Plans to upgrade the Grand Marais wastewater treatment facility are moving forward

Plans to upgrade the Grand Marais wastewater treatment facility are moving forward

Plans to upgrade the Grand Marais wastewater treatment facility are moving forward. 

During the March 1 public utilities commission meeting, an engineering firm, AE2S, based in Duluth, presented a wastewater treatment facility renewal plan outlining the facility’s condition, recommended improvements, and a detailed overview of the question on everyone’s mind – what will it cost? 

The answer to that question is $8.95 million. 

Michael Saunders, the project engineer at AE2S, said at the beginning of the presentation that while there are some items the city could choose to prioritize to potentially reduce the cost, full rehabilitation of the facility will cost shy of $9 million. 

The facility improvements outlined within the renewal plan include the following:

  • Preliminary Treatment Building – Alt.2
  • Oxidation Ditch Aeration Upgrade
  • Clarifier Mechanism & Cover Replacement
  • RAS/WAS Pumps
  • Disinfection
  • Solids Handling
  • Odor Control System
  • Ancillary Systems Improvements
  • Structural Rehabilitation

Saunders said there are numerous funding considerations for the city of Grand Marais to pursue to complete the extensive project. 

Funding options to help alleviate the financial burden on local taxpayers include seeking financial assistance from the state and federal government. Saunders outlined numerous funding considerations such as the Clean Water Revolving Fund, Green Project Reserve, Water Infrastructure Fund, USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, MN Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation’s Community Infrastructure Grant, State Bonding Bill’s Capital Project Budget, among many others. 

The Grand Marais wastewater treatment facility was constructed in the 1940s. The last major infrastructure improvements to the facility were completed more than 30 years ago, in 1988. 

“It’s been 35 years since this was reconstructed,” Mike Roth, the city administrator, said during the March 1 meeting. 

“Eventually, things at a bigger level wear out,” Craig Schulte, public utilities commissioner, said. “Now we have a lot of new technology too. The controls and those types of things that we didn’t have access to back then.”

Roth explained there had been significant advancements in modernized technology for wastewater treatment facilities in the past 30 years. “We didn’t have these options on the table in the late 80s.”

The timeline to implement the modernized upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility is lengthy. 

Saunders outlined an estimated timeframe for each step moving forward. First, AE2S will submit the draft facility plan to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in March 2023, with the final submission of the facility plan to the MPCA occurring in June 2023. 

In the meantime, the city of Grand Marais is seeking public input and comments. 

“Sometime between now and June, we will need to solicit for public comments and a resolution to the recommendations of this report,” Saunders said. Public comments and a resolution are a requirement to submit a plan to the MPCA. 

If everything goes as planned, construction on the wastewater treatment facility will commence in 2024 or 2025. 

Read the full wastewater treatment facility renewal plan in the public utilities commission meeting agenda here.