Future growth in Prescott may fall outside the control of either the citizens' group or the council. Instead, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may indirectly dictate growth patterns because of Prescott's antiquated and leaking sewage collection system.

The city nearly was hit with a sewer hookup moratorium because of its failure to control effluent in heavy rains, says Tom Bell, a DEQ surface-water compliance officer. Torrential rainfall last winter sent untreated sewage cascading down several Prescott streets, through a schoolyard and down a creek, Bell says.

"If we hadn't gotten some cooperation from them, we were on the verge of calling for a moratorium," Bell says.

Since then, the city has spent several million dollars trying to pinpoint the problem, but the problem has not been solved, Bell says.

The state and the city are now preparing to enter into a consent agreement under which Prescott would agree to take certain steps to ensure that the sewage treatment plant and collection system come into compliance.

Until the consent decree is signed--including a timetable for Prescott to comply with state and federal surface-water-quality rules--the department will not approve the construction of new subdivisions in Prescott, Bell says.

A handful of sewer connections are available for individual houses, but Prescott's boom days are limited until it literally gets its shit together.

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