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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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City Water, Sewer Solutions Near on Access and Disposal

Issue Date: October 14, 2020

The City of Peshtigo Water and Sewer Utility continues to struggle with two major issues - how to dispose of PFAS-contaminated sludge from the wastewater treatment plant, and finalizing an access/easement agreement with BPM, Inc. so construction plans can continue for the main sewer line that carries wastewater across the Peshtigo River to the treatment facility south of the BPM, Inc. property on the west side.

Discussions at the Water and Sewer Committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct 13 indicated that solutions - or at least some of the answers - to each of the issues may be coming in the very near future.

On Wednesday, Sept. 30 the committee and BPM, Inc. General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz tentatively approved wording of legal documents for the BPM easement, and at the Oct. 13 meeting Koronkiewicz said attorneys for BPM, Inc. (owned by ARATH XXIII, LLC) have reviewed the documents and are waiting for approval from owner Jim Azzar.

Until that approval is received, borings needed on the west side of the river to determine depth for planning the main sewer crossing cannot be done, and until all the access and easement documents are signed, construction cannot begin. Overflows at the original river crossing have been recurring problems in recent years.

Deciding how to handle the sludge will be easier once the DNR finalizes rules for land-spreading in cases where PFAS contamination exists. At the Oct. 13 meeting, Public Works Director George Cowell shared a letter from Heidi Schmitt Marquez, Wastewater Field Supervisor for the DNR's Northeast Region.

Currently there are only two facilities in North America that qualify to incinerate the PFAS sludge - one in Canada and one in Oregon. Cowell has previously told the committee that cost to haul just one season's production of compressed sludge and get it incinerated would be in the neighborhood of $800,000, and that would be only a partial solution.

In the past, the utility has been able to spread sludge on nearby farm fields at fairly minimal cost of $60,000 to $75,000 a year. This served the dual purpose of fertilizing the land and disposing of the sludge. However, since the PFAS contamination was discovered in the sludge and in area groundwaters there has been no field spreading, and it cannot be resumed until the DNR sets the PFAS standards and then only if the sludge meets those requirements.

In regard to the timeline for land application standards, Marquez said in her e-mail to Cowell that the document review by other internal DNR programs is complete, and it is now scheduled for review by the division administrator before moving to the DNR Secretary's office. She said this process could take two to four weeks, depending on availability of schedules.

She advised that the best contact for the city attorney (David Spangenberg) for this issue would be Christine Haag, Bureau Director for Remediation and Redevelopment. Marquez added that a meeting has been scheduled for this week to further discuss the issue internally.

Those present for the Oct. 13 Water and Sewer Committee meeting meeting included Cowell; Koronkiewicz; committee members Dan Seymour and Fred Meintz and Chairman Tom Gryzwa; Council President/Acting Mayor Mike Behnke, and long-time consultant Taryn Nall of the Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. engineering firm.

"At least they did get back to us, and it seems like in the near future we'll have some answers," Cowell commented.

The committee had questioned Marquez on the status of the new standards when she participated in a question and answer session with the committee on Sept. 15.

Cowell told the committee he had contacted Clean Harbors, a national waste management company, in regard to a proposal for dealing with the sludge, They proposed putting in equipment to compress the bio solids (sludge) to remove water and reduce transportation costs. That price, plus hauling and disposing of the sludge for one year would cost about $878,000, using their equipment and having the utility capitalize nothing.

The city could put in its own sludge compression system and capitalize the cost over 20 years, which would cut the disposal cost to about $400,000. "There aren't a lot of options," he commented. He is talking with Waste Management, and has not heard back from other possible service providers. Cowell appeared to favor buying their own equipment.

Cowell said another option would exist if the DNR standards come back within a range that Peshtigo can meet in terms of PFAS. He doubted with all the current PFAS concerns they could get any farm owners to accept sludge at this point, and suggested the utility might buy a large farm and use it for sludge disposal.

Gryzwa noted theTyco/Johnson Controls is giving the City of Marinette $1.5 million to build its own plant, and wondered if Peshtigo could get disposal service through them. Cowell felt hauling Peshtigo's sludge to marinette without compressing it would be about as costly as compressing it before hauling it for disposal.

Gryzwa noted they have almost three years' worth of sludge stored on site that will need to go somewhere, some day.

Cowell felt they should wait to take action on sludge until the DNR does set the new standards.

Gryzwa asked Koronkiewicz where BPM, Inc. will take the sludge from private wastewater treatment facility they are currently constructing for the paper mill, and Koronkiewicz said it will go to the landfill.

Seymour suggested at least talking to the City of Marinette before going forward with other disposal plans. He said that had been mentioned also in an e-mail from State Rep. John Nygren.

Cowell expected it was premature, but said he does expect they will be hearing something from Marinette.

"It's a major issue and it's certainly going to cost us a lot of money," Gryzwa declared.

Nall said all the documents needed for the River Crossing Grant had been submitted by the Sept. 29 deadline, and he expects approval of the planning project in early December. He would like to get it bid out this year, but feels with winter coming on that might not be possible, and they may not get all the needed environmental permits until January or February. He said they want to bid the project as early as possible to get the best prices. He predicted they will get bids from at least four directional drillers.

He stressed it is important to get the access easement from BPM before hard freeze so they can at least get the borings done.

In regard to other grant applications, Nall said they have filed notices of intent to apply for numerous projects, including the sludge issue, lift stations, river crossing, and more. If the score is high enough they can get a loan but with principal forgiveness it does not need to be repaid and in effect becomes a grant. The River crossing score is 65 because of the overflows, and the treatment plant scored a 65 because of the sludge disposal issue. Nall suggested the city should keep pushing the DNR and legislators to provide special help for areas with PFAS issues like Peshtigo and Marinette.

Cowell reported a recent inspection of the utility facilities had gone well, with only two minor items cited.


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PO Box 187
Peshtigo, WI 54157
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