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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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BPM Inc. Going Forward With Plans For Wastewater Plant

Issue Date: July 18, 2019

The City of Peshtigo's Water and Sewer Utility may be losing a major sewer customer and gaining a major water customer in the next year or two.

General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz advised the Water and Sewer Committee on Tuesday, July 16 that BPM Inc. is moving forward with plans to construct its own wastewater treatment plant. He said the report recently completed by ISG, their consultant for the project, shows the facility would fit on the the paper mill's West Front Street site adjacent to the spot where existing effluent pipes exit the main building. Preliminary cost estimates show the project is feasible so it is already owner approved, Koronkiewicz said.

"We will be looking at an activated sludge type system," Koronkiewicz told the committee, and added, "We'll keep you informed as we move forward with it."

Koronkiewicz said a conference call with ISG consultants to start the design phase was planned for later in the day as the next step in the project.

BPM Inc. had gone forward with the studies for developing its own wastewater treatment system after efforts by Koronkiewicz to negotiate a rate reduction with the city's wastewater utility earlier this year were unsuccessful.

Sites considered for a BPM-owned wastewater treatment facility had also included the former Badger Paper Mill Pulp Mill site across from Riverfront Park just upstream from the Peshtigo River Bridge.

The Town of Peshtigo, or at least parts of it, may be the water utility's new customer if Peshtigo Town Chair Herman Pottratz has his way.

Main business of the meeting involved resolving issues connected with PFAS contamination of ground and surface waters in some areas of the Town of Peshtigo and sludge in the City of Peshtigo's Wastewater Treatment Plant believed to stem from manufacture and testing of fire extinguisher foam by Tyco/Johnson Controls.

Testing was done for many years on an outdoor firefighter training and test site in the City of Marinette, and more recently in a rented warehouse in the City of Peshtigo. Foam from the tests in the Peshtigo warehouse was flushed through the city's sewers to its wastewater treatment plant. That testing ended in March at the request of Peshtigo City officials after Mayor Cathi Malke became aware of it, but may have contributed to current concerns about content of sludge from the city's wastewater treatment plant.

Due to the PFAS problem the Peshtigo Water and Sewer Committee at the July 16 meeting gave a tentative nod to a proposal that the utility supply water to affected town residents, and in separate actions approved pumping and cleaning one of the sludge storage tanks at the wastewater treatment plant to remove contaminants before the next batch of sludge is stored there. On request of the DNR the utility is holding the PFAS-contaminated sludge until a decision is made on what should be done with it.

As a result of testing on an outdoor site in Marinette a plume of contaminated groundwater has moved into the Town of Peshtigo and into the wells of many residents. Tyco/Johnson Controls has been working with the town and the DNR to resolve the water problems, and will apparently be paying the bills for whatever solution is approved. They also will cover costs of special wastewater handling if the contamination is attributed to them. There are efforts in progress in both Peshtigo and Marinette to find out what other sources there may be.

As to resolving the water issue for the affected Town of Peshtigo residents, Tyco and the DNR had recommended connecting them to the City of Marinette's water system, but Peshtigo Town Chair Herman Pottratz objected. He had come to the Peshtigo Water and Sewer Committee meeting last month to discuss the possibility that town residents with wells contaminated by the PFAS compounds could be supplied with water from Peshtigo's municipal water system.

Pottratz said he and most of the people affected would like Johnson Controls to supply them with individual deep wells instead of city water, but if that is impossible, they want water from Peshtigo, not Marinette. He said water for the Marinette City system is drawn from the Bay of Green Bay, which itself is somewhat contaminated, while Peshtigo water comes from three clean deep wells near the city.

Pottratz and a number of town residents had also put that request to the DNR, which has ordered Tyco to look into that possibility. That solution was among issues discussed at a large informational meeting hosted by the DNR, Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Tyco/Johnson Controls at the Marinette Community and Civic Center on Wednesday, July 10. (See related story on Page B-1.)

Pottratz was back for the July 16 meeting of the Peshtigo Water and Sewer Committee. After some discussion the committee unanimously approved a motion specifying that the city will work with the Town of Peshtigo and consultants at no cost to the city toward providing water to the Town of Peshtigo.

"We share lawyers and just about everything else," Pottratz told the committee at the start of the discussion. "We even share law enforcement...Peshtigo Police Chief Rick Badgley is also constable for the town."

"Marinette water isn't acceptable," Pottratz declared. He said because of the chemicals used to purify it for drinking, that water would probably kill most of he septic systems. "Deeper wells would solve our problem, and would be best," Pottratz said, "but if not, we have to work with Peshtigo. We cannot work with Marinette!"

He said Cedar Corp., the town's consultant on the issue, has been good to work with, but felt Tyco/Johnson Controls has never talked with the town that much. He agreed the area affected is right on the border with Marinette, and commented, "It's not going to be a picnic, but they (Johnson Controls) are not going force somebody to drink water they don't want!" Pottratz also said if there is any annexing to be done, he would prefer parts of the town be annexed to the City of Peshtigo, not the City of Marinette, and noted at one time the town and city were a single entity.

George Cowell, Public Works Director, said he had a call from Cedar Corp. the previous week, and had spoken by phone with Tom Lachcik of Arcadis, the consulting firm working with Tyco to resolve the PFAS/water issue on Monday, July 8. In a follow-up letter on July 12 Lachcik had explained they are assisting Tyco with evaluation of providing municipal water to some residents in the Town of Peshtigo south of University Drive, along County Road B, Green Gable Road and Shore Drive.

He noted the City of Peshtigo has been waiting for a letter from the town before taking action on the matter, but that had not happened. However, the DNR had asked that evaluation of the possible City of Peshtigo water system expansion be included as an alternative in the Remedial Action Options Report for long-term drinking water supply being prepared by Arcadis for Tyco, Lachcik felt the DNR letter should be sufficient for the City of Peshtigo to provide the needed information.

According to the DNR determinations quoted in Lachcik's letter:

*The DNR recommends that all affected parties are contacted and given the opportunity to identify their preferred alternative, and methods of soliciting the responses and results are to be provided to the DNR.

*The DNR supports supplying drinking water via a public water system to all current and future affected properties within the defined scope and extent of the contamination. "It is the DNR's position that a public (municipal) water source offers the best regulated, safest, and most reliable drinking water for consumers, current and future.

*Evaluation of a City of Peshtigo public Water System Expansion should be included as an alternative 7.

The DNR determination letter states that the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) will have a role in any of the public water supply negotiations (alternatives 1, 2 or 7), and the DNR recommends that any comments on the evaluated alternatives by the PSC be considered prior to recommending a remedial action.

Lachcik's letter goes on to say that in order for Arcadis to evaluate the feasibility of extending the City of Peshtigo's water distribution system to a portion of the Town of Peshtigo from a hydraulic and financial standpoint they would need a considerable amount of information, which he enumerated on a list of 28 items. The information pertained to capacity, design, age and location of various components of the water system, rates, existing demands on the system, typical water bill, revenue for the latest fiscal year by account type, current operation and maintenance costs, service connection fees, fire protection fees, and the latest water rate study.

He said they need to start the evaluation as soon as the information is available so they can meet the DNR's August 10 deadline.

Cowell said information for Arcadis would probably need to come from the Peshtigo's consultant, Taryn Nall of Ruekert-Mielke, formerly Kaempfer & Associates, and from the firm that helped put the city's three wells in, but before going to the expense of evaluating technicalities Arcadis needs to know if the City of Peshtigo is willing to provide water for the town.

Cowell believes the city has the capacity to provide the water needed, but storage may be an issue. There are different ways of supplying the water. He suggested a bulk sale to the town, with the town having its own storage and distribution system. Another concept would be to provide water through the city's distribution system by contract with the town, and for that the consultants would need to check the storage capacity of Peshtigo's system.

Cowell suggested the committee go on record that they are willing to work with Arcadis provided that Johnson Controls pays the bills.

"We don't want to work with Arcadis...I'd rather work with Cedar Corp.," Pottratz declared. Cowell said the the DNR order means Arcadis is involved, and any information provided to them will then be available to Cedar Corp as well.

Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa and members Fred Meintz and Dan Seymour agreed they should cooperate, with the stipulation that Tyco/Johnson Controls should pay the bills.

"As to the town, I would say that the door is open and we are always willing to work with them" Gryzwa declared.

Pottratz commented that Tyco is a large, tough corporation, and added his feeling, "I just can't accept the fact that they still produce the stuff!" He declared that the fire extinguisher foam that caused the PFAS problem "is a detriment to any fire department that uses it!"

After learning of the fire retardant foam testing in Peshtigo, the city had its wastewater treatment plant sludge (biosolids) tested for PFAS compounds, and results were received by the DNR on June 10. Because Wisconsin standards have not yet been set for these compounds the DNR is temporarily using the Michigan and Maine standards, and Peshtigo falls within them. In a letter dated June 27, the DNR asked the city to hold its biosolids "to the extent practicable."

Since field spreading, the usual means of disposal, usually is done in spring, the tank in use was already nearly full, and that could be a problem.

Cowell suggested pumping that material into a reserve tank, then pressure washing the main tank to be sure they get a fresh start when new tests are taken. If the PFAS contamination is gone they will again be able to dispose of the sludge in the least costly way, by field spreading.

Pumping the main tank will take two to three days and cost $7,000 to $9,000, Cowell said.

Meintz asked if Tyco would pay for the pumping, and was told that Mayor Malke had talked to them about it but is waiting for an answer. They did pay for the initial tests, Malke said.

Cowell said there are other sources of PFAS, but the test results should be lower and he is afraid if they do not empty and clean the main tank now they will be paying for more costly disposal of another whole batch of sludge. The committee approved contracting with Full Service Organic Management, LLC to pump the sludge.

At the start of Tuesday's Water and Sewer Committee meeting, Cowell reported there had been another sanitary sewer overflow, partly caused by the recent rains and high waters and partly because of plugged water mains. This was the third overflow in recent months.

In a news release issued on Monday Cowell had stated that Public works Personnel on Monday observed wastewater on the ground and flowing out of the Peshtigo River crossing structure on the city's west side on a wooded area on private property. They had installed caution tape to limit access to the overflow area and would continue to monitor the overflow, the news release stated. It went on to say that citizens can assist in minimizing flows to the sanitary sewer by directing all sump pumps discharges to the storm sewer or the ground and not into the sanitary sewer system.

Cowell said the city is already working on making the changes the DNR had recommended after two previous backups, and letters are being sent asking city residents to be sure their sump pumps are not pumping clean surface water into the sanitary sewer system. The school is working on fixing its roof drains so that water does not get into the sanitary system.

Cowell said since the previous overflows they had been checking the crossing daily. It was 115 inches down on Sunday and was overflowing on Monday morning, Cowell said. He had jetting started in the plugged mains and by 2 p.m. the water had receded.

Cowell noted that he had sent out the news release on the overflow and notified the DNR within 24 hours as required. He was not sure what consequences, if any, there might be from the DNR for this third occurrence, since he had not heard anything from them yet on the second one. The city has been working to implement the changes recommended by the DNR after the first in this batch of overflows.

To questions from committee member Cowell said the old cast iron pipe of the main river crossing would not withstand a program of regular jetting to keep it clear.

In regular business, Cowell reported they have finished flushing water mains for this year and are aggressively pursuing meter replacement. They have replaced some discharge pipes from wells that discharged to the sanitary system. They filed a report with the DNR after finding lead in a home water system and that will now be a primary site for regular testing.

The committee approved purchase of a security camera to monitor the septage dump station from M&M Automated Services LLC for $1,566.07. This firm, operated by now retired Crivitz Police Chief Mike Frievalt, was selected by the Parks and Recreation Committee to provide their security cameras, and Cowell noted Frievalt had been good to work with when they were putting together the city's water sprinkler systems. He said they had saved nearly half the cost of the monitoring system by using a computer they already own.


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