BAXTER - The use of cluster septic systems is gaining ground in Minnesota and is expected to rival municipal wastewater plants in number in the future.
Speaking Thursday at a Brainerd Area Environmental Learning Network session at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Baxter, Brett Ballavance, an environmental engineer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Duluth, said improvement in sewer treatment technology and increased government regulations have led to more cluster septic systems springing up in large developments.
Another reason for the increase in cluster septic systems is cost, Ballavance said. Instead of running sewer pipe from a wastewater treatment facility to a rural development, which could cost millions of dollars, developers are creating their own on-site system.
"This isn't your grandpa's septic system. These are modern systems," Ballavance said. "It's something new for us, a new trend in the (wastewater) industry. This is what's happening in Minnesota. We're not building big centralized systems anymore."
There are 786 municipal wastewater plants and about 109 large cluster septic systems in Minnesota. The Brainerd region, which for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency also includes Sherburne, Stearns and Benton counties, has the second most large cluster systems in the state with 35. The Twin Cities region has 36 large cluster systems.
The idea has been embraced by the Crow Wing County Board, which in August established a county-wide sewer district pilot project.
The county wants to start the district with pilot projects, with Ideal Township and the Whitefish Chain the likely first choices. Residents in the pilot area would pay a $25 annual administration fee. Residents already served by a municipal sewer system are not included. Residents in other parts of the county outside a pilot area would not pay fees.
Ballavance said the problem isn't creating cluster septic systems but operating and managing them. He said the system could be managed by the developer, a homeowner association or through a contract with a private company. However, the best solution, Ballavance said, would be for individual counties to pass ordinances creating service districts, such as Crow Wing County has done.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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