Monday, August 24, 2009

Hamburg’s I/I project losses 20 points and TMDL Grant

For decades Hamburg has experienced aging sewer and waste water system that resulted in a moratorium, about five years ago, on new building and business development. Over the past year the City Council of Hamburg and City Clerk Jeremy Gruenhagen have been working with City Engineer, Doug Parrot, to develop plans to improve the aging system in Hamburg. Since I moved here about 7 years ago residents of Hamburg have seen their water/sewer bill go from a quarterly charge to a monthly charge. On the surface that might appear to be a bookkeeping move; instead the dollar value for the new monthly charge was the same I paid on a quarterly basis. The result of the billing change was a tripling of the bill. Part of the reason for the change was to assistance with new water treatment requirements mandated by the government.

This past March Sen. Ortman led a group of State Senators from the Economic Development Budget Division on a tour of Western Cities of Carver County. Cities included were Mayer, New Germany, Hamburg, and Norwood Young America. The tour ended with a meeting at the Central Elementary School media center in which I raised the concern of increasing water bill and the moratorium place upon Hamburg. Repeatedly I have asked Sen. Ortman what results have been seen from the tour, which included Carver County Commissioner Jim Ische, but have not heard a word from Sen. Ortman. Unfortunately, Sen. Ortman's non-response is nothing new when the Senate is not in session.

The I/I project that the City Council has approved to move forward on is hitting a snag in the respect of financing. At the October 14, 2008 meeting of the City Council Sen. Ortman, Terry Kuhlman (MN Public Facilities Authority), and Bill Dunn (St. Paul – Water/Sewer). One of the financing options discussed at the meeting was the TMDL grant. At the meeting it was acknowledged that Hamburg's score for the I/I project was 78 points which put the project near the top of the TMDL eligibility list. In a July email exchange it was discovered that the I/I project's new score was 58 points. The change in scoring results in Hamburg falling down on the list and removed the opportunity of receiving TMDL funds.

The part of the TMDL Grant scoring that is in question is under section 7077.0117, points for projects with existing NPDES or SDS permit, subpart 16 which states:

    Subp. 16. Project helps meet total maximum daily load for receiving water. Twenty points shall be assigned to the project if the project contributes to the achievement of a TMDL. To be considered as contributing to the achievement of a TMDL, the project must:

  1. Be designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants as specifically required by an agency-approved TMDL implementation plan; or
  2. Require an NPDES or SDS permit that will require reduced discharge of pollutants based on TMDL.

That being said, the I/I project needed in Hamburg is looking to repair sewer and storm water lines that currently are taking on additional water because of the condition of the piping and connections to the system. Now, if the system is being taking on additional water because to conditions, is it not conceivable to assume that seepage is taking place as well? If that is to be true then our I/I project meets point A above by reducing the discharge of pollutants. Just last week I spent time on the phone with Bill Dunn and Gene Erickson – both of the MPCA – proposing this same question to them. I did not get a straight answer to my question. My hope is that when Bill Dunn and Gene Erickson will be able to clarify Hamburg's loss of 20 points and answer my question. Both gentlemen will be at the next city council meeting which I will be attending.

For those that live in Hamburg that read this blog, please take a moment on Tuesday night (August 25th) and grab your neighbor to join you. If you cannot make it or your neighbor cannot, please take a moment to leave your questions and concerns as comments to this blog post. The settings have been changed to allow anyone to leave a comment without signing up to follow the blog. We need real answers from the MPCA.