EPHRATA — The Grant County Health Department said The Gorge Amphitheater is moving toward compliance as state health officials express concerns over sewage facilities for concert goers.
The venue missed at least two deadlines to remove unsanitary drains and install new pumps and flow meters for septic tanks, according to a letter sent from the Washington Department of Health to The Gorge Amphitheatre general manager Danny Wilde.
The letter follows a May 1 notice of violation letter sent to Wilde from the state health department.
The issues in that letter and an ongoing concern is how the facility disposes of “gray water,” the excess water that comes from, in this case, hand-washing stations and overall improvements to create a large-scale septic system.
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According to health officials, gray water is sewage and must be dealt with as such, and they want venue owner Live Nation to install one large-scale septic system instead of what they have now — many small tanks.
“It is a serious health concern for us in that there are so many people that attend events there,” state health engineer Richard Benson said. He said the state health department permits and inspects septic systems that process more than 3,500 gallons a day, which the venue has at least one of. The venue also has tanks that process less than 3,500 gallons a day, which the county health department approves and inspects.
Benson said the state health department is working with Live Nation to gain compliance and would not comment on when fines would be levied or the venue shut down if it isn’t reached.
Todd Phillips, of the Grant County Health Department, said the department tries to obtain compliance before threatening fines or closing down the facility, but if Live Nation does not respond to their concerns, closing the facility is an option.
“This is a big deal for us,” Phillips said, adding that the health of the concert goers may be at jeopardy if sewage is not disposed of properly.
“They’ve missed some deadlines, but I think they’re still moving forward with gaining compliance,” he said.
Phillips said he was at The Gorge during this year’s Sasquatch Festival and said there were “some issues” with the septic system other than those addressed in the state health department letter. He would not say what they were.
Live Nation spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson said the group is working with state health officials to gain compliance and has spent more than half a million dollars in acquiring additional water rights and expanding water and sewer systems.
She said the money has mostly been spent with local companies.