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City sewer upgrade estimated at $2.2 million

A $2.23 million improvement of Perham's wastewater treatment system was discussed at the June 17 Perham City Council meeting.

With the existing equipment nearing the end of the 25-year lifespan, the upgrade would improve efficiencies and increase treatment capacity to about one million gallons per day, according to project manager Karla Olson, Ulteig Engineering, who gave the presentation. The aeration ponds and most of the equipment date to 1984.

Sludge build-up, aging pumps and motors and pond piping are among the deficiencies, said Olson.

Instead of building an additional aerated pond, at a cost of $3.4 million, Olson recommended upgrades that would increase efficiencies and capacity--at a cost of $2.23 million. These improvements could increase capacity to about a million gallons per day, which could be adequate for the next 20 years.

The big unknown is industrial flow. Expansions at Barrel O' Fun have steadily increased wastewater treatment--while residential growth is relatively predictable into the future.

Industrial wastewater treatment presently accounts for an average of about 330,000 gallons per day, about half of the daily flow. Barrel O' Fun is the largest single wastewater producer, at an average of 219,000 gallons per day. Primera foods had averages of about 42,000 gallons per day; with Kenny's Candies at 19,000 and Tuffy's at 50,000.

The timeline of the improvement project calls for design work this fall, with project completion by fall of 2010.

Pipe wastewater to city of Frazee?

There's more sewage flowing in Perham, and the solution could be $2.23 million in improvements--or simply pipe it over to Frazee.

The need for more sewer capacity was discussed at length at the June 24 Perham City Council meeting. In the course of the discussion, it was mentioned that Frazee's treatment system is under-utilized--in large part due to the closing of the turkey processing plant long ago. With a major industrial user long gone, the Frazee plant is operating as low as 25 percent of its potential capacity.

It was an almost off-hand comment from Mayor Kevin Keil: Maybe the city should consider piping wastewater to Frazee to access the city's extra capacity.

Initially, it didn't appear the idea was entirely serious--but by the end of the discussion, the city asked the Ulteig Engineering firm to explore the idea a little further.

Ulteig project manager Karla Olson, who made a presentation to the council on options to increase Perham's capacity, agreed to run a few numbers and collect a few facts.

According to City Manager Kelcey Klemm, who served the city of Frazee in a similar city administrator capacity before accepting the Perham post nearly two years ago, Frazee does indeed have excesss wastewater treatment capacity.

The problem, said Klemm, is that a pipeline from Perham to Frazee would span ten miles of relatively sparse development. There would be few additional sewer connections along the way, which would help bankroll such a project. A more cost effective prospect, had it been done years ago, would have been for Vergas to connect to the Frazee system, said Klemm, because of the larger number of potential residential connections situated between the two communities. These homes, many on lakeshore, would help make a pipeline financially feasible.

In Perham's case, the ten-plus mile run would be across more sparsely developed areas.