State tables sewer projectState officials temporarily dammed up plans this week for a controversial local centralized sewer system, citing the need for further study.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
State officials temporarily dammed up plans this week for a controversial local centralized sewer system, citing the need for further study.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board unanimously voted Tuesday to table for 30 days its decision regarding the third phase of the Central Lakes Region Sanitary District’s proposed sewage plant.
Phase III of the estimated $53 million project would include the areas around Lakes Irene and Miltona.
An estimated 35-40 people – many from the would-be affected areas – attended the board meeting, held in downtown St. Paul.
“Obviously, we had quite the group of concerned citizens there, and they spoke their minds,” said Brad Moore, MPCA commissioner and board chair. “It’s important for us to have open meetings and give people the chance to be heard.”
Tasked with either approving the new facility or requiring an in-depth study known as an Environmental Impact Statement, Moore said the board didn’t feel comfortable choosing either option.
“It became evident, from the testimony given to the board, there were a number of questions,” he said. “The board felt it did not have enough information yet to make a good decision.”
He said these questions included the potential impact of the project on the Long Prairie River, the level of compliance of area septic systems and the choice of building the plant versus enforcing septic tank compliance, among others.
In order to clear up these issues, Moore said the board requested MPCA staff take a deeper look at the proposed facility and come back for its October meeting with more concrete answers.
He said it is not unprecedented for the board to set aside complicated projects for a month until additional information is accumulated.
Lisa Thorvig, director of the MPCA’s municipal division and whose staff will be collecting the data, said the delay could last even longer.
“The board asked us to come back in October,” she said, “but talking to our staff, it probably won’t be until November.”
Calling the delay “pretty normal,” CLRSD General Manager Pat Conroy said in a statement the district is not concerned by the citizens’ board’s decision to table the proposed sewer system.
“We remain confident that we will receive the permit and take the project to the bidding process,” he said. “After nearly 10 years of work, another 30 days is not discouraging.”
Representatives of the group, Citizens League for Environmental and Economic Responsibility, which opposes the wastewater treatment plant, could not be reached for comment.