Winter playground dreads tide of princely sewage

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The Independent Online
THE SPARKLING winter resort of Aspen, Colorado, is used to unconventional conduct from its wealthy and famous residents, but Prince Bandar ibn Sultan ibn Abdulaziz al-Saud and his entourage fall into a different category. Their predicament, locals will tell you, is baffling.

Several times a year the prince, who is Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, climbs into a private Boeing 727 with his horde of aides and security officials and heads for the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains. He has an enormous hillside mansion just outside Aspen, where his second-home neighbours include Rupert Murdoch, the publisher, and the singer John Denver. Lately, the ambassador and his companions have encountered a problem.

At this point Aspenites begin looking a little uncomfortable. The difficulty is . . . well, it's his sewage. For reasons no one fully understands, the ambassador's household churns out up to 9,000 gallons a day, 120 times the average output per person. His disposal system is so overloaded that it has to be drained regularly and the contents taken to the local sewage plant by lorry.

Exactly why the household is so prolific in its waste production is a matter of speculation. There is talk of fabulous kitchens, huge freezer rooms and water- costly ice-sculpting. But the mansion's 27 bathrooms must also have something to do with it.

So the prince wants to install what some water engineers believe will be the largest sewage evaporation pond on any private estate. It will be the size of a football pitch. At least one neighbour is understood to be contemplating legal action. For the system to work properly, the waste water must evaporate. That requires sunshine. Aspen is under snow for up to six months a year.

The state water authorities are scrutinizing the plan, but without much enthusiasm. According to Dwain Watson, the field inspector handling the Bandar file, there is a risk that the prince's expanded sewage system will continue to overflow. And what effect could that have on his neighbours? 'The waste could run down and pollute their ornamental ponds.' Not the done thing in Aspen.