GLSD Wastewater Permit Compliance and Future Sewering

As mentioned in previous newsletters, the GLSD is required to meet new, stringent wastewater discharge requirements set forth by the State of WI. The DNR regulates the discharge of pollutants to waters of the state through the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) program. Permits are issued for a five-year term. Like wastewater utilities all over WI, under the next permit (beginning in October of 2022) the DNR is requiring the GLSD to significantly reduce the phosphorus we discharge in our treated wastewater. The state and federal government are requiring these reductions as part of EPA efforts to reverse phosphorus pollution in surface waters such as Lake Winnebago and the Great Lakes.

This mandated reduction in phosphorus discharge will require the District to completely overhaul its wastewater treatment process. We have been working closely with our District Engineer, Cedar Corporation, on this critical planning. In the 25 years that the GLSD has been treating wastewater, there have been no significant upgrades to our treatment process or facility. Ripon updated its wastewater treatment process in 2003 at a cost of $7.5 million. The City of Green Lake spent approximately $3.5 million dollars to upgrade its wastewater operations in 2008.
The GLSD has been researching compliance options for the past 3 years. With oversight from the DNR, two main treatment/discharge options are being considered. The first option would be to utilize our effluent as irrigation waters and pump the waters to local farm fields. This option is the most environmentally friendly, as the processed wastewater would be utilized to help grow animal feed crops. The wastewater would be stored through each winter and discharged during the growing season on crops that would also benefit from the nutrients available for plant growth. While an additional storage pond, pumps, and irrigation units would be needed, little additional construction would be necessary. This option has the least cost to the District with a compliance price tag of approx. $1.5 million.

The second option (and the one used by most wastewater utilities across the state) would require the District to undertake a full facility upgrade. It would reconfigure our treatment process to include adding chemicals to the wastewater at our facility and forcing it through a filtration process. This option would require construction of additional treatment/chemical storage facilities and also comes with a higher cost of approximately $4.5 million to the residents of the District.

The final decision on GLSD WPDES permit compliance will take place this winter. Project design would occur in 2022 with construction/compliance reached between late 2022 and 2024. Costs for planning, design, construction, etc. will require an increase to our quarterly wastewater treatment rates. The GLSD is working with financial specialists from Ehlers, Inc., to determine the level of increase needed to reach WPDES permit compliance.

The GLSD has 5 main unsewered areas within our boundaries. These areas are: Sugar Loaf, Sandstone (& western Spring Grove Rd), Sunnyside (& County Rd A, eastern Illinois Ave, etc.), Lill/Radtke/Wildwood Lanes, and the Hickories (east of the GL Conf. Center and west of the City of Green Lake). In the past 2 years, the GLSD has been petitioned by landowners from several of these areas to provide sewer service as we did on Shore Drive in 2020 and Carpenter Lane in 2021. While the GLSD is already well into the planning stages of providing service in the Sugar Loaf area, providing service to remaining unsewered areas of the District is now in the discussion stage. In order that landowners can adequately plan for future new home construction, expansion of their existing home, etc., the GLSD is working with Green Lake County Land Use and Planning as well as our sewer engineers at Cedar Corp. to create a comprehensive Future Sewering Plan for the District.

As part of the plan, feasibility studies into if/how service could best be extended into each area must be completed. Concurrently, the District will be reviewing ages of existing septic systems within each area, along with the density of current and likely future development, bedrock/water elevations, soil types, etc. to determine potential timeliness for projects in the various areas. As we see increased construction on our lakeshore, with it comes required upgrades to old septic systems. It is the goal of the District to have the plan completed within the next 6 to 10 months. The GLSD is acting with urgency in response to the increased construction around the lake – which may mean new septic systems in areas that may be recommended for sewering in just a few years. We are working with County Zoning to keep options as flexible as possible for landowners in these situations. Updates on GLSD Future Sewering Plans will be posted to our website and included in future newsletters.