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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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BPM, City Near Agreement On River Crossing Issues

Issue Date: July 22, 2020

Access issues connected with construction of a new sewer line across the Peshtigo River on BPM, Inc. property near the paper mill have apparently been settled. Members of the City of Peshtigo Water and Sewer Committee were informed at a meeting on Tuesday, July 21 that the city and officials of BPM Inc. have tentatively accepted an agreement that will enable the city to proceed with the sewer line river crossing construction.

The new river crossing is needed to end overflow problems with the sanitary sewer line bringing wastewater from the west side of the city to the wastewater treatment plant east of the river. The existing original crossing is also mostly located on land owned by BPM Inc.

Cowell said fortunately they did not have an overflow problem from the most recent rain events there or at other locations in the city. There had been six overflow events in the past year, which Cowell termed as "pretty big." Every overflow needs to be reported to the DNR and getting the problems that caused them corrected promptly is a priority.

Cowell said consultant Taryn Nall, Professional Engineer with Ruekert-Mielke Engineering, advises doing another boring for the river crossing to be sure rock formations are the same on both sides of the river. The committee approved spending another $1,875 to get it done.

According to City Attorney David Spangenberg and BPM Inc General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz, details for the river crossing permanent easement agreements have been worked out and formal agreements are being drafted. Spangenberg invited Koronkiewicz to have his people check out the drafts and tweak them if needed. Koronkiewicz said mill owner Jim Azar knows the agreements are coming and will work on them promptly.

Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa stressed to the committee that these are just drafts and are not ready for final approval. He asked that the committee schedule a special meeting once BPM Inc. is done tweaking the documents is done so they can give final approval in time to put on the agenda for final approval at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 4. Once both City Council and BPM Inc have approved the final documents a permanent deed will be recorded. Some side agreements will be signed to cover less permanent issues, such as cleanup of miscellaneous junk in areas for which the city is responsible, but these do not need to be recorded, Spangenberg said.

Meanwhile, BPM Inc. is proceeding with construction of its own on-site wastewater treatment facility. Koronkiewicz advised the committee that the mill has received a draft of the WPDES permit, which is now in the 2-week review process, with this portion to be done by August. "We're moving forward...we're on schedule and we will keep you informed," Koronkiewicz told the committee. Koronkiewicz said the mill also is looking at processes to remove PFAS from the wastewater and they will also keep the city informed as this progresses.

Public Works Director George Cowell had reported earlier in the meeting that PFAS-contaminated sludge continues to collect at the wastewater treatment plant and finding an affordable means of disposal remains a major problem. Currently only facilities in Canada and Oregon have incinerators with sufficient heat to destroy the PFAS, Cowell said. One of the solutions being considered involves construction of a drying facility here to concentrate the sludge and reduce hauling costs.

Cowell termed the PFAS problems "pretty serious," and said the bio-solids may need more treatment to reduce disposal costs. He has been having Skype meetings regularly with other communities facing PFAS-contaminated sludge accumulating at their wastewater treatment plants.

He noted that the City of Marinette has been working on a plan to dehydrate the material by about 80 percent to decrease the cost of hauling and has been sharing information with him. The Marinette Utility Commission at its meeting on Monday, June 20 considered purchasing materials for a proposed process using brand new technology. There are only four of the units in the world of the type they are considering, and only two up and running in the United States. Marinette Utility authorities are talking with Tyco to help with the costs. Once equipment is purchased it would take four to six months for delivery. After going through a condensation process, the dried solids would be hauled to either Waste Management or Clean Harbors facilities for disposal, according to information from the Marinette Utility Commission meeting.

Cowell told the Peshtigo Commission that cost to dispose of the bio solids accumulated at Peshtigo right now is "quite prohibitive." A proposal from Clean Harbors offered a price of $900,000, which Cowell termed "definitely sticker shock," with the utility's reserves right now only in the neighborhood of $500,000. He said the DNR still has not set new regulations for agricultural spreading, and the fact that PFAS is not officially classed as a hazardous waste at this time adds to the disposal problem. He may propose construction of a new storage area for the biosolids, but that would not get rid of them. One solution he is looking at would involve construction of a system similar to the old sludge drying beds.

He said they may need to do something about the sludge quickly, because they are running out of storage space, so the committee will need to hold some additional meetings in the next month or so.

In response to questions from Commissioner Fred Meintz, Cowell said other communities in the state also have PFAS and sludge storage problems, but Peshtigo and Marinette are in the forefront. He was hopeful that as more of them seek solutions some private firm will come forward with a closer facility to incinerate the sludge, but in the meantime it will be beneficial to take steps to get the weight and volume down for hauling to the distant disposal sites.

Financially the utilities are doing fine, according to the 2019 audit. The wastewater utility showed positive income of $88,660 in 2018 and $83,723 in 2019, but in 2019 there was no sludge hauling, "so we're doing good, but not great," Gryzwa said. The water utility rate of return on investment is supposed to be at 1.5 percent, and this year it was 1.75, which is good. That was up from 1.23 in 2018 and 1.15 in 2017. Operating income for the sewer utility was $121,555 in 2019, down from $134,055 in 2018.

In other matters, Cowell reported water main flushing for the year has been completed, his department had changed some processes due to COVID-19 distancing. Due to high ground water several sewer sink holes had developed,including a major one on North Wood Ave., and the committee approved a sewer credit for Don Williams at 470 Aubin Street.


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PO Box 187
Peshtigo, WI 54157
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