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Proposed Facility


F.A.Q.'s -  PROJECT INFORMATION – November 11, 2016

Question: Why is the project being done?

Answer: Based on past septic tank surveys in tribal and non-tribal areas, over half of the existing systems do not comply with state code setback requirements from wells, the lake, buildings or separation distance to groundwater. At over half of the lots there is not sufficient space to install a compliant system. The hilly topography on the west side of the lake, and the high groundwater on the east side make it difficult to find code compliant sites for many individual systems. Water quality and beach monitoring data collected by the Fond du Lac Environmental Program confirm the need to address waste water management.

Question: How did this project get started?

Answer: The project was started originally by the Fond du Lac Reservation Environmental Program in partnership with the Big Lake Improvement Association, Carlton County, and WLSSD who all recognized the need for the project. The Facility Plan was completed with a federal grant, and in January 2007 the Big Lake Area Sanitary District was formed. The Sanitary District has a 5-member board consisting of two tribal members and 3 non-tribal members.

Question: What is the total project cost?

Answer: The total cost is estimated at approximately $13,400,000. This cost includes the grinder stations, collection system piping, lift station, forcemain to Cloquet and connection charges from WLSSD.

Question: How will the project be paid for?

Answer: The District secured a $4,500,00 grant from the State of Minnesota as part of the 2014 Bonding Bill. The District has also secured a grant/loan funding package from the USDA Rural Development totaling $7,442,000. The District is seeking a $1,500,000 appropriation in the 2017 MN Bonding Bill.

Question: How much will an average monthly sewer bill be?

Answer: The anticipated monthly cost for the debt, operation and maintenance costs for the system is approximately $100. The variable charge will be based on the amount of sewage discharged into the system at a cost of around $2 per 1,000 gallons. An average person uses 65-75 gallons per day with a 3 person household using around 6,000 gallons per month on average or $12 per month. 

Question: When will the project be constructed?

Answer: The current project schedule anticipates receiving a 2017 MN Bonding Bill appropriation in May of 2017. Design of the project will take approximately 12 months with bidding scheduled to take place in the spring/summer of 2018.

Question: When will my house be connected?

Answer: It is anticipated that the construction of an interconnection forcemain with WLSSD will require one year to complete. Connection to individual homes will be completed after the forcemain is completed; likely in the late fall of 2019.

Question: Which roads will be closed during construction and for how long?

Answer: Roads closures will be minimal. However partial closures or lane closures will be common. (Sewer lines will be “directionally bored” when possible reducing disruption).

Question: How will the system operate?

Answer: A pipeline will be installed along the roads and eventually connect to WLSSD. Sewage grinder pumps for each home will force the sewage through the collection system to a central lift station. From the central lift station sewage will be pumped through a forcemain along Big Lake Road, through the City of Cloquet and directly connection to WLSSD.

Question: Why is this project using a pressurized system rather than all gravity?

Answer: A pressure system is a more cost effective (directional boring requires less disruption and restoration) and pressure collection is a better option in areas of rolling typography. Plus, a pressure system is less susceptible to inflow and infiltration. Reduced flows help to lower the cost of waste water treatment.

Question: How was the treatment option selected?

Answer: Funding agencies put strong emphasis on providing grant and loan monies to sewer systems which are shown to be the most “COST EFFECTIVE” We have determined the WLSSD interconnection as the most cost effective option based on a comparative analysis with the waste water treatment alternative.

Question: What is a grinder pump?

Answer: A small pump station that collects sanitary waste from your home and pumps it to the street where it hooks up with the main line.

Question: What will the grinders look like?

Answer: The grinder stations will be underground. There will be an access hatch with a small amount of grass/shrubs and gravel directly around it.

Question: Who will own the grinder pump?

Answer: The Sanitary District will own and maintain the grinder pumps.

Question: Who pays to install the grinder pump?

Answer: The Sanitary District will pay to install the grinder pump, make a connection to the pipe from your house and connect to the electric service if the work is done as part of the overall project.

Question: Who pays the electric bill for a grinder pump and how much will it be?

Answer: The resident will pay the electric bill. The grinder station will cost between $10 and $20 per year to operate. The typical annual cost is on average equivalent to that of a 40-watt light bulb.

Question: Can my neighbor and I share a grinder pump?

Answer: No. Billing will be done from the flow meter within the grinder pump station so they cannot be shared.

Question: How much of my property will be disturbed?

Answer: The main lines will be installed in the street right of way as much as possible. The pipes will be directionally drilled, a newer technology wherein the pipes are installed with a drill traveling under the surface to minimize the need for open excavation and expensive road reconstruction. The grinder stations will be located near your home where your existing sewer line comes out. A lateral pipe will extend from the grinder station to the right of way. Most laterals will also be directionally drilled. Shorter laterals may be installed using open excavation.

Question: What is the life expectancy of the grinder station?

Answer: The station itself has a life expectancy of approximately 50 years. The grinder station comes with a full two-year warranty. On average, the grinder pumps have an operating span of 7 - 10 years before they require maintenance. The Sanitary District will perform normal maintenance on the stations and replace or repair pumps as necessary. Residents may be charged for pump maintenance if it is determined that abnormal use caused the failure.

Question: Will there be an assessment?

Answer: This has not been determined yet; but the Board has discussed utilizing a monthly charge system comprised of 3 components: capital cost recovery, usage and operation/maintenance (O&M).

Question: How will the variable charge be determined?

Answer: Each grinder pump will have a meter measuring how many hours the pump runs each month. The billing will be based upon this meter.

Question: Are there additional hidden costs?

Answer: Any home with an inadequate electrical service to connect the grinder pump to will have to upgrade it at their cost. Each home will need a dedicated 20 amp breaker. At this time, there are no other costs, though a hook up fee may be added in the future if necessary.

Question: What happens to my current septic system?

Answer: The septic system must be abandoned according to state and local regulations.

Question: If a connection is constructed to the City of Cloquet; will the residences along the route be allowed to connect?

Answer: The District held a series of meetings with Perch Lake Township, Fond du Lac and City of Cloquet residents along the forcemain route on Big Lake Road. There was very limited interest in connecting to the system. However, WLSSD plans to expand their Urban Service Boundary to allow for future connections to the system. The District will consider future connections on a case by case basis.

Question: What happens next?

Answer: The BLASD Board is currently pursuing the final piece of the funding puzzle through the MN State Legislature. During the 2017 Legislative Session, District representatives will be working with local and state leaders to ensure our project receives the necessary funding to move forward.

Question: What can I do to get involved ?

Answer: The BLASD Board meets the second Tuesday of every month at 6:30 pm at the Perch Lake Township Hall. Anyone wishing to get more information about the District or the project is strongly encouraged to attend.