Adell addresses sewer plant issues at special meeting

by Rodney Schroeter
of The Review staff

ADELL — The village board met Wednesday, Nov. 1, for a special meeting to discuss and act on two resolutions related to the Onion River Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

The first resolution was to borrow up to $2.5 million to improve the WWTP. The second resolution would authorize the village president to file applications for state financial assistance to help the village pay for the improvements.

Village President Andrew Schmitt explained the need for the special meeting: The items covered by the two resolutions had been submitted by the village’s engineers, “but the engineers sent it in for the plant.”

The WWTP is owned jointly by Adell and Hingham, and the applications were submitted jointly. But it was learned, only the day before, that the applications needed to be submitted separately.

The submission deadline was the following day, Nov. 2.

Hingham had met the night before, and passed their resolutions.

Trustee Leighton Holtz asked if the $2.5 million loan would mean raising the sewer rates. Schmitt said that should not be necessary, and that the $2.5 million cost would be shared by Adell and Hingham.

Holtz had other questions, which led to a discussion of the two basic reasons the WWTP needed improvements: For repairs and to attempt meeting severely reduced phosphorous levels mandated for the plant’s discharged water.

Holtz asked why the village was in such a hurry to spend that amount of money on the plant. Schmitt replied they’d not been in a hurry; that this had been planned for over a year; that everything proposed by that night’s two resolutions had been worked on and submitted as a result of that planning; that it only seemed there was a hurry because a special meeting had been called on short notice so Adell could initiate the process on its own.

“They were going to do upgrades to the plant a little at a time,” over the years, Holtz said in response to the large $2.5 million figure.

Director of Public Works Shawn Bigelow replied that needed plant repairs had not been done. Systems and components that failed were replaced or repaired when they absolutely had to be but the plant generally, he said, has fallen into disrepair.

Schmitt said he’s been on the Onion River WWTP for only a year and a half, and was not familiar with how it was run or maintained before that. Adell was mandated 25 years ago to run a three mile sewer line from the village to the WWTP in Hingham. Adell and Hingham now co-own the plant. Adell accounts for about 40 per cent of its usage; Hingham about 60 per cent.

Bigelow addressed the second need to rebuild the plant. He said right now water discharged into waterways must contain three parts per million (ppm) of phosphorous, or less. “Our new requirement is .075 ppm,” he said (or 75 parts per billion). Bigelow said they’ve treated the water with expensive chemicals to remove more phosphorous, but that only reaches as low as .5 ppm (500 parts per billion).

Holtz said he couldn’t imagine that every little municipality in the state could meet the stricter new standards. Bigelow elaborated: Phosphorous limits are different for different wastewater treatment plants, depending on how much phosphorous is already present in the water into which the treated wastewater is released.

Bigelow said the village is discussing “phosphorous credit trading” with Waldo, which has less stringent requirements. If Waldo, for example, were able to bring its phosphorous levels lower than required, it would have “credits” it could trade or sell to another municipality that cannot make it to its assigned level.

Bigelow said if Adell fails to reach its mandated low phosphorous level, the DNR could mandate a filtration system which would cost $1.5 million. “That’s on top of the $2.5 million we’re talking about right now,” he said.

Schmitt clarified that the mandated lower phosphorous number comes from the DNR, but is being mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Schmitt said he was one signer of a petition initiated by the League of Municipalities asking Congress to “give us a more reasonable phosphorous level.”

Schmitt broke down the $2.5 million: Facility upgrades, about $1.3 million; phosphorous reduction, about $750,000.

The resolution to borrow $2.5 million was approved with Holtz voting against.

The resolution authorizing the village president to act as representative for filing the applications for financial assistance was approved unanimously.

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