GARRISON -- John Schley, chairman of the Garrison Kathio West Mille Lacs Lake Sanitary District, reported the district and its property owners will pay costs because of a Mille Lacs County appeal.
Schley said the county is appealing a waste discharge permit for the newly built Mille Lacs Band regional sewage plant. He said the plant was forced to begin operation but is not treating any sewage for either the district or the band. Schley said district property owners will pay at least $300 per year if the county does not withdraw its appeal.
"The plant had to begin operation because of the warranty but it's not treating anything more than clean water," Schley said. "We've done our math and the costs of operation during an appeal will be no less than $300 for each sanitary district property owner."
Schley said the lawsuit's outcome will have no effect on whether the plant operates, only who inspects it.
Mille Lacs County officials did not return phone calls asking for comment on this issue.
Schley said the county said it did not object to operation of the plant, but the county is appealing because the county board wants the plant to be under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rather than the Environmental Protection Agency.
Schley said Mille Lacs County property taxpayers will have to pay bills for more than $1 million in past legal challenges to the reservation boundaries. The regional sewage treatment plant, which is part of a unique band-district sewage treatment partnership to protect Lake Mille Lacs, is being hurt by delays, Schley said.
The sanitary sewer district was formed in 1999 and created a unique partnership with the Mille Lacs Band to protect the lake from failing septic systems.
The treatment plant became operational in August. Mille Lacs County appealed the discharge permit in August and county officials stated they did not oppose the plant operation but wanted a determination of whether the trust land the plant is operating on is part of the reservation.
Schley reported the sanitary district had to get a loan to cover operating costs because the appeal had the effect of freezing more than $9.2 million in funds designated for building its sewage collection system.
"For the good of Lake Mille Lacs, the Mille Lacs County taxpayers and our sanitary district users, it's time to let this legal battle go," Schley said in a news release. "The plant is built, the system will eventually be operational for our users and all this appeal does is add delay and additional costs that our people here cannot afford."
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