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Sewage treatment improving, Bayfield officials say
11/16/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
Sewage treatment in Bayfield and Gem Village will be officially under town auspices as of Jan. 1.
Voters handily approved dissolution of Bayfield Sanitation District on Nov. 6. But the transition to town control has been happening for many months.
The town began operating and upgrading the Bayfield and Gem Village systems in April 2006, on contract with the sanitation district. Early this year the district transferred management responsibility as well. Both entities supported the dissolution, which needed voter approval.
Town and district manager Justin Clifton reported to town trustees on Nov. 6 that the state has accepted town/ district data from the past few months showing reduction of sewage strength from several businesses and the schools.
As a result, the state has backed off on a requirement that every one of those customers has sewage strength at or below 300 milligrams per liter, Clifton said.
That would have required weekly sampling and testing, and the town and district don’t have the equipment, he said.
“It’s up to the district or town to decide where to test to continue to substantiate the data,” he said. “The original language (in a consent agreement with the state) said if any (of the five identified) business went over 300, we would have to re-establish the moratorium” on selling new sewer taps or cut off sewer service for that customer.
Clifton told the Times, “The goal was to reduce 51.2 pounds” per day of organic loading from the identified customers - Steamworks, Aspen Plaza, Riverside RV Park, the high school and middle school. The elementary school was added later.
The means to get the 51.2 pounds reduction was the 300 mgl limit on concentration, Clifton explained. The schools and the RV park achieved reductions well beyond that, around 75 pounds per day.
Now the state says the situation is acceptable if effluent from the Bayfield plant is within environmental limits, which it is, Clifton said. He wrangled with the state for several months that the focus should be on effluent quality more than on the strength of sewage coming in.
“They have told us we met their requirements,” Clifton said.
The last and most expensive of the improvements at the treatment lagoons is a sand filter, which further improves effluent. It was due to go on line on Nov. 12, Clifton said. It didn’t happen then, but Clifton expected it later this week.
Improvements this year total just under $500,000 and are intended to satisfy the state while a new treatment plant is built.
“Loading is levelling off around 800 pounds per day,” Clifton said. The state permit limit is 600. But Clifton said, “It’s becoming more and more clear how much improvement we’ve had on plant performance and commercial loading, when you take off the (loading) spikes that skew the data.”
Organic loading in September and October was down 21 percent from those months last year, he said. The town and district are requesting a higher state permit limit for organic loading to reflect the plant’s actual performance, he said.
Town trustee Carol Blatnick worried that commercial landlords are putting it on business tenants to reduce their sewage strength, and it is driving away business.
“The tenant is going to pay one way or another,” trustee Niel Hieb said.
Clifton said the town is making sure any new business puts in the right size grease trap. They are a lot more expensive to put in after the fact.
New businesses cannot exceed sewage strength of three equivalent residential taps (ERTs), Clifton said.
He reported that the small Gem Village treatment plant “is in compliance (with permit limits) for the first time in awhile this month.”
The town and district engineer is almost done with the preliminary engineering report that must be sent to the state as part of getting approval for changes there.
Clifton said results so far are suggesting that a lift station to get Gem Village sewage to the new Bayfield plant once it’s built is a better alternative than a new or expanded plant in Gem Village.
He wants a presentation on this at the Dec. 4 town board meeting. “It will be a key part of the system for years and years,” he said.
Also on Nov. 6, trustees approved a contract to buy 1.1 acre from the school district for the new Bayfield treatment plant. The land is south of the old mid school along the river. The town will pay the yet-to-be determined fair market price.
Clifton said the purchase contract is needed now for the state to move forward on the permit for the new plant.