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From the City: Wastewater ponds a daily battle

The city of Perham continues its effort to correct the odor problem coming from the wastewater treatment facility.

Chemical treatment is ongoing in an attempt to increase the oxygen levels in the ponds to bring them back into proper working condition. Additional equipment has also been added to further activate the ponds.

Our sensory equipment indicates that while improvement is being made, the ponds are still deficient at treating the loading in and coming to the ponds. Progress is checked daily and various other treatments and methods are being tried to bring them back in line.

As stated previously, a $4.8 million expansion project slated for this summer is the long-term solution to the problem. The city started the feasibility of this project in 2009, before the odor problem was prevalent. The city identified the increasing flow and loading along with the age and condition of the existing treatment facility as an emerging need.

The project consists of two major components: the refurbishing of the existing pond system, and an expansion with a new 20-acre holding pond. While the new pond will be the most visible improvement, new aeration equipment will be what improves treatment and subsequently will combat the odor problem.

This renovation comes at no small cost, as it alone will cost nearly $2 million.

To fund the project, the city turned to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA).

After an initial application was denied in 2010, a subsequent request for funding was made in 2011; and in September 2011, the EDA awarded a grant for half the project cost - up to $2.4 million. This grant award ensures that the city's wastewater rates will remain reasonable and competitive for our residents and industries.

Along with the funding comes an approval process that is anticipated to be complete this summer with the ability to advertise for bids yet this construction season. While the new pond may not be constructed until 2013, the retrofit will likely occur yet this year.

City staff work and live in our community and know how challenging this problem is for our residents and businesses. We know how undesirable it is to live with this issue and how difficult it is to explain to our visiting tourists and customers who come to our community.

The only relief we can offer is that all options are being explored and staff continues to battle this issue daily. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is aware of the issue and we continue to work together to find solutions.

Please understand that we are doing what we can to gain control of this problem and to implement a long-term solution.