City, county discuss sewage treatment options

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

After pressure from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the City of Albert Lea and Freeborn County have started looking for a way to improve wastewater treatment in two suburban Albert Lea locations.

The areas being discussed are Stables in the northwest suburb of the city and Government Acres in the west near the Interstate 35 and County Road 46 junction. Both areas are outside the city boundary and are not hooked up to the city sewer system.

There are a number of houses in both areas: About 50 in Stables and 15 in Government Acres. Currently each home has a separate septic tank with limited capacity, and wastewater often overflows into ditches and lakes, according to authorities.

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One solution would be annexing the areas to the city to connect the sewer system. According to City Manager Paul Sparks, this option would cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 per household.

Residents are reluctant to bear the cost. They are also concerned that annexation will incur an obligation for the payment of city taxes with increased property value assessments.

Another option is to replace the current septic tank systems with newer and bigger models. County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen said the cost for that would be around $10,000 per homeowner.

But some properties, especially in Stables, do not have enough yard space to accommodate the new equipment. Gabrielsen pointed out that residents need to renew the tank every 15 years or so anyway, and hooking the houses to a sewer pipe would end up being less expensive in the long run.

Gabrielsen ordered the county’s Environmental Services Department to conduct a comprehensive study to figure out what the best option for residents is.

State law gives the city authority in some circumstances to annex an adjacent area. But Sparks said he would prefer to address this situation through negotiations.

Meanwhile, the county and city decided to discuss the issue in a joint Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, bringing Albert Lea and Bancroft Township officials together with representatives of both city and county.