With no decision made on extending water and sewer on Riverside Drive, the Brainerd City Council met in a special meeting Wednesday to learn more about wastewater sewer systems.
Reed Larson, regional manager of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Don Hickman, environmental specialist for the Initiative Foundation, spoke to the council and about 30 residents on MPCA requirements and sewer systems.
Larson said the Riverside Drive project would not require an expansion of the current wastewater plant's discharge, but rather it would use up valuable plant capacity. He said the council needs to carefully consider this.
According to a report from the Central Lakes Area Regional Wastewater Task Force and a look at the growth in the area, Larson said Brainerd's plant capacity could be used up within seven years. Any future plant expansions in Brainerd would require the city to determine that there are no prudent or feasible alternatives to expansion of the city's current discharge to the Mississippi River since the river is classified as an outstanding resource value water. Larson said this means the city must have an unusual or extraordinary reason why an alternative to an expanded discharge should not be required.
Larson said an analysis of viable alternatives to a new or expanded discharge project would be a minimum requirement for Brainerd. Alternatives that could be considered include land application systems, such as spray irrigation, or a cluster or mound system.
Larson said in order for Brainerd to do any significant expansion of its existing wastewater treatment facility it would be required to conduct an environmental review, look at treatment alternatives, as well as a social/economic analysis for any increased mass discharge to the Mississippi River, which has been listed by the state as an impaired water due to the mercury level.
Council member Mary Koep said Brainerd's current discharge treatment is high quality and asked Larson if the MPCA would consider this as part of the requirement.
"The actual wastewater is almost like drinking water," said Koep. "The discharge won't dirty the river, but add clean water to the river."
Larson said the high performance by the wastewater plant would be considered in any future expansions of the facility.
According to a 2001 engineering study of the Brainerd North Side Sanitary Sewer and water master plan, Hickman said the centralized wastewater system approach was considered. He said this is a viable treatment strategy for situations where urban densities are sought or where commercial or industrial wastewater may require more extensive treatment than the decentralized systems provide.
To make the centralized system affordable to residents, Hickman said there would have to be at least four property owners per acre to share the cost.
Hickman's concern about the centralized system was the impact the system would have on a neighborhood's character. Hickman said with a clear vision from Riverside residents, responsible developers and area business leaders regarding the type of growth they are seeking that they consider all the alternatives of a sewer system.
The city council has six months to order the Riverside Drive utility project. After that, the project would need to go back through the public hearing process.
At an estimated cost of $2.6 million, the project is one part of a 10-phase, $18 million sewer and water project in areas north of Brainerd. The project was to be done in conjunction with a Crow Wing County plan to reconstruct Riverside Drive, also known as County State Aid Highway 20.
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