BAXTER -- Looking for a regional solution to wastewater treatment gained verbal support Thursday.
Water treatment was one of the topics discussed at a Brainerd Regional Wastewater Forum at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offices in Baxter. About 40 people representing Cass and Crow Wing counties and regional cities attended the afternoon discussion. And many said they were interested in exploring a regional treatment for wastewater.
"I'm really amazed at the level of interest here," said Reed Larson, MPCA regional manager. He said it was clear there was a strong sense of environmental stewardship.
More meetings are expected as the regional concept and other options for future wastewater treatment are explored along with actions to achieve those plans.
Growth, from new residents, businesses and the movement of seasonal to year-round homes, has increased wastewater flow. Lakes area cities reported plans to expand treatment facilities, such as drainage fields or pond systems and spray irrigation.
With growth comes development pressure and rising land prices that make treatment expansions costly. The rise of another land use may provide one answer.
Golf courses may be one way to spray irrigation of waste material that is discharged into the environment. The locations could provide a spray site for treatment and keep golf courses green without depleting other water resources.
At the MPCA session some spoke of the time pressure to find solutions for wastewater treatment in order to protect area lakes and ground water supplies in a region where wells and septic systems are the norm. One concern stemmed from using the offer of utilities as a way to add to annexation pressure for outlying areas.
But there were stories of encouragement in getting different governing bodies together to provide a leadership role.
The treatment facility in progress to serve the city of Garrison, area townships and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe was listed as one example of how projects that seem to be difficult ones to reach consensus on can move ahead. Construction at the wastewater treatment system at Mille Lacs is expected to begin next spring or summer and be completed, at least in part, in two years.
Once municipal sewers are installed in areas, commercial development is expected to follow, raising concerns from environmentalists.
For small cities funding for wastewater treatment is a major issue. Costs per household can be more than $10,000 for hook-ups, depending on the area.
Jim Demgen, Cass County commissioner, said county lands are becoming more valuable all the time for timber and recreation. While some have advocated selling county land holdings, Demgen said keeping land for regional treatment systems is one consideration.
Demgen noted the work on a joint powers agreement for the proposed regional jail facility is one way to approach similar issues.
"It's got to get down to where we have a team effort," Demgen said, adding the area is growing too fast for anyone to have an ownership concept for regional facilities.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.