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Town lifts sewer tap moratoriuim
5/18/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
Bayfield’s sewer tap moratorium was lifted Tuesday, after several weeks of negotiating with state officials.
The town and Bayfield Sanitation District imposed the moratorium on Feb. 21 to avoid a potentially tougher shut-down imposed by the state, such as a halt to issuing building permits.
The town/district action allowed builders to still take out building permits and start construction if they wanted to gamble that they would be able to get a sewer tap when it was actually needed.
Town and sewer district manager Justin Clifton announced Tuesday morning that the district and the state Water Quality Control Division agreed to terms of a consent order after six weeks of negotiations.
The district is committing to approximately $500,000 in interim improvements to the existing sewage lagoons and to reduction of organic loading from five commercial and institutional customers.
The district board approved those improvements last month. One of them, sludge removal from the second and third lagoons, is happening this week at a cost of around $100,000.
The most expensive improvement is a $315,000 sand filter to further clean effluent after it has been through the lagoons, before it goes into the river.
“The interim improvements and the reduction of organic loading are meant to offset any impact to the wastewater facility that results from new growth until the construction of a new mechanical plant is completed,” Clifton said.
The idea is that any home construction that starts now will not need a sewer tap until after the lagoon improvements and reduction of organic loading are done.
The town also halted recording of subdivision plats until the moratorium was lifted. David Black’s six lot subdivision east of the Buck Highway, and a 29 lot phase of the Dove Ranch subdivision, were approved with that limitation on May 1.
Clifton’s Tuesday announcement said, “In addition to the release of restrictions on sewer taps, the Consent Order allows new subdivisions to be created with conditional ‘will serve’ letters from the district indicating that sewer service will be available in the future based on the capacity of the new plant. This will allow the planning review and approval process to continue while the district designs and builds the new plant.
As for the plats approved on May 1, Clifton told the Times, “I think they will be able to record their plats.” But he noted they might have to meet additional subdivision improvement agreement stipulations to make advance payments to help with the cost of building a new treatment plant.
The most recent estimate for the new plant to be done was late 2008, but the sewer board has started reconsidering the technology chosen for the plant, and the engineering firm hired to design it.
The sewer board instructed staff on May 9 to take whatever action was needed to get the restrictions lifted. In April they voted to lift the tap moratorium as soon as the state agreed.
The town board voted Tuesday evening to rescind the Feb. 21 moratorium, to resume selling sewer taps and recording subdivision plats.
“Anyone who pays for a permit today and buys a tap is guaranteed to be able to take their project to completion,” Clifton told trustees.
“This document takes us through completion of (new plant) construction,” he said. “We recognized we had to salvage as much of a building season as possible to raise revenue for the improvements and the new plant. (The state) wanted additional conditions in trade for these projects that will be able to go through.”
He said the tap moratorium could be re-imposed “if we fail to meet our milestones for interim improvements; if we are unable to reduce (organic) loading from the five commercial folks; or if the plant goes downhill and we are having effluent violations.”
He continued, “The draft (consent order) has 40 to 50 conditions. We have to try our hardest to make sure the plant runs well. We’ll get some leeway (on a minor violation of conditions) if it runs well.”
If the moratorium is re-imposed, it won’t affect anyone retroactively, he said.
But he warned trustees, “The provisions (in the consent order) will be difficult to meet. Possible but difficult. We have to hope that we make progress in enough areas that if we fall short in one area, we’ll be okay. No matter what happens, our effluent will continue to look good, probably better than today.”