WALKER -- Breezy Point Road and Baywood Drive residents living north and west along Leech Lake from the proposed Leech Lake Reservation sewage treatment pond site on county tax forfeit land outlined their objections Tuesday.
Breezy Point Homeowners Association representative Bob Gisvold, a Minneapolis attorney and Breezy Point property owner, said homeowners strongly oppose a municipal pond system on that site because of potential contamination to private wells and Leech Lake.
They view reservation ownership of such a municipal system as leaving them without an appeal process through the county or state if the system fails. The reservation is subject only to federal jurisdiction.
It also will mean a loss of existing hunting and hiking trails on the county managed acreage, Gisvold said.
"We're terrified this is going to affect the environment," he said. He said his concern is that this type of system could fail to fully protect groundwater.
He called for studying other alternatives and for re-opening talks with Walker to further expand that city's municipal system.
"What are the guarantees and recourse if this doesn't work?" Gisvold asked.
John Annexstad, Breezy Point property owner and geophysicist at Bemidji State University, asked that the county forest resource advisory board review the proposal. He has been a member of the board since its inception.
He suggested there is no plan to deal with sewage going into the proposed system if monitoring wells should show pollution seeping into groundwater.
He said glacial soils in the Y junction area can be expected to drain sewer water at a faster rate than engineers are predicting, thus creating a greater potential for water not being adequately treated before it enters the water table.
Annexstad also predicted objectionable odors will seep up through holes in the ice on treatment ponds during winter months as well as come off ponds as engineers predict during a two-week period after melt each spring.
He called for a comprehensive plan for handling sewage long range from the entire Y junction area.
Grant Merritt, an attorney with Gisvold's firm, Breezy Point property owner and retired state official, questioned whether the proposed system meets state laws and MPCA rules.
He called for Leech Lake Reservation to consider a mechanical treatment system requiring, he said, only two acres of land rather than the proposed minimum of 60 acres for a pond system.
Using county tax forfeited land "will destroy a large forest area," Merritt said, adding, "there are much better alternatives."
Jerry Mills, an upper Ten Mile Lake resident, spoke for Tri-County Leech Lake Watershed's view of the proposal.
He called for a delay to enable considering a Leech Lake Reservation-Cass County partnership project to handle sewage from the entire junction area.
Leech Lake Watershed has been studying wastewater treatment throughout the watershed during the 1990s, Mills said. Plan proposals are being considered from that study.
County Board Chair Jim Demgen noted the watershed plan could give a more long range solution to sewage treatment and water quality needs for this junction area.
He also emphasized he wants to see all governments, including the reservation, county and affected townships, as equal owners and managers of any facility built. Each should have representation on a management board, he said.
After the meeting, Demgen also said he would like to see the county look at joint jurisdiction sewer districts with cities and townships for developed and developing areas throughout the county.
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