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Copper and phosphorus create delays in EM wastewater permit

By LeAnn R. Ralph

ELK MOUND —  Elk Mound still does not know the status of the village’s wastewater treatment permit amid uncertainties about copper and phosphorus limits that could be enforced by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Terry Stamm, public works director, reported on the status of the permit at the Elk Mound Village Board’s March 6 meeting.

Elk Mound was required to reapply for another five-year permit by December 31, 2012.

The village’s wastewater treatment permit expires June 30, and Stamm and Pat Hahn, village clerk-treasurer, submitted an application for the permit in December.

Following the application for a new permit, the DNR will, at some point, issue a draft permit, will publish a public notice, and will then set a 30-day comment period.

After the final permit is issued, the village also will have 60 days to contest any of the requirements. If the requirements are contested, the permit would go to a contested case hearing.

Copper has always been a concern in Elk Mound’s discharge, but now the DNR wants to study the phosphorus discharge to see how much there is and where it is coming from, Stamm said.

Jackie Swartz, village trustee, noted that no limits are set for what a wetland can receive in the discharge.

“True,” Stamm replied. “It’s what happens after the wetland, and we do not yet know what the amount is.”

Elk Mound knows what is being discharged from the wastewater treatment plant but does not know how much phosphorus is contributed by farm fields surrounding the wetland, said Andy Peterson, village president.

Because of the fertilizer and the manure used, “that’s the question,” Stamm said.

DNR personnel have been taking water samples at various points, and Stamm said he had pointed out the farm fields and how they drain toward the wetland.

Interstate-94 also drains toward the wetlands, noted Tom Gilbert, village trustee.

“The next thing you know, we’ll be blamed for the algae that’s so thick in Lake Menomin you can walk on the water,” he said.

“No,” replied several board members, “that’s Colfax.”

“The issues are hanging out there, and they could be expensive (to mitigate),” Stamm said.

Elk Mound’s wastewater treatment plant was expensive to build and is expensive to maintain, he said.

For now, Elk Mound can only wait to see what limits the DNR will enforce for copper and phosphorus, how much testing will be required and what mitigation methods will be suggested.

Stamm said he would continue to seek exceptions and variances for the village.