Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 14, 2003

Township residents are nervous about water from proposed sewage plant

By Lynda Jensen

More water is probably the last thing that Middleville and Marysville township residents want to hear, following a year of historic flooding.

However, plans are in the works for a proposed sewer treatment plant to be located in the southern part of Albion Township ­ a move that engineers and officials insist will cause no extra grief for residents downstream in Middleville and Marysville.

The plant will serve the cities of Annandale and Maple Lake, with the water going south via Wolf Creek to the North Fork of the Crow River, eventually emptying into the Mississippi River.

Opponents of the project are quick to ask questions about the project, such as what impact the volume of water will have, water quality issues, and why the cities are routing water this way.

How much water? What impact?

The volume of water to be added is estimated at 450,000 gallons initially, with a possibility of three upgrades being made to the plant in the future, which will increase volume.

Proponents of the plant vigorously insist the volume will have minimal impact on the area.

"If you have 450,000 gallons of water a day, that breaks down into 18,750 gallons per hour, 321 gallons per minute, and five gallons per second," commented Albion Township resident Dan Higgins ­ saying this is too much water.

"It sounds so astoundingly high," commented Annandale Mayor Sam Harmoning, but the amount sounds worse than it really is, she said.

Taking into account the water that normally goes through this area, it's a "drop in the bucket," she said.

Brad DeWolf, engineer at Bolton & Menk is confident that the additional water will make little difference, he said. Bolton & Menk serves Howard Lake, Waverly, Montrose, and many other towns, including Annandale.

Even twice as much would not make much difference, said Maple Lake Mayor Mike Messina.

"The total volume that we flush through there will be less than five percent of the total volume of water," Messina said.

Opponents scoff at this idea, saying that there are some existing water issues, and the county ditch system can't handle water well now.

"Most of us know about the annual flooding of Wright County Road 35 just west of County Road 7 ­ that's Wolf Creek," said Middleville resident Linda Decker.

"Come spring, the road closed signs are brought out and laid down on the side of the road until the road gets covered with water, then the signs go up until the water goes down, and the signs are laid back down until the next time. They stay out by the road until fall," Decker said.

"I understand their concerns," DeWolf said "It's a bad year to talk water."

However, DeWolf insisted the plant will have minimal impact downstream, and that this project is subject to several laws and regulations in order to make it work.

The plant is planned for the south west corner of Wright County Road 7 and County Road 105.

Quality of water

Another concern is the quality of treated water, and if any chemicals or sediments will be left behind for residents to deal with.

Treated water is actually as clean as the water it's discharged in, DeWolf said.

There is no fecal matter contained in treated wastewater, which is enforced by the law, he said.

"The standards are very stringent," he said.

"You could walk over to the Howard Lake treatment plant, and take a cup of discharge there and it would be as clear as a glass of drinking water," DeWolf said.

"This is a state-of-the-art facility," DeWolf said.

Far from the source

Opponents of the project also want to know why the water is being routed so far from the area it is serving.

"Annandale is going to have to run high-pressure lines 15 miles out of town and Maple Lake 6 miles out of town to reach the plant," Higgins said.

"Wouldn't it make more since to find a location equal distance from both towns, or a least a little bit closer?" he asked.

The answer is state regulations, Messina said, since the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency dictates to cities where they can discharge water.

The other alternative for discharging water is in the Mississippi, 25 miles away, Messina said.

"This is the best alternative," DeWolf said of the water discharge location.

It's a shame to affect three townships that are receiving no benefit from the new facility, Higgins said.

Road maintenance?

Opponents also protest the potential impact on county roads, saying that the whole county will end up paying for roads affected by discharge from two cities.

"Everything's been taken into consideration," Messina said of the project, which is a sentiment echoed by DeWolf.

"We're not allowed to harm residents," DeWolf said, pointing to the numerous levels of regulation required to do a project such as this.

In addition, the county would not approve a plan that was detrimental to residents, DeWolf said.

"In 2002 Wright County installed a new 36-inch culvert under County Road 35 to alleviate flooding problems. This 36-inch culvert is helping the problem since the old culvert was broken, but it isn't enough to be able to contend with an extra 450,000 gallons of water a day," Higgins said.

The cost of building up this section of County Road 35 is going to be a great expense to county taxpayers ­ close to $1 million just to fix County Road 35, Higgins said.

A price tag hasn't been put on a section of county road 7 south of county road 35 that has problems with extra water and will need to be repaired when this treatment plant starts running, he said.

All of this water will have to travel under or over County Road 35 every week, Higgins said, which is one road in the area that already has a problem with flash flooding.

"Shouldn't the cities causing more problems with the road be held accountable to pay for the repair?" Higgins asked.

"The city councils of both towns need to look at the effects that all this water is going to have on the residents and landowners downstream from the facility that are going to be directly effected by the extra water from this plant before they sign the final papers and add to the city residents taxes," Higgins said.

More questions. . .

The following are questions being asked by township residents posted online at http://noalbionsewage.com. The web site is a collaboration among Brenda Pilger, Dan Nordstrom, and Higgins, among others.

1. What is the effect on the rural communities throughout Minnesota by setting precedence for Wastewater Treatment Plants being put in locations miles from the cities they serve in unwilling, uncompensated neighboring townships?

2. What about the devaluation of property in Albion Township for a facility that does not benefit its population in any way?

3. How will the normal developments surrounding a nationally known golf course (Albion Ridge) be degraded with a Wastewater Treatment Plant as a cornerstone?

4. What is the unbalanced impact on Albion Township as a growing residential and agricultural area?

5. What are the environmental concerns of subjecting an already stressed watershed area with the pressure of chemically treated wastewater?

6. What are the flooding and backup plans of the current drainage route, Crow River Watershed Area, county and township roads, real estate, crops, and drain tiles throughout the several townships affected?

7. Who bears the upward cost of $1,000,000 to upgrade the already flooding roads this project would contribute to significantly?

8. What about the bypass that may be needed to release untreated and direct raw sewage into the waterway area flowing directly into the Crow River?

9. Have the environmental concerns of the Crow and Mississippi River down stream been really addressed?

10. What about the problems, concerns and maintenance issues of the high-pressure sewage lines brought to the county and township's right-of-ways.

11. What are the legal issues of installing a Wastewater Treatment Facility in an area that has no benefit?

12. What are the other options available to be considered? Is the Maple Lake Wastewater Treatment Facility recently built in 1997 for $1,000,000 paid for yet?

13. Where will the actual money come from to fund, expand, operate and maintain a NEW facility of that magnitude?

14. Why would any growing city consider a Joint Facility that may last 40 years? Which city benefits most?

15. Are the people of both cities informed on the accurate numbers on the cost, maintenance and related issues surrounding a joint facility?

16. Why is proximity of the joint facility not closer to their own cities in an area of industrial or commercial zoning not to devalue an area of growth of either city or any related township?

17. Why the lack of supporting information from the engineering firm of Bolton and Menk and the Cities of Annandale and Maple Lake? Why the attempt to downplay this project and push it through as an acceptable alternative?

18. What is the actual growth capacity of this project? Why was it was said that it could reach up to 2,000,000 gallons a day in the near future while demand for Maple Lake alone could peak at 1,000,000 gallons a day?

19. Why is the opposition of this project from concerned residents of Albion Township and Maple Lake largely being ignored?

20. Are there conflicts of interest in this project? Who are all of the parties involved with this project and have their dealings been made public?

21. What are the actual projected growth patterns and plans from each city administrator today? What may be the long-term surprises that may prove to be a further devaluation of our neighborhood?

Informational meeting set for Tues., April 22

An informational meeting has been set to discuss the proposed treatment plant 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 22 at the Maple Lake High School cafeteria.

The meeting will help address concerns that township residents may have about the project, commented Annandale Mayor Sam Harmoning.

The plans have been in the works for about one year, Messina said.

Currently, Wright County is in the middle of a complete drainage study, commented engineer Brad DeWolf.

An environmental impact statement has been done on the proposed treatment project.

The next step is for the cities to approach Wright County Planning and Zoning for a conditional use permit from the county, which will likely occur in May, Messina said.


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