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Chippewa County OKs permit for septic storage despite opposition from some neighbors

MONTEVIDEO — The Chippewa County Board of Commissioners approved a conditional use permit for a septic hauler to use underground, steel tanks to temporarily store human waste when conditions do not allow it to be land applied.

The commissioners approved the permit to T.A. Lauritsen Septic to install three tanks with a capacity for 40,000 gallons in a gravel pit owned by Denny Larson along Chippewa County Road 15 south of Montevideo. The action at the commissioners' meeting Tuesday came after a condition was added allowing wastes to be held in the tanks for no more than six weeks each year, as well as 11 other conditions previously recommended by the county's Planning Commission.

Neighboring landowners had opposed the permit at a Planning Commission meeting one week earlier. They cited concerns about the potential for groundwater contamination if the tanks leaked.

County ordinance requires precast concrete tanks for residential and commercial storage of human waste. Jim Dahlvang, chairman of the County Board, cited his concerns about the precedent set by allowing steel tanks in this case.

Scott Williams, the county's land and resource management director, said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported that there is no rule prohibiting the use of steel tanks. It recommends the use of concrete, and in correspondence to the county, the state agency warned that human waste can adversely affect the service life of steel tanks.

The conditional use permit that was approved requires that the tanks be individually wrapped in a liner and that underground tile be installed to allow for monitoring of fecal contamination of water. Williams said the tanks were inspected and certified by Toby Sunderland Engineering. The engineer recommended that the tanks be re-inspected after 10 years.

Representatives of Lauritsen Septic told the commissioners that the tanks would be used only a few weeks of the year.

Dan Bredesen of Lauritsen Septic said wastewater treatment plants are denying the company's requests to take septic wastes.

Many rural residences need their septic tanks pumped in the spring when water levels are high, which is also when the company is unable to land apply the waste. "(We have) no way of helping these people out,'' he said.

Larson told the commissioners that the three tanks to be installed on his property were previously used as fuel tanks at a Cenex station in downtown Montevideo and are in good condition. The top of the tanks will be at ground level, and they are about 12 to 15 feet above the groundwater table at the location, he added.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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