Manchester to get options for sewage

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 16, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

MANCHESTER &045; For years, people in the small town of Manchester have been trying to get the town’s sewage treatment system up to state and county standards, but the money just wasn’t there.

Enter the Shell Rock River Watershed District. Its board recently voted to spend $10,000 on a feasibility study that will outline sewage treatment options for the city.

&8220;I’m very pleased,&8221; said Manchester Mayor Julie Haukoos after the city voted to work with the watershed district Monday. &8220;We need to move on, we need to care about the community and the communities around us. It’s everyone’s concern and for our children.&8221;

Manchester was designated a &8220;straight-pipe community&8221; by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, meaning that its waste is not treated before it goes into field tiles. However, because no monitoring is in place in any facility in Manchester, it is impossible to measure exactly how much waste is reaching the water table, or what the effects on the area are, according to a 2002 report from Arden Engineering.

The feasibility study may be just the beginning of the watershed’s aid to Manchester. They will be helping the town apply for the Clean Water Legacy Program Grant, a grant program so new the application forms aren’t even finalized yet, said Cathy Rofshus, outreach director for the watershed. If Manchester’s application is accepted, it could receive half the funds for new waste treatment systems as a grant and the other half as a loan.

The grant would be crucial for the small town, with a median income per household of only $26,786. As of the 2000 census, about 15.6 percent of Manchester’s population lives below the poverty line.

Two other small towns in the area, Conger and Myrtle, are in the same fix as Manchester is, but unlike Manchester, Conger and Myrtle are not within the Shell Rock River Watershed District.

A 2002 study conducted by Arden Engineering looked into four alternative waste treatment systems for Manchester: a stabilization pond, a mound system, a sequencing batch reactor treatment system and a recirculating sand filter plant.

Though the recirculating sand filter option was deemed best at the time, since then problems have surfaced at similar plants. Several staff members from the state have advised people not to go with recirculating sand filters, said Rofshus.

Another feature lacking in the 2002 study was a look into septic systems, the individual sewage treatment systems commonly found in rural areas. Preliminary soil sampling seems to indicate that one septic system could be built for three to four houses in the area, at a cost of about $3,000 per house, plus property acquisition. Haukoos and Rofshus both expect that type of cluster system to be the cheapest, but until the feasibility study is complete, there’s no way to tell for sure.

Arden’s 2002 figures give a price tag of $1.15 million to stabilization ponds, $1.14 million to mound systems and $950,022 for a sequencing batch reactor plant. The reactor plants have punishingly high upkeep costs, partly because they require an operator with a license higher than that needed to maintain the other treatment mechanisms.

The costs for any of those systems would have to be borne by the 29 residences and 12 businesses in the town &045; a near impossibility for a town with

a population of 81 at the last census.

Since 2002, construction costs have risen across the board. A new feasibility study will re-evaluate the options based on current costs and provide a look at the benefits and detriments of cluster septic systems as well as other options.

Meanwhile, Manchester residents are waiting for their property values to go up again. Currently, property in Manchester is barely sellable at all.

&8220;If somebody wants to buy your house, and they went to borrow the money the banks could say it’s not sellable product because of the septic tanks,&8221; said Steve Hannegrefs, Manchester resident. &8220;They could sell it at an auction, and then it would get sold.&8221;

Most people in Manchester really want to do the right thing, because they care, Haukoos said.

&8220;We all realize what’s happening,&8221; Hannegrefs said. &8220;It’s what it costs nowadays.&8221;