Click here for more articles
Bayfield sends sewage treatment proposal to state
4/6/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
Bayfield town and sanitation district representatives have sent a sewage lagoon improvement proposal to the state that they hope will allow new sewer taps to be sold — soon.
Town and district manager Justin Clifton described the plan to the town board Tuesday evening.
It stresses lifting the town’s own halt to selling new sewer taps. It proposes restrictions on new commercial growth and requirements on new subdivision approval with the goal of generating more than $500,000 with minimal impact on the sewer plant over the next 12 months, to pay for the interim improvements.
Failure to lift restrictions in the next couple weeks could damage the town’s housing market, ability to pay for interim improvements, and ability to finance a new plant, the proposal says.
Clifton said the town and district are still working with high-load commercial customers to reduce the strength (organic loading) of sewage coming into the Bayfield treatment lagoons, and planning steps to assure that good quality effluent is coming out of the lagoons.
Proposed lagoon improvements are removal of more than a million gallons of sludge from the second and third lagoons at a cost of around $100,000; adding a second baffle and chemical infusion in the third lagoon to improve particulate settling, at a cost of $55,000; and installing a sand filtration system at a cost of $315,000 for all effluent to go through before it is discharged into the Pine River.
All those help assure high-quality effluent, Clifton said.
The other proposed expense is $68,000 to add an anaerobic pre-treatment chamber to reduce organic loading of sewage coming in to the plant. That, along with the improvements being required of high-load customers, is aimed at reducing the concentration of organic matter, especially food, in sewage.
All sewer customers are being urged to keep all food garbage and milk out of the system by composting or disposing with other trash.
With efforts since February, the plant is almost in compliance for organic loading, Clifton said. “We’ll continue to look (for high-load sources) until we get down under 300 milligrams per liter” concentration of organic loading. “There’s no reason to be over that.”
Customer service contracts with the district prohibit being over that. All commercial customers are being required to get within that limit by May 30, according to the compliance plan. Residential customers are expected to be around 240 milligrams per liter.
The sewer plant’s most persistent state permit violations have been for organic loading. But discharge violations in December and January put the focus on assuring the state and Southern Ute Indian Tribe that discharges will stay within permit limits, in hopes of being able to start selling sewer taps again.
Clifton said the town is arguing to the state that when a new building permit is issued by the town, there is at least a five-month time lag before any impact on the sewer plant. All the proposed improvements will be installed by then.
But he advised, “There will be no commitment or expenditure of funds until there’s a commitment from the state that this is adequate to lift restrictions” on sewer tap sales. He said the day he submitted the improvement proposal to the state, he got e-mails promising a quick review.
He hopes to have a response from the state officials by next week, but there’s no guarantee of that.
Other discussion at the town board meeting was about the new treatment plant to be built over the next 18 months at a projected cost of $6.5 to $7 million. The sewer district has $2 million available and has approval for a $5 million state loan.
Trustee Daryl Yost objected that the district has not kept its tap fee revenue, which is supposed to be for things like the new treatment plant, separate from operating revenues. He raised that issue five years ago, he said.
That will probably happen when the town takes over the district, Clifton said. The district raised tap fees to $6,000 last month. Clifton expects they will have to go to $8,000.
Monthly fees were raised last month to $30 per equivalent residential tap to assure debt repayment. “The state revolving loan fund wants to know you have funds dedicated to debt service, 110 percent of what you owe,” Clifton said. That required a monthly rate increase to at least $27.
He worries that the highest annual payments will be in the first two years. The payment in 2008 will be $407,000. He is asking to make minimum payments the first two years to get the debt repayment fund established and healthy. He’d like a cushion of $300,000 to $400,000 in the fund.
Payments will average $34,000 a month.
“One of the first tasks of the engineer is to review the analysis that led to the (selection of the) MBR plant,” a “membrane bio-reactor” system that is supposed to produce drinking water quality effluent, but which is one of the most expensive systems.
Clifton said he is looking for other grants wherever he can. That includes federal earmarks through U.S. Senators Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard, and U.S. Rep. John Salazar.
Clifton proposes to ask developers for cash contributions, separate from advance payment of sewer tap fees, to help pay for the new plant. “It would be for the luxury of platting now instead of later,” he said. One developer is proposing to buy his own package treatment plant to be able to proceed, Clifton said.
The compliance plan cites the time lag from subdivision approval to actual impact on the treatment plant and says, “New subdivisions are the most significant source of revenue with the least impact on the (treatment plant).”