Residents in the Thirty Lakes Watershed District and Unorganized Territory may see the formation of a regional sanitary sewer district sometime in their future.
The Crow Wing County/Thirty Lakes Watershed Joint Powers Board joined forces two years ago to look at the needs of wastewater management in the area to preserve the surface and groundwater. The board hired Ayres Associates, an engineering firm in Duluth and Walker, to develop a wastewater management plan for the watershed area.
It recently finished this plan and recommends forming a regional sanitary district.
The watershed area is in west central Crow Wing County and covers 70 square miles, of which about 60 percent is surface water. The watershed district includes all or some of Breezy Point, Nisswa and the townships of Center, Lake Edward, Mission, Pelican and Unorganized Territory. There are between 5,500 to 6,000 on-site systems in the watershed district area or 14,000, including the systems in the cities.
Pete Weidman, project manager and of Ayres Associates, said the planning phase of the sanitary project is complete. Forming a regional sanitary district would encompass the entire planning area, he said. Within the district individual initiatives can be implemented under the guidance and infrastructure of one governing body and financial structure. The district could incorporate myriad solutions, such as a centralized and a decentralized system, a cluster system and a managed on-site system.
Weidman said part of the project may include designing a septage treatment system to accommodate the increase of solid waste materials.
Al Cibuzar of A.W. Research, who is involved in planning the project, said this system basically would be an open space of land with proper vegetative management and quality assurance system, which includes monitoring wells and lysimeters. This system would cost about $1,238,000 and could be placed south of Pelican Lake and north of North Long Lake.
To have a regional sanitary sewer district an application to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is required with public input. Also, a regional wastewater permit has to be acquired through the MPCA and this may be difficult to obtain, said Weidman.
MPCA Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan said at a recent MPCA/Joint Powers Board meeting in Baxter that she supports the efforts of the community with this project. She said having so many groups and volunteers involved in this sanitary project is promising.
Weidman said they are looking at funding options for wastewater projects within the district. The current sources of funds are through the state revolving funds and the wastewater infrastructure fund. Weidman said these funds are highly competitive and will require a planning process to maximize the potential for funding.
"Incorporating other funding mechanisms, as well as leveraging other sources of dollars, will be required to ensure success of any project undertaken," said Weidman.
Support from area government units is necessary in the planning and implementing phase of the project.
With a project so big in size, Weidman said the proposed regional sanitary district will choose a priority area to solve wastewater management issues at first. At that time a facility plan will be produced to determine the most feasible and cost-effective solution for design purposes.
The joint powers board earlier noted the top priority area encompasses three lakes near Merrifield: Lake Edward, Sorenson and the eastern portion of North Long Lake. The next priority area is the southwest part of North Long Lake, then Markee Lake to the east, Gladstone and Little Hubert, North Long Lake to the north, Pelican Lake to the northeast and then to the west, Clark Lake, Little Hubert and Hubert.
Cibuzar said townships, cities and lake associations that desire wastewater solutions will be given priority.
The joint powers board said the current lake water and drinking water are in danger of being contaminated because of the population increase. Population in the district area has increased in the past 20 years. From 1980 to 2000 the population increased 28 percent. That increase does not include seasonal residents.
There have been drinking water wells within the project area that have already been contaminated from non-compliant on-site wastewater systems.
The cost per individual for any system if approved will vary, said Weidman, and depends on where a person lives and what kind of wastewater system they have in place.
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