By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board has approved going forward with pollutant trading for phosphorus — at least for the first year.
At the January 28 meeting, the village board approved a contract for $8,000 with Jeremiah Wendt of the engineering and consulting firm, Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH) out of Chippewa Falls, to set up a pollutant-trading program with the land conservation department either in Barron County or Dunn County.
“I am recommending that we do phosphorus trading for the first year. The planting season is near, and we have no time to get anything else in place,” said Jackie Ponto, administrator-clerk-treasurer.
At a November meeting of the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee, officials from the state Department of Natural Resources said Colfax must have pollutant trading agreements in place by this spring.
Under the village’s existing wastewater treatment permit, Colfax must have a phosphorus mitigation plan in place by the time the permit expires December 31, 2013, to reduce its phosphorus discharge to one milligram per liter from the current discharge limit of 9.9 milligrams per liter.
Another new limit for the village’s permit that goes into effect January 1, 2014, will be .01 parts per million, compared to the current limit of one part per million.
Colfax discharges about a thousand pounds of phosphorus per year into the Red Cedar River, and the water coming out of the tap in Colfax is already at the legal limit for phosphorus.
Building a mechanical wastewater treatment plant in Colfax that could remove excess phosphorus would cost an estimated $5 million.
Under a pollutant trading agreement, the Village of Colfax would pay farmers upstream to implement farming practices to reduce run-off from their farm fields at a ratio of two to one: two pounds of phosphorus from the farm fields for every one pound that is discharged from Colfax.
Phosphorus is the nutrient that fuels toxic algae blooms in Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin.
At the November PR&D meeting, Paul LaLiberte of the DNR said that all of the communities put together in the 1,900-square-mile Red Cedar Watershed only produce 2.5 percent of the total phosphorus load.
If the all of the communities in the watershed stopped discharging wastewater, phosphorus monitoring would not be able to detect any difference. On the other hand, phosphorus treatment is very expensive, and that is why pollutant trading is viewed as a cost-effect way to reduce phosphorus in the watershed, LaLiberte said.
The contract for $8,000 would pay for finding the farmers, Ponto said at the January 28 Colfax Village Board meeting.
According to the letter from Wendt: “The scope of this project is difficult to define, and as such the proposed contract is set up to be billed on an hourly basis plus expenses, with a current limit of $8,000. As the project progresses, we will keep the Village updated on the amount spent and continue to get the Village’s approval to complete specific tasks related to pollutant trading. Should the billable amounts approach the $8,000 limit, we will again discuss whether the Village wishes for SEH to continue to provide services, and we will issue contract amendments as appropriate to account for those services.”
Gary Stene, village president, said that if pollutant trading could “fix the problem,” that would be one thing, but it does not remove the phosphorus from the Colfax discharge.
“We’re spending money for no good reason,” he said.
Stene said he had talked to state Senator Terry Moulton (Senate District 23; R-Chippewa Falls) at the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting the week before.
Moulton was aware of the phosphorus issue “but did not know the ins and outs,” Stene said.
Stene instructed Ponto to set up a meeting with Senator Moulton and state Representative Tom Larson (67th Assembly District; R-Colfax) so that Ponto and Rand Bates, Colfax public works director, could explain the situation with phosphorus discharge.
Chris Olson, village trustee, noted that the DNR has received a directive from the federal Environmental Protection Agency about phosphorus mitigation.
“It never quits,” commented Beverly Schauer, village trustee and chair of the public works committee.
Since the $8,000 contract with SEH was to set up a pollutant-trading program, Schauer wondered how much the actual pollutant trading was going to cost the village.
“We don’t know yet because they charge by the pound,” Ponto replied.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved the contract with SEH.
According to the agreement, services that will be provided by SEH include meeting with DNR officials and village representatives to discuss implementing a pollutant trading program; coordinating meetings with Barron and/or Dunn County Land Conservation; and providing information and supporting data to DNR and county officials on a pollutant trading program.
At the November meeting, PR&D committee members agreed that Dunn County should move forward with setting up pollutant trading.
The Village of Colfax also has been working on gathering information about other options to reduce or eliminate phosphorus, such as an irrigation system to water a crop that would use all of the discharge from the wastewater lagoon.
An irrigation system would eliminate Colfax’s phosphorus discharge all together.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Learned that after a special meeting in closed session January 22 when the village board had agreed to offer the part-time EMT/general laborer position to Matt Meinen that Meinen had declined the position but that Adam Vnuk had accepted the position. Following the same closed session, the village board agreed to offer the full-time police officer position to Michael Madrid and also approved additional hours up to 40 per week for Sheila Riemer, deputy clerk-treasurer, along with full-time benefits.
• Approved a motion directing Ponto to contact all nine of the property owners in the Eighteen Mile Creek floodplain who are eligible for a Letter of Map Amendment to find out how many are interested in participating. Ponto will report to the village board at the March meeting on the number of homeowners. At a meeting with homeowners earlier in January, Chris Goodwin of Ayres Associates said the total cost would be $2,200 for all nine properties (or about $250 each).
• Approved an agreement with George Entzminger as the village’s building inspector from January 1, 2013, to January 1, 2014. According to the agreement, Entzminger will be paid $100 per month.