Due to state regulations, the city of Spring Grove could face some expensive upgrades to its waste water treatment plant.

Public utilities director Paul Morken brought the issue to the May 6 city council meeting. "We tried to renew our permit with the (Minnesota) Pollution Control Agency, and the renewal paperwork came back," he said. "They want us to de-chlorinate our waste water treatment plant."

Five years ago, the agency made the same request, but Morken said he talked them out of it. "This year they won't budge," he added. "They're going to force us to de-chlorinate our discharge."

Morken said that the cost of re-engineering and equipping the plant with ultraviolet disinfection would run from $75,000 to $80,000. That's the easiest way to eliminate chlorine use, he stated.

Another course of action would be to take up the matter with the MPCA permit board, Morken noted. "Over the years, we have taken samples at the discharge downstream to the detention pond. The residual chlorine is dissipated by the time the water gets down there. It's gone.... To me it doesn't make sense to spend $80,000 when the chlorine is gone 100 feet after it leaves our plant."

Using ultraviolet equipment in the plant design would change it from a Class "C" to a Class "B" installation, Morken added. "We don't have a Class B operator... Caledonia is going through this right now, to get a Class B operator, and it cost them a bundle of money."

Council member Nancy Nelson suggested that if the plant has to change, the city might be able to share a Class B operator with Caledonia, Mabel, or both. In the meantime, she suggested turning the matter over to city engineer Tim Hruska.

The council agreed. By consensus, the city's engineering firm (WHKS) will be asked to submit an alternative to the MPCA - short of eliminating all chlorine usage. If that doesn't work, they will be asked to begin drawing up plans to comply with the state's requirement.

Morken also said that new state guidelines have now made city well number three unusable. After that source was contaminated with trichloroethylene decades ago, Northern Engraving bore the cost of installing an "air stripper" on the wellhead to cut the amount of the chemical in the water.

"The air stripper is doing its job," Morken said. "It's just that they've lowered the value of the toxicity for trichloroethylene. We're not meeting that...

"The Superfund paid for our well number four, which is in a different aquifer... Right now, well four is our lead well, and three is not being used hardly at all.

"I think we'll have to add a carbon filter over at well number three, and that will probably be all Northern Engraving's cost." That would include a new building to house the installation.

Morken said that back in 1988, when the problem first cropped up, a carbon filter was placed at the site. It worked, but was not permanently installed. Carbon filters have to be changed out periodically, he added. Well three is 609 feet deep, and draws from the Jordan aquifer. Well four goes down to the Ironton-Galesville aquifer, at 959 feet.

Trichloroethylene was once a commonly used parts degreaser.

Main Street plans altered

A walk-through to look at sidewalks, gutters, curbs and drains last Friday resulted in a list of fixes for the Highway 44/Main Street rebuild.

Cracked and heaved sidewalks will be torn out and replaced. Council members also voted to fill in a planting bed on Division next to the Ivy Grove restaurant with concrete, since rainwater ran down into the spot and froze, lifting and breaking up the sidewalk.

By consensus, members decided to forward another project to city engineers. That will extend a curb and provide a new catch basin on the other end of town along Main Street. That's so rainwater can find its way into storm sewers, and not end up running across lawns.

Morken estimated the cost at $15,000 to $17,000. In addition, puddling of water near The Corner Store will need to be addressed with a new drain and grate, and a retaining wall will be rebuilt in yet another area.

Some of the costs will be borne by contractors, while others will devolve on the city. Nelson said that the city's "contingency fund" set aside for the work still holds approximately $80,000.

Morken presented a bid from T-N-T Painting and Construction to stripe crosswalks, paint curbs and line angled parking spaces on Maple Drive for $2,700. It was accepted, with a single "no" vote from Nelson.

Hazardous trees?

Morken also said that he had compiled a list of homeowners who have trees with dead branches - mostly maples - in city boulevards (between the curb and sidewalk).

"We are only responsible for the trees that the city plants," he said. "If the tree falls in the street, the city will clean it up, but it's not our job to chop them or crop them."

Morken asked to be allowed to send out letters to property owners about the problem. "The city is not liable for these trees," he added. "They should be taken care of, either removed or cropped.

By consensus, the council asked him to send out the notices, citing the "boulevard tree" ordinance. Members also asked Morken to investigate a "group bid" from an arborist to fix the problem, and give homeowners the opportunity to participate.

Permits win approval

Councilman Robert Vogel brought several building permits from the city's planning commission for consideration.

Members approved two for Tyler Ladsten of 504 Maple Drive. The first was for a home addition, and the second a three-car garage. A new home permit (with attached garage) for JC Land Management to build at 231 1st Ave SW also passed without debate. Finally, a permit for Giants of the Earth to construct a new porch at the Ballard House was tabled by the PC for additional information, Vogel reported.

"I think we understand what they want to do, and I think it will actually work, but there's a bunch of issues about property lines that need to be worked out," he said.

Vogel also asked the council to allow Mayor Bruce Poole to issue "administrative approvals" for fence permits, so the residents will not have to wait for the council to vote on them. Council member Lorilyn Dehning made a motion to do just that, which passed with a single "no" from Nelson.

Other news

Members approved the remainder of the slate of seasonal employees who will work at the Swim Center this year. In addition Emily Wheat was hired as a bartender at the Corner Store.

A motion made in April to establish a "no parking" area next to Spring Grove Soda Pop was rescinded, since representatives from the business reportedly objected. The new motion not only overturned the previous measure, it also asked Police Chief Paul Folz to make a recommendation on how parking should be handled near the intersection. Nelson said that there is a safety issue with the current arrangement.