gold Peak Performance Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) for its excellence in permit compliance in 2019. BSD has a clean water discharge permit through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and had no permit violations in 2019.  It is BSD’s mission to responsibly provide wastewater treatment to protect public health and our Poudre River. The water leaving BSD’s wastewater treatment plant flows immediately into the Boxelder Creek, which flows into the Poudre River.  The District staff operates the treatment plant every day to treat the water to meet or exceed all permit standards assuring compliance.  This award recognizes those efforts.

Who is NACWA?

For more than four decades, NACWA has been the nation’s recognized leader in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy on the full spectrum of clean water issues, as well as a top technical resource for water management, sustainability and ecosystem protection interests.

The Peak Performance Awards recognizes NACWA member agency facilities for excellence in permit compliance.


Boxelder monitors wastewater for early COVID-19 detection

As a longstanding member of the community, Boxelder Sanitation District (BSD) does more than just treat wastewater. BSD has a long history of collaboration with municipalities and water entities throughout Northern Colorado, supporting our neighbors in a variety of ways.

Our newest collaboration efforts involve participating in an innovative program to gather data to support state officials in COVID-19 monitoring and tracking.

BSD has joined 17 other wastewater utilities across Colorado, serving 60% of the state’s population, to participate in a COVID-19 wastewater surveillance collaborative funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). BSD is working with Colorado State University (CSU) and Metro State University (MSU) to develop a statewide wastewater surveillance system for testing of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The state has provided $520,000 in funding to ensure facilities such as BSD can provide an early warning, ranging from a matter of days to a week, to state and local health authorities. The system identifies significant changes that could indicate future COVID-19 outbreaks and potential virus hot spots.

Wastewater can tell you what is happening in the population. People with positive COVID-19 shed virus in their stool and the testing can detect traces of the virus. The idea is, if we see an increase in positive test results, it would provide a lead time for the health department and community to respond to a possible outbreak.

BSD is collecting samples from influent wastewater (water that has not yet been treated) twice a week. Those samples are then delivered to CSU for testing to track COVID-19 virus particles. Using that data, they can detect the prevalence of the disease in the community.

How it works

This innovative practice, which is being implemented around the world to detect the coronavirus, involves CDPHE working with wastewater facilities such as BSD to develop a sampling plan that documents where the samples are collected, procedures for collecting and preserving the sample and safety protocols for all employees involved in the process.

Once the samples are collected, CSU and MSU oversee the testing and documentation of the samples to see if COVID-19 is detected. Considering people can be carriers of the disease and not express any symptoms, the ability to detect COVID-19 in human waste is a valuable tool for scientists.

Without BSD’s contribution to this collaborative effort, the datasets would be incomplete and less effective when decision-makers analyze it. The data will not be directly released from BSD and will take time to be gathered as part of the collaborative program.

Future expansion

There is the potential for additional monitoring in the future for the program, depending on the lab’s capacity in the start-up. More monitoring means more data and more data means better-equipped health experts to defend against COVID-19 and other possible pandemics.

BSD is on the front lines of this innovative testing process that could eventually be installed in broader regions or in more specific areas if it is a success.

The possibility exists to institute such monitoring systems in places like care facilities and college dormitories, where there is a dense population of people that could get the disease if it were present.

In other BSD news

This fall BSD is upgrading its accounting software as part of our ongoing commitment of providing outstanding customer service.

As part of the upgrade, customers receiving statements in the mail will notice a few changes to the design of the bill. The new bills are expected to look like the sample shown here.

There will be no changes to the paperless statements provided by Xpress Bill Pay.

Options for paying your bill will remain the same. Customers are encouraged to sign up for automatic payment with Xpress Bill Pay. A link to Xpress is available on our website

As always, if you have questions about your bill, please call us at 970-498-0604, or contact us at