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Phosphorus limit soon to be introduced in Winsted
Oct. 24, 2011
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By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Winsted City Council learned at its Tuesday meeting that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will set phosphorus limits for Winsted’s wastewater treatment facility’s discharge, possibly as early as December.

“Winsted has gone without a phosphorus limit for a very long time,” Bolton & Menk engineer Seth Peterson told the council. “Most every other community has a phosphorus limit.”

According to Peterson, Winsted’s permit is still in draft form, but he expected it out for public notice within two weeks. There is a 30-day review period for public comment before the permit is finalized.

Once the permit is issued, the city will have six months to have its current facility meet the MPCA’s discharge requirement of one milligram of phosphorus per liter of water.

The council has known for several years that the MPCA would be setting new standards for emissions, and the new restrictions will eventually mean an estimated price tag of $4 million to upgrade Winsted’s wastewater treatment facility.

For now, Peterson estimates a temporary fix to bring the facility into compliance in six months will cost approximately $10,000.

City Administrator Brad Martens said PeopleService, which operates Winsted’s treatment facility, estimated the chemicals would cost approximately $12 a day, or about $4,800 a year. In addition, new tanks to store the chemicals, and pumps and tubing to feed the chemicals will also be needed.

“On top of that, there is a new testing requirement,” Martens added. “We have to test our water more often because we have a different class facility.”

Because Winsted discharges to South Lake, it has been running its treatment facility on an expired permit since 2007, while the MPCA reviewed safe phosphorus limits for discharge to lakes.

“Phosphorus is a nutrient that causes algae bloom in water waste,” Peterson said. “Typically, what they want to see when it (discharge) goes into rivers and streams, the limit is one milligram per liter. So one part per million, that is the maximum they want discharged to these areas and with that the phosphorus amount is low enough that you are not going to have these algae blooms.”

“That is in the moving water source, but lakes are different because you don’t have the moving water or water being replenished. The amount of phosphorus that can go into a water body, essentially enclosed (a lake), is much less.” Phosphorus limits for lakes is .06 milligrams per liter, according to Peterson.

Winsted’s emissions right now are discharging between 4 and 6 milligrams per liter, according to Peterson. Currently, the facility has nothing to remove the phosphorus.

Besides the city being in compliance with its phosphorus limit within six months, the MPCA is also requiring the city to decommission holding ponds once used to store biosolids. The ponds were used before the city set up new storage tanks to hold the biosolids.

“That means you water them down, scrape all of the biosolids out, and land apply it and get rid of them,” Peterson said.

Grant for $500,000 offers city a break

Some good news that Peterson offered the council was a $500,000 phosphorus reduction grant, if the city would move forward now with plans for a project to bring the wastewater treatment facility up to MPCA standards.

According to Peterson, it will be a requirement by the MPCA within 10 to 12 years.

In the facility plan that was looked at for the city in 2010, one of the options was to continue to discharge to South Lake, which would require the .06 milligrams per liter limit, or to relocate the discharge to Crane Creek, which would allow a phosphorus limit of one milligram per liter. “That cost is significantly less than the option of staying in South Lake,” Peterson said.

If the city wants to move forward with the project and take advantage of the $500,000 grant, it needs to decide by its next council meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 1, because city engineers would have to prepare a plan for updating the wastewater treatment facility to be certified by the MPCA by May 1, 2012.

Council Member Dave Mochinski said, “We should get it started. I am all for telling him (city engineer) to go ahead. Why wait? $500,000 is a lot of money.”

City engineer Jake Saulsbury suggested waiting until the next council meeting to go over the financing.

Martens was concerned about financing.

“We could wait a few years and incrementally raise our rates so we could have some cash on hand, and it’s not such a substantial increase,” Martens said.

Saulsbury estimated the water and sewer rates could increase as much as $20 to $25 per month, per residence.

Council Member Tom Ollig said, “What we are all saying is we understand we have to move forward with the tanks and more chemicals and getting down to the one part limit, but to go out and bond for $4 million right now, and then implement the rates that would be necessary to make that bond payment versus giving us two or three years to do it gradually, is night and day.”

Martens said he would contact the MPCA and discuss the ability to apply for the funding in the future if the city were to turn it down at this time, and return with its comments at the Nov. 1 council meeting.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• agreed to remove Casey’s General Store and variance from the agenda, because the engineering firm working for Casey’s is updating its plans to make the store larger.

• accepted the grant contract between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry, and the Winsted Volunteer Fire Department for a contract not to exceed $1,200, with all of the equipment acquired used soley for prevention, suppression, and control of fire. It will purchase hoses, nozzles, water movement items, radios/pagers, and wildlife personal protective equipment.

• accepted a contribution from gambling proceeds from the Winsted Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association in the amount of $15,000 to be dedicated to the Winsted Volunteeer Fire Department’s Capital Equipment Fund.

• accepted a $200 cash donation from AWI Manufacturing for the Winsted Volunteer Fire Department.

• authorized the city of Winsted to enter into a grant agreement for the financial assistance of the State of Minnesota for maintenance and operation of the Winsted Municipal Airport.

• authorized a salary step increase for Jamie Stotko, public works lead, effective Oct. 1. His salary was $20.66 per hour or $42,973 annually, and with his increase he is now making $21.28 per hour or $44,262 annually.

• adopted a revised Vollmer Room use policy to include groups already using the Vollmer Room and to allow for the addition of the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) Girls Scouts.

• approved a quote from Security and Sound Co. for the purchase and installation of a new television for the Winsted fire station in the amount of $1,417.

• approved the purchase request from the Winsted Volunteer Fire Department for a rescue boat and related equipment in an amount not to exceed $12,000.

The purchase includes a Mercury Marine 430 Hypalon boat, a Four-Stroke 25 HP EFI motor, a boat trailer, and additional water rescue equipment.

Martens said of the boat purchase, “The fire department covers several small lakes and numerous swamp areas, and it has received one water-related call in each of the last four years.

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