The Marine City Council concluded a four year process regarding septic systems in the city by passing resolutions to vacate individual sewer treatment systems.
Marine City Council held a public hearing to discuss vacation of individual sewer treatment systems. “This is an area of interest for some of our citizens. Council member Lon Pardun has worked on this project for a few years. Council member Wendy Ward has also worked on this but is not with us tonight,” said Mayor Kevin Nyenhuis as he called the meeting to order.
Council member Pardun explained that there are 13 individual on-site systems in Marine on St. Croix. These systems are part the 201 system that the city had in the early 80s. “201 systems are pretty common in smaller villages and cities that can’t hook up to the regular septic system,” Pardun explained. “They are individual tanks that are all joined together and run up to a drain field (which is up on the hill near the compost site). Marine is not hooked up to the metropolitan sewer system, so basically on the homeowner’s property there is a tank and a pipe that comes from tank. The homeowner owns everything from the inside of the home and on the outside from the house to the tank. The city owns the tank, the pump in the tank, everything outside from the tank to the streets and everything up to the drain field,” he said.
According to Pardun, not everyone in town is hooked up to this system. There are people who have their own on-site systems that have nothing to do with the 201 system, and/or the City owned 201 systems. Right now the city has about 200 or 201 people on the 201 system and 13 people are part of the on-site system.
“We started working on this between 2018 and 2019,” said “We have had a couple of workshops on this and were ready to go with the previous council but the covid pandemic struck and slowed everything down. Earlier this year we talked to folks who were a part of this system and now we have to have a public hearing to finalize the process,” he said.
“A couple of years ago we were taking a look at all of our infrastructure as far as costs and budgeting,” Pardun said. “We found that these on-site systems were pretty expensive to maintain. As they get older they get even more expensive. We realized we were spending a lot of time and money on taking care of these systems. We did some checking with the City Engineer and other people. We found that it is really unusual for a city to have as a part of their 201 system, these on-site systems.”
Pardun explained that there are three options: leave it the same, “Which is not really fair to the people with the 201 system who are absorbing some of the cost of the on-site systems,” he said. “We could start a separate utility which means the 13 on-site systems would separate but still run by the city. “If you look at the cost that could be incurred by these people, it would get pretty expensive, pretty quickly.” And the third option would be sunsetting the on-site city owned system. “We’ve had meetings with both council’s and workshops. We thought he best option to is to sunset these 13 individual and on-site systems,” added Pardun.
“For now, this means everything remains the same. I you’re on the system, the city will pump your tanks, if something brakes on the tank, the city will fix it to the point of when your drain field fails while you are still the homeowner, the city will come in and replace the drain field. At that time, the system will now belong to you. That is one way this transfer happens,” he continued.
“The other way is if you sell your home, you would market it as you own the septic system and the city would have a contractor pump the system, assess it for repairs and repair as needed. Then a third party licensed by the state of Minnesota will come to inspect and test the drain field to see where it is. They will certify the drain field at that time. The certification goes to the MPCA, the state of Minnesota and the county. The city doesn’t generally get a copy of that certification because typically cities have nothing to do with these individual sewer systems, the county monitors those systems.
And at that time, if the system needs to be replaced, the city will replace it and the new homeowner will own from then on,” said Pardun.
“That is what we are proposing today. It is unusual but technically the city owns the tank and the drain field so the city has to vacate the property in order for homeowners to take over the system. And that is what we are doing tonight. We are saying we are going to vacate those properties in the event that these things happen,” Pardun explained, “Those who are part of the 13 on-site systems will receive something from the clerk to sign and the process will unfold. If the homeowner passes, it would be the same situation as transfer of ownership by sale of a house. The city would do the same things. If in case there are heirs, they would then own that system.”
Following Pardun’s presentation, citizens were invited to ask questions.
Marine resident Christian Brekke identified himself as part of the 13 unusual septic systems. Brekke mentioned that he pays a quarterly fee that increases over time. He asked the council, “What is the maximum amount of time, months or years, that would continue?” Pardun stated, “When the drain field fails or you sell, that triggers the process.” Brekke then asked for clarification about the city vacating the property but will still be servicing?
“Correct,” said Pardun.“This is presumptive so we don’t have to hold a meeting every time this happens.”
It was also suggested to the council that some sort of written documentation be sent to writing to the 13 homeowners that explains this agreement established.
City clerk Lynette Peterson explained that she will send a letter along with a signed notarized agreement to homeowners for signature. A copy will be recorded with Washington County and included with the deed/title.
Mayor Nyenhuis asked if there were any other citizen questions or concerns. Marine resident Robin Brooksbank asked if it was an option for homeowners that are not part of the system discussed, “Is there an option to join?”
According to Mayor Nyenhuis,, “That option was not presented tonight.”
Nyenhuis concluded the public hearing and stated, “Council has had multiple conversations over the course of multiple years, visits have been made. I think it is a fair and reasonable approach to this unique situation.”
Pardun moved to adopt resolution 220908 -01 through 220908-13 systems as legally described. Roden seconded the motion and thanked Pardun for all the hard work. Motion carries unanimously. Mayor Nyenhuis thanked council member Pardun, City clerk Lynette Johnson and Public Works.
Council member Charlie Anderson noted, “The septic study is available online for citizens that would like to review the information.”
More information about the adopted resolutions can be found on the city website.
For more information about the sanitary sewer study and map go the city’s website and search public documents.