As Fountain continues to work towards compliance at the wastewater treatment plant, Richard Parr of WSB, the city’s engineering firm, briefed the City Council on the status of the corrective action plan during the regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Parr related to the council the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has accepted the corrective action plan. He received a letter back from the MPCA with 12 questions needing to be clarified, but the most important point was that the plan was complete. Some of the questions sent by the agency were already answered in the quarterly report submitted to it last month.

He informed the council of a desire to do some additional testing to see what is coming into the plant this month. He also spoke of a probe in the PH monitor, which is not currently working. The probe costs $450 to replace. While work is being done at the plant at this time, Parr stated there is some benefit to replacing the probe now to collect some very useful data. The council agreed with his statement.

As for Valley Design, Parr said they are working to set up a time to come take samples. Some tote water is being shipped out of Valley Design, and Parr noted they would be performing some tests on that water to see if it would make sense to ship some to the plant. In addition, discussion on whether or not Valley Design would be discharging into the plant on a set schedule will be addressed.

Parr also commented Rick Whitney of PeopleService has been working on some potential language for an ordinance regarding fees if Valley Design does not meet requirements.

The question of funding was also brought up in the MPCA’s letter. Parr shared with the council he had reached out to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, looking at options there and the USDA Rural Development. He received good information from the USDA, including a confirmation if Fountain received a PFA grant, it would be the best route to take. If the city received the point-source grant, which is a 50 percent grant, it may negate any grant from the USDA, however.

The total cost of the project settles around $556,000. If the city pursues funding from the USDA Rural Development, it would be able to get a loan processed in 90 days. The rate of interest in this type of loan would be a little higher than the PFA. The council will be meeting with a USDA representative to look into the possibility of a loan.

Parr also noted his intent to discuss the removal of the heat exchanger from the action plan with the MPCA. The bugs used to convert waste to nitrate need warmth, hence the heat exchanger. However, with the changes the operators have done already, the bugs are doing much better.

Parr explained the plant has actually been in compliance for the whole month of January, making him think the heat exchanger may not be necessary since water is so much colder in January. The heat exchanger itself would cost nearly $200,000 so if that would be removed from the plan, the project cost could be brought down to around $350,000 instead.