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Village of Rib Lake under the gun to renew phosphorous variance

The clock is ticking on the village of Rib Lake to renew its phosphorus limits variance with the state of Wisconsin.

Pat Morrow from MSA Professional Services came to the March 8 Rib Lake Village Board meeting to ask the Board to sign a contract with MSA for them to put together and submit an annual status report in order to keep the WPS permit for the water treatment plant. This is due at the end of March.

When the water treatment plant was built, the DNR put a phosphorus limit on the water output of 0.075 mg/L. Meeting this limit would have added between $700,000-$1 million to the building project. The Village put together a variance package and submitted it to the DNR, where it was approved and put the phosphorus limit at 1 mg/L.

Variances are not permanent, and must be reissued every five years, along with the WPS permit. In order to be granted the variance, the Village needs to show that they qualify for it.

“The timeline is pretty tight, we acknowledge that. We will do everything we can to get it done in a month,” said Morrow when describing the scope of the services MSA is offering the Village. Some of these include obtaining the current sewer rates and comparing them to the current median household income, watershed options, options for the village such as funding farming practice improvements, helping Rib Lake staff resubmit past annual reports, as well as talking to the DNR about an extension to the March 31 deadline.

“When were we notified about this report that’s due?” Board President Bill Schreiner asked Morrow.

Morrow responded, “this report is part of your annual WPS permit… so the WPS permit is something that you’ve had on file for the last five years and it contains a schedule that has these requirements for these annual reports. So, the deadline had been the March 31st of 2023 since the permit was first issued.”

In addition, there recently has been an extremely elevated concentration of phosphorus coming into the water treatment plant that is not possible for typical domestic wastewater for a village like Rib Lake. Figuring out why this is happening and helping to fix the potential problem will also be a part of what MSA is doing. “Typical phosphorus coming into the plant should be 5 mg/L, give or take.” Morrow informed the Board. “Starting in February when Dan started collecting more samples, initially in February it was at 3.5-4.5 and then the next week he had a result of 9. That’s already pretty high. Then it was an 11. Then it was a 13. Then there was a 25 and a 28.”

The treatment plant has a lot of flexibility, but it is not designed to deal with a concentration of phosphorus that high.

MSA began the process before the contract had been signed due to the tight timeline. The Board approved signing the contract.

In other business:

  The Taylor County Health Department is purchasing an AED for the Rib Lake police squad.

  The Board approved canceling the Village Hall fax line. It cost the Village $90 per month, and was used twice last year.

  The Board has reached out to Aspirus to fix the ambulance garage door, since it was an Aspirus driver that hit it. The door currently works, but is missing all of the weather stripping. Since the Village is paying the heating bill for the ambulance garage, they are pushing for it to get fixed soon.

  A lot of the crack seal on the roads is getting ripped up as the Village scrapes the ice off.