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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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BPM Plans Site Study For Wastewater Plant

Issue Date: June 13, 2019

BPM, Inc. appears to be working toward construction of its own wastewater treatment plant in the City of Peshtigo. In a letter dated Tuesday, June 11, that he hand delivered to the Water and Sewer Committee at its 8:30 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, BPM Inc. General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz formally served notice that BPM, Inc. plans to move forward with a site study which would include site surveying, site planning, all regulatory aspects, technical considerations, environmental concerns, and plan layout options.

The letter quoted provisions of the city's Zoning Ordinance, made references to state building codes and Marinette County regulations, and concluded, "BPM requests confirmation that the City of Peshtigo would allow a WWTF to be constructed within the City Limits upon providing confirmation of compliance with all Federal, State, DNR and other regulatory requirements."

During a brief discussion with Koronkiewicz, Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa and members Fred Meintz and Dan Seymour said a conditional use permit would be needed, and that would need to be handled with an application to City Council and the Plan Commission.

With the committee indicating they planned to take no action, Koronkiewicz left the meeting. Gary Motkowski of BPM Inc. remained as an observer.

Asked to elaborate after the meeting, Meintz said they could not comply with Koronkiewicz' request for a blanket approval, "it needs a full fledged conditional use permit application."

In the letter Koronkiewicz had advised the committee that a BPM Inc. review of the city's Code of Ordinances regarding the possible wastewater treatment plant construction had been completed, and listed a number of items for consideration, including provisions in Chapter 32 of the city's Zoning Ordinance.

The ordinance states: "Site Suitability: City may determine the sites identified by BPM for use as a WWTF may be "Not Suitable For Certain Uses." and "Sewage disposal facilities: Provides information for onsite sewage disposal systems (septic tank and lateral field) and refers back to Wisconsin State Legislative Code. No mention of a mechanical WWTF."

The letter continued, "From the standpoint of the Code of Ordinances, it appears as though a Conditional Use Permit may be needed and the Site Study and additional supporting documentation would be useful in the process. BPM would need a building permit and site plan approved by the Building Inspector/Zoning Administrator and Plan Commission. The City has adopted the Wisconsin building codes in their entirety for any buildings on the site.

"The original setback distances were confirmed and no additional setbacks were indicated in the Code of Ordinances. As mentioned in the proposal, a detailed site survey will need to be conducted along with verification of the Ordinary High Water Level, 100-year Floodplain, and any wetlands in order to properly locate the WWTF building envelope."

The letter noted in original setback information that Marinette County requires a 75 foot setback from the ordinary high water mark, and Wisconsin State legislature requirements are that it cannot be located in a floodway or wetland, must be 1,000 feet setback from any well serving a community public water supply, a 250 foot setback from other potable water supply wells, and a 500 foot setback from an inhabited dwelling, except that it may be reduced with written permission from owner and occupants of the residence. It also states, "The department may require a greater distance depending on the storage structure or treatment structure and the potential for aesthetic impacts and public health impacts."

At previous meetings over the past year and a half Koronkiewicz had proposed a number of ways he felt the city could work with the paper mill to reduce wastewater treatment costs, including providing numerous maintenance services and the services of an Operator in Charge at no cost to the city. He had also cautioned the committee that if the charges to them did not go down the mill would very likely proceed with plans for constructing its own wastewater treatment plant on the site formerly occupied by the old Badger Paper Paper Company pulp mill along the east bank of the Peshtigo River.

Koronkiewicz at that time also said that with BPM Inc. no longer paying a large share of wastewater treatment plant operating costs the monthly bill for other users of the city utility would increase significantly.

He had said if no agreement was reached by April 1 of 2019 BPM Inc. would go forward with a study that could be the first step in constructing its own wastewater treatment plant facility (WTPF).

The committee subsequently hired a rate study by the Ruekert-Mielke consulting firm, and ultimately refused the rate reduction request.

Taryn Nall, the Ruekert-Mielke consultant who regularly works with the Peshtigo utility, was also present for the June 11 committee meeting.

Others on hand in addition to Gryzwa, Seymour, Meintz, Koronkiewicz and Motkowski were Mayor Cathi Malke, Alderman Jillian Schutte, Peshtigo Town Chair Herman Pottratz, and Justin Majkrzak, who was requesting a sewer credit for his home at 541 French Street.

Majkrzak and his wife had purchased the home early this year, and were shocked to receive their first quarter water and sewer bill. Unknown to them, there was a break in a water line in the crawl space under the house that apparently continued for about four months. Their bill for the first quarter of 2019 and two weeks of the second quarter totaled $3,323.63. They had attended the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 4 to ask that something be done about the charges, and were referred to the Water and Sewer Committee.

In accord with a policy adopted in August of 2018, the committee approved a sewer credit of $1,751.46 for the first quarter and $907.77 for the second quarter portion of the bill, leaving them to pay the water charge that totaled $664.40.

Gryzwa explained they cannot offer credit on the water side, since the water did go to the residence, but water from the leak went into the ground, not into the sanitary sewer system, so granting the one-time sewer credit was appropriate.

Pottratz had come informally to ask if the water utility would consider providing water to Town of Peshtigo properties with wells affected by PFAS contaminants, and was told by Gryzwa that they would "be open to any concepts." Pottratz said Tyco Industries of Marinette is proposing that the properties be connected to the City of Marinette's municipal water supply, but he personally preferred if they have to connect to a municipal water system, it be with the City of Peshtigo instead. He noted the opinions he expressed were those of himself as an individual, representative of the town board.

The committee briefly reviewed the 2018 audit report, which showed that the utilities are doing better financially than they were the year before.

"There is a positive movement in both funds," Gryzwa commented. He said after some changes they had made, net water income was up .08 percent, and net sewer income has improved so they are meeting their goals of setting aside money for future maintenance and equipment replacement needs. "We're moving in the right direction," he declared.

Public Works Director George Cowell agreed. He said they also got very good grades from the DNR on their Compliance Maintenance Annual Report for 2018.

"Overall, we're doing quite well... We're putting money aside for replacement as required by the Clean Water Fund loan, and planning for long term improvements," Cowell said. There are questions on energy conservation, and he said they are considering having an energy audit done, and did have city personnel change to low energy use outdoor light bulbs.

"I never saw this many A's on my report card," Gryzwa declared before the committee formally accepted the straight A (4.0 GPA) CMAR report. It showed "A" grades for effluent quality, biosolids quality and management, staffing, operator certification, financial management, and collection systems.

Cowell noted the financial portion of the report had improved significantly from prior years due to some of the things they had done, including a rate increase.

There had been no sanitary sewer overflows in 2018 and no basement backups. Cowell cautioned their CMAR report for 2019 probably will not be as good, due to some problems including two overflow incidents at the river crossing lift station.

As recommended by Cowell, the committee approved advertising for bids to replace the 29-year-old furnace that heats the lab area at the wastewater treatment plant, and also put in air conditioning and replace the water heater there. Cowell said the person who services their heating equipment advised that it is time for replacement.

Malke asked if they could qualify for a Focus On Energy grant, but Cowell said no, because the system is propane and the grants come from Wisconsin Public Service, which involves natural gas.

Nall suggested the HVAC system replacements could be added into their replacement fund schedule as an available source for the money to pay for it.

Cowell said they again have been getting lots of calls for blockages in the Badger Park lift station, again caused mainly sanitary wipes. He declared these wipes are advertised as "flushable," but said they should not be flushed.

"Those wipes are a national problem," agreed Meintz. He felt they could help resolve the problem by putting new pump impellers at the park lift station, of a new type that shreds the wipes. The impellers "are not inexpensive," but will fit into the existing pipes, he said.

Cowell added that the wipes that do make it through the Badger Park lift station end up causing problems at the river crossing, and then the ones that make it through there get to the plant and cause problems by wrapping around units there.

Gryzwa agreed they should go with the new impellers Cowell suggested and maybe save money in the long run.

Nall said he was at the meeting due to reading in the Peshtigo Times about the two lift station overflows related to surface water getting into the sanitary sewer system due to the large amounts of snow and rain earlier in the year.

The overflows led to an order from the DNR to do inspections to be sure sump pumps and floor and wall drains are not connected to the sanitary sewer system.

Nall said he has 34 years of experience with sump pump inspections, and cautioned if they hire a consultant to do all the work they will find it very expensive. He said it takes about half an hour for a professional consultant to inspect each property, "but we find a lot of things that your meter readers do not."

He suggested an alternate plan, in which they train local personnel to do the inspections and a local administrator sets up the schedule. He said some people resent the inspections and will not allow the inspectors on their property. To help enforce the inspections he recommended setting a surcharge for people who either do not allow the inspectors on their property, or fail to get the connections corrected after problems are identified. He said there also is a private property grant program that may help property owners pay for correcting the problems.

Gryzwa said they have taken the first step by sending a special mailing to all residents asking them to be sure sump pumps go outside, and not down their floor drains into the sanitary system. Cowell said the letter from the DNR as a result of the fist overflow says they want more action than that, and he hasn't yet gotten the letter from the second incident.

Meintz greed they need some ordinance regarding the sump pump and drainage connections, because correcting the problem "is going to cost some people thousands of dollars."

Cowell said there has been an ordinance for years that they cannot connect storm sewers, wall drains and sump pumps to the sanitary sewer system.

Gryzwa said the committee will have discussions on possible ordinance changes during their next couple of meetings and then send recommendations to the Judiciary Committee. He told Nall if they do need a program manager they will contact him for a price.

The next meeting is set for 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 16.


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