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Bayfield sewage won't meet deadline
8/3/2007 By: Carole McWilliamas
Prospects aren’t looking good for Bayfield’s sewer system to meet a Sept. 3 state deadline to cut high food-related loading from several restaurants.
Town and sanitation district manager Justin Clifton told sewer district directors on July 25 that he is working with state officials to get some flexibility in meeting that deadline.
He said in his latest report to the state, “I said it’s blatantly apparent that we won’t meet the Sept. 3 deadline and the 300 (milligrams per liter) limit” on concentration of organic loading coming into the treatment plant.
In May, the sewer district and town signed a consent order with the State Department of Health and Environment listing steps the district and town are taking to guarantee quality effluent from the Bayfield sewage lagoons until a new plant is built, and to reduce organic loading (mostly food related) coming into the plant.
The commitment to reduce organic loading involved notices to several high-load customers to install some sort of pre-treatment systems. Those were Steamworks, Aspen Plaza, the school district, and Riverside RV Park. Indications have been that other high loaders (mainly restaurants) also will get violation notices.
Installing pre-treatment systems has turned out to be a lot more expensive and technically difficult than originally expected.
Clifton said last week that the deal with the state was to cut 50 pounds per day of organic loading by Sept. 3. “The state says if there’s adequate justification, they would consider some leniency” on that requirement, he advised.
Tests of incoming sewage during the summer indicate the schools had more of an impact than originally thought, he said. The school district’s current plan is to install three settling tanks at each school. The sewage goes from one to the other before going into the sewer main.
The school district “is flying to get those done before school starts,” Clifton said.
That is likely to cost around $100,000 total, he said. The district previously was looking at costs over $300,000 for something more elaborate, drawing protests from Supterintendent Don Magill.
Clifton said a two-compartment settling tank installed at Aspen Plaza seems to be making a noticeable difference there. The first compartment is “full of gunk,” while the second compartment is much better, he said. A more elaborate system there is constrained by space and soil contamination issues, Clifton said.
The RV park is well along on having bacterial pre-treatment operating in five sequential tanks.
Steamworks continues to be the most difficult situation, “the only one that doesn’t have a definite solution now,” Clifton said. “No one thinks settling tanks will do it. They are putting in a bigger grease trap for the restaurant.”
Their potential costs have continued to grow and are now estimated at $355,000 to $400,000, Clifton said.
“The brewery needs a system that’s larger and more sophisticated than many small communities,” he said.
Tequila’s was not one of the original businesses to receive a violation notice, but Clifton said, “They are putting out a lot of food waste. We’ve told them to have guys scrape the plates. All of it is going down the sink. We’ll emphasize that they can save themselves tens of thousands of dollars just by scraping their plates.”
In his latest compliance report to the state, Clifton said he “noted how much businesses have committed to spend. … I said it’s not fair to require businesses to buy much more than some other viable alternatives. I mentioned in the report that a handful of months could be the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the businesses.”
Clifton reported the Bayfield sewage lagoons operated within permit limits both on incoming sewage strength and effluent quality during the first half of July. Sludge removal from the second and third lagoons was completed in mid July and seems to have made a big difference, he said. Effluent quality has been very good.
Other lagoon improvements are in progress to guarantee quality effluent and to pre-treat organic loading of sewage coming in.
“Things are running as good as they could be,” Clifton said.
Also last week the sewer board approved a plan to dissolve the district, subject to possible tweaking by either the sewer board or town board as needed.
Sewer district attorney Bud Smith said he filed notice to the county clerk of intent to have a question on the November ballot. July 27 was the deadline for that notice.
If voters approve the dissolution, the district will cease to exist on Dec. 31. The town will take over full operation and management of both the Bayfield and Gem Village systems, which for the most part has already happened.
Sewer board president Ed Morlan raised the possibility of needing a property tax to repay bonds for the new sewage plant, if the district/ town doesn’t sell enough sewer taps to cover payments.