The Town of May’s sewer system is due for an engineering assessment, as explained by Natural Systems Utilities Operations Supervisor Shane Symmank.

The 201 Sewer System serves a large portion of the area, and Symmank stated that “the majority of the duration that the facility has been installed, it was under a Washington County permit. They did not monitor for nitrogen. In 2014, it switched to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, or statewide, permit, and the initial five-year permit has language in it that [states that] nitrogen discharge to the ground would be monitored.”

Since five years have now passed since the permit switch, a renewal should be imminent. However, any subsequent permit would require an evaluation on whether nitrogen discharge would have to be reduced at the facility.

“Upgrading the facility for pre-treatment of nitrogen is the best path forward,” Symmank said. “What I recommend, as operator of this facility, is to have an engineer come in and do an assessment of the facility to determine … [its] current condition.”

Symmank recommended SD Consulting Group, which is based in both St. Paul and Alberta, Canada, to perform the assessment. Bryan DeSmet, one of SD’s founders and an environmental engineer, spoke on behalf of the group.

“We’ve done a number of these small system evaluations, assessments, with the intent of identifying what kind of upgrades would be required to meet the standards, or just to replace aging equipment,” DeSmet told the town board. “The assessment process itself, the way that works is that we can come out, visit the site, look at the facilities that are existing, and identify areas where equipment may be failed, need replacement, or require upgrades... as well as in your case, the addition of treatment, so that you can meet the 10 milligrams per liter quota of nitrogen.”

Symmank advised that improvements upon the system may take up to two or three years, from the conduction of the initial assessment, to board and MPCA approval, to design preparations and construction.

Board Chairman Bill Voedisch expressed concern about such a project’s cost.

“The assessment report would identify the get-go cost for construction based on our estimate. It would also identify what engineering fees might look like to do the design, to oversee the construction. We would identify all those costs for you in the assessment form, for planning purposes,” Symmank said.

River Grove School to grow?

Another matter of discussion was River Grove’s application to amend their conditional use permit, in order to expand their class sizes. The K-6 charter school, which labels itself as “A Marine Area Community School,” would like to grow from one class per each grade level to two, and utilize two additional buildings on their property besides the five they are currently using.

“[The plan involves] a significant increase in the number of students there, and would increase significantly the number of people [visiting] each year,” Planning Commission Chair John Arnason said. “The current charter permits up to 47,000 people [visits] per year. They’re concerned that they may be exceeding that, or bumping up against that in the not-too-distant future, with the growth of the school.” 

If River Grove gets their wish, they could be allowed to host 75,000 visitors per year. Additionally, they want to boost the number of on-site occupants at any given time from a maximum of 235 to one of 400, and up to 700 for special events.

More students and visitors at the school means more traffic, however, which was the main concern for both citizens and board members.

“There was one letter that we have received from a citizen who had expressed concern about the increased traffic on the road, and the impact that that has on the condition of the road… as it currently is, and is concerned about it getting worse,” Arnason said. 

Voedisch shared the letter-writer’s qualms. 

“These increases are of usage are… substantial, capital-S,” he said. “We need something like checkpoint review, at various growth points, to see what the impacts are… what’s happening to the traffic, what’s happening to the area. There really hasn’t been a request for anything this big ever in the town.”

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