Agreement reached in Garfield pumping dispute
A year-long dispute about a decision to pump stormwater out of Garfield into a ditch that flows into area lakes has been resolved, at least for now.
The Cowdry, Taylor, Stony and Union (CTSU) Lakes Association, Lake Brophy Association and the Douglas County Board reached an agreement at a court-ordered mediation hearing on July 9.
It allows the city of Garfield to pump stormwater into Ditch 1 and puts in place 11 conditions for doing so.
The agreement amends an order issued by the Douglas County commissioners on July 12, 2011, which allowed Garfield to use the outlet into Douglas County Ditch 1. The water flowed from the ditch into Lake Brophy and the CTSU chain of lakes.
The Douglas County Board, acting as the draining authority for District 1, believed that the ditch had the capacity to handle the extra water flow.
The lake associations said that when the water was pumped down County Road 82 into Ditch 1 using two eight-inch pipes instead of one six-inch pipe, it caused high water to flood into lake residents' yards.
The associations claimed the board failed to properly consider legal requirements associated with land usage and environmental concerns, and failed to notify residents in the area before digging up their yards to put in the pipe. The associations also said the drainage area was expanded without a public hearing or proper notification.
Representatives from the associations and the county communicated back and forth for months and appeared to reach an understanding last October on nine major points. A few months later, however, Garfield contested some of the items and the issue headed back to court.
Under the agreement reached last week, the city of Garfield will still be able to pump water as it has during the past year but there are now written restrictions and regulations.
Both sides in the dispute were satisfied with the agreement.
"We were able to get all of the original nine conditions from October 2011 with amended language and able to get two new conditions added, as well," said Peggy Olson, vice president of the CTSU Lake Association. "Our settlement is binding to all parties and will be followed by court order."
The estimated volume of water that can be pumped will be less than before, Olson said. The pumping will be done with a 15-horsepower pump motor instead of a 75-horsepower pump motor.
Olson added that the new rules will protect the lakes, wetlands and rivers affected by the pumping.
Kurt Deters, the attorney representing the Douglas County Board, was also pleased with the outcome.
"The agreement, I think, was a good agreement," Deters said. "It simply spelled out what was already the law from Douglas County's point of view."
Here are the 11 points in the agreement:
1 Pumping shall be limited to one six-inch diameter pipe with a practical application of pumping at a rate of 750 gallons per minute (gpm) and a maximum pumping rate of 1,000 gpm.
2 No pumping shall be allowed except as authorized by this order, or as authorized by the process established by Minnesota Statute 103E.411.
3 The engineer's complete specifications for this project were attached to the order and made a part of the order.
4The city of Garfield shall pump water consistent with the engineer's specifications, except that the pumping shall not exceed the limits set forth in paragraph 1, above.
5 The city of Garfield shall not pump water below the ordinary high water level (OHWL) of the city of Garfield wetland/holding basin. The OHWL shall be defined as set forth in Minnesota Statute Section 103G.005, as amended from time to time, and as referenced in the engineer's complete specifications, based upon the level of the existing outlet culvert.
6 The city of Garfield shall only pump excess storm water above the OHWL mark from the wetland/holding basin into Douglas County Ditch 1 and take reasonable precautions to ensure that no sewage or contaminated water will be allowed to be pumped into Douglas County Ditch 1.
7 Any person, including the CTSU Lakes Association and the Lake Brophy Association, may hire a qualified environmental laboratory to conduct water quality sampling and testing on the discharging wetland and/or the receiving wetland involved in this order, including collection of water samples and analysis of the water samples and the comparison of test results from each of the two wetlands.
8 In addition to other notifications required by law, the city of Garfield shall notify in writing the CTSU Lakes Association and the Lake Brophy Association of any considered changes to this order at least 20 days prior to public hearing or amendment of the order.
9The order is contingent upon the city of Garfield being in full compliance with MPCA permit, including the Wetland Conservation Act or other requirements set forth in the MPCA permit.
10Under the request of plaintiff's attorney, the city of Garfield will provide to the drainage authority a record of hours pumped, not to exceed one such request per three months.
11The city of Garfield shall not connect to or otherwise utilize sanitary sewer pipes as part of this project.
A HISTORY OF LEAKS
Contaminated ground water has been found in Garfield in and around the pumping site and is the subject of an ongoing MPCA investigation.
There have been four leaks reported by the MPCA. The first was in 1985. In 1998, Douglas County admitted blame for the leak. Douglas County had a maintenance building that had an underground fuel tank.
A new leak was reported by a resident of Garfield whose back yard butts up to the holding pond being pumped on August 24, 2011 and by Stevan DeWald, Garfield engineer/consultant working on the pumping project in November 2011. The source of that leak has not been determined.
"Even after the leak was confirmed, they continued to pump water from the site," Olson said. "I am still very concerned about the water being pumped into our lakes. If there is another phase of action concerning this contamination, it will have to involve more people, resources, and lake associations."
The CTSU Lake Association will routinely test the water at the holding pond in Garfield, Douglas County Ditch 1 and the Lake Brophy inlet for benzene (the chemical reported at the August 2011 Garfield site). It will also test for pesticides, salt, petroleum chemicals and other possible contaminants.
Al Edenloff Al Edenloff was born in Alexandria and later moved to Parkers Prairie where he graduated in 1979. While in high school, he wrote sports stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent. Al graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communication and started at the Echo Press as a summer intern in 1983. He worked as a reporter until 1990 when he was named editor. He's earned several writing and reporting awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) and the National Newspaper Association. He was presented with the Minnesota News Council's Journalism Accountability Award and is a three-time winner of the MNA's Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award. In his spare time, Al enjoys golfing, fishing, biking, watching sports, cooking and reading mystery novels.