Earlier this summer, tribal officials along with Enbridge officials, broke ground on a new wastewater treatment plant located at the LCO Public Works Department off County Road K. In an interview with LCO Public Works Director, Willard Gouge, Jr., he explained the current operations at public works and how the new treatment plant will help grow economic development and serve the tribe in other ways.
First, can you tell me about yourself and your role at LCO Public Works
Willard R. Gouge, Jr., Director, LCO Public Works Dept. I am directly in charge of three different programs: Water, Sewer and Solid Waste. I work with officials from Indian Health Service to keep all of our systems up to date, and keep in compliance with all Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
What exactly are the functions at LCO Public Works?
We have two main functions: Protect the public’s health by providing safe, clean drinking water and protect our environment by treating our wastewater prior to reintroduction to the environment and disposal of solid waste in a safe, efficient manner.
We operate two public drinking water systems, New Post and Drytown. Drytown is by far our largest drinking water system, with over 27 miles of water main, over 300 connections and three storage tanks with a capacity of storing over 300,000 gallons. The Drytown system serves several communities from Giiwedin to Reserve.
We also operate three wastewater treatment facilities: The New Post Recirculating Sand Filter, the Reserve Lagoon, and our main treatment plant which is a mechanical Sequence Batch Reactor. The Main Waste water Treatment Plant treats wastewater from the LCO College, the Tribal Government campus (Tribal Office, Housing, WOJB, K-12 School and Boys and Girls Club), Head Start, the Sevenwinds Casino and the communities of Akikaandag and Giiwedin. With the new Lagoon Treatment Plant, we are creating more capacity for economic development in the Highway K and B corridor. We will also be able to expand our collection system to remove failing septic systems and connect homes to the new waste water treatment plant.
Speaking of the new treatment plant, can you tell us about it, the type of facility and how does it work?
Our new plant, which is in construction and scheduled to be put on-line in the Spring of 2019, is an aerated lagoon wastewater treatment plant, which would have the capacity to treat up to 175,000 gallons per day. The aerated lagoon requires more time to treat the wastewater but requires less energy. It is also a safer alternative to the aging mechanical unit we now operate. We currently treat 56,000 gallons per day at the same site with our current mechanical plant.
The new treatment plant will allow us to treat more wastewater, which means that in the future, we could develop collection systems to help us treat more communities such as Round Lake, Drytown, Poppletown, Schoolhouse, Bacon Square and Bacon Strip. This reduces the amount of time and energy it takes to service each unit’s individual septic system. The increased treatment capacity will also allow Sevenwinds to expand their operations in regards to water usage.
What type of plant did we have and why did we need a new one?
The Sequence Batch Reactor we now operate is aging and has significant operational issues. The controls which operate all of the electronic components are outdated and have had band-aid fixes for a number of years, which has resulted in outdated plans and schematics.
The plant also represents a safety hazard for our operators, as the pumps and other significant parts are located in the middle of a 24-foot basin, which is usually filled with wastewater. This style of treatment has been phased out in most places for less energy intense mechanical means.
When did construction start on the new facility and when do you expect it will be done?
Construction of the new plant began in the middle of July 2018, and we plan to put the new plant on-line in the Spring of 2019, after the road bans are lifted.
Who all is involved in the construction and what is each of their roles?
Indian Health Service has been on-board since day one. Discussions took place as early as 2012 to begin plans to replace the SBR. Preliminary engineering reports were completed in 2013 by MSA Engineering, updated in 2015, and final plans were completed in 2017. Indian Health Service has designed our plant, based on the Menominee Reservations plant in Neopit, Wisconsin.
The project was put out to Bid in May 2017, two contractors placed a bid, and the project was awarded to Howard Brothers, out of Woodruff, Wisconsin. Some of the subcontract work is being done by LCO Development Corporation.
How much cost is the new facility and how is it being funded
The final cost is estimated to be $2.2M, with most funding coming from the Indian Health Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Indian Health Service and Environmental Protection Agency are responsible for $1.6M. We also have Grant funding in the amount of $600,000 from Shakopee Mdwankton Tribe. The tribe has designated funds from the Enbridge settlement for any tribal contribution so we will not have to pass the cost of construction on to our existing customers, as is typical for infrastructure projects.
Will this new facility save the tribe any money and how much over the long run
The cost savings cannot be determined until our new plant is fully functional. It will take a number of months to actually fill the lagoons with enough wastewater to see how the new aeration system will work. The amount of energy it takes to run the new aeration system vs the mechanical system we are using now, should be significantly less. There are also less mechanical parts to maintain, so in the long run, there will be a substantial decrease in electrical, operation and Maintenance cost.
Will individual tribal members see any benefit to themselves personally from the new facility
All members will benefit from the new plant, as we will have the tools to help us achieve our goal of protecting our environment by effectively treating the wastewater in an environmentally safe and effective manner. We will be able to connect more waste water systems from more individual homes and new commercial buildings along the Highway K and B corridor. This will help create new jobs and better economics for the entire tribe.
Who all make up the team at public works
Our water and sewer staff consists of Kathy Baker (Office Manager), Kitty Jefson (Clerk), Ryan White (Lead Operator, State Certified Water Operator), Anthony Gouge (Laborer), Ryan Bunker (Laborer), and myself (Director, State Certified Water and Wastewater Operator).
Our Solid Waste staff consists of: Matthew Riedell (Solid Waste Manager/Emergency Management Coordinator, State Certified Water and Wastewater Operator), Bryan Sam (Lead Attendant) and Randall Gouge (Attendant).
Article by Joe Morey