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Village board to take up chickens and sewer system on July 14
Soldiers Grove
Senator Zitzner with chicken
PEYTON ZITZNER, eight, of Soldiers Grove is seen holding a chicken he hopes to be able to keep in the village. Zitzner and his mother, Sammy Goodwin, are advocating for the village board to adopt an ordinance regulating the keeping of backyard chickens in the village. The two are currently circulating a petition as a way for village residents to demonstrate support for the idea.

SOLDIERS GROVE - Following a presentation by Bart Nies of Delta-3 Engineering about potential upgrades to the village’s wastewater treatment plant, the Soldiers Grove Village Board decided to hold a public hearing about the project. For this reason, the date of the July board meeting has been changed to Thursday, July 14.

The public hearing about the project will start at 6 p.m., and the board meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Also on the agenda for the board meeting that night will be the topic of whether the village should adopt a backyard chicken ordinance. If adopted, the ordinance would allow village residents to keep chickens within the village limits, which is currently prohibited. 

The ordinance, if adopted, would likely define how many chickens residents could keep, what kind of structures and maintenance of the bird would be required, and how the ordinance would be enforced.

Treatment plant

Bart Nies of Delta-3 Engineering explained to the board that current and upcoming regulations for phosphorous and E.coli, as well as the deficiencies in the sludge storage area, mean that the village must pursue upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant.

Nies said that there a series of relevant deadlines that the village will be required by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to meet. Those include:

• March 31, 2023: phosphorous reduction plans and specifications for the plant are due, 

• April 30, 2025: plant is required to be compliant with regulations governing E. coli in effluent

• September 30, 2025: plant is required to be compliant with regulations governing phosphorous in effluent

“Last fall, our team produced a report on deficiencies in the village’s wastewater treatment plant, and formulated a preliminary capital improvement plan proposal for the facility,” Nies said. “You could do all of the needed upgrades piecemeal, but if you choose to pursue them all at the same time, we estimate that you could save $35,000 to $40,000 on the project.”

Nies said that the average daily flows per sewer plant customer is about 40 gallons per day, and that when the plant was built, it was engineered to accommodate average daily flows of 114 gallons per day.

“The capacity of your plant is adequate for your current needs, but WDNR won’t allow you to design for the lowest average daily flow – their minimum is 60 gallons per day,” Nies said. “Your current sludge storage area can accommodate 43,750 gallons, and so you will need to add 110,000 gallons of storage as well.”

E.coli reduction

Nies told the board that there are two options to achieve compliance with E.coli in effluent regulations. He said the board could optimize the current chlorine disinfection system, or replace it with an ultraviolet light (UV) disinfection system.

“I recommend going to the UV disinfection system because it is much more efficient,” Nies said. 

Phosphorous reduction

Nies said that to meet phosphorous in effluent regulations, the village has three options.

The first option would be to continue with the current system, which he said “is not allowed.”

The second option would be a filtration system with chemicals. He said the system is basically a big filter to which chemicals are added to precipitate out the phosphorous. Nies said that these kinds of systems are very expensive.

The third option would be ‘Biological Phosphorous Removal’ combined with pursuing ‘Water Quality Trading’ credits through upstream streambank improvement projects. 

He said this option would allow the village to continue to use the existing aerated tank area, but would modify it from coarse to fine air. He said that the first of two tanks would be baffled off, and would be anaerobic (without air). The second tank would be aerated.

“We will have to conduct a study to see if this kind of system will work for the village’s sewage,” Nies said. “If it works, this system will reduce phosphorous in your effluent from 3.5 milligrams-per-liter (mg/L) to 1.0 mg/L, but it still won’t get you all the way down to the 0.1 mg/L standard.”

Nies said that to get from 1.0 mg/L to 0.1 mg/L, the best option is for the village to pursue water quality trading credits through upstream streambank restoration projects. He said that a quick, preliminary calculation indicates that the streambank restoration projects would need to reduce streambank erosion, which contributes phosphorous into the water, by about 47 pounds per year. This would mean the village would need 94 water quality trading credits.

Project funding

Nies said that his team has estimated the cost of the project at about $3.9 million, with no grant funding. He said that last year, the project would have come in at $3.5 million, and the prior engineering consultant had estimated it at $4 million in 2018.

“In the next five years, funds available for projects like this in the WDNR Clean Water Fund are expected to be increased by $48 million per year,” Nies said. “About half of those additional funds are earmarked to be distributed in the form of grants – about $24 million. But we are also hearing that small rural communities are likely to be prioritized for the funding, and that the grant/loan percentages could be more favorable than the standard 50/50.”

Nies said that these additional funds are made available as a result of passage of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“If the stars align, and you receive both a Clean Water Fund grant and loan, and possibly also a Community Development Block Grant, it is possible the village might only have to pay 25 percent of the total cost of the project or about $1million,” Nies said. “Your share could be paid for through a Clean Water Fund loan, which is a 20-year, locked rate loan at a very favorable interest rate.”

Nies said that currently, the interest rate for WDNR’s Clean Water Fund loans is running at 2.04 percent.

The board voted to approve the draft facility plan provided by Delta-3 Engineering, and to schedule a public hearing about the proposed project on July 14, followed by a board meeting where the board might vote to contract with Delta-3 to move forward on the project.

In other business

In other business, the board:

• voted to pay JI Construction LLC the final invoiced amounts for the sewer system upgrade project just completed, contingent upon the date that the construction punch list items are complete, and Delta-3 receipt of final contractor lien waivers. Nies told the board that despite some unanticipated costs in the project, it had still come in about $75,000 under budget

• heard a proposal from Delta-3 Engineering to extend sanitary sewer lines in the village during the Highway 131 construction project, currently scheduled for 2025. Lines would be extended from the bridge over the Kickapoo River, and along Highway 131 up to the County Shop. Should the board decide to move forward with this project, a public hearing would be held prior to approval, and plans for the project would have to be submitted to Wisconsin Department of Transportation by November of 2023.