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City proposes once again buying phosphorus credits

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will be asked next week to approve a phosphorus trade agreement between the city of Willmar and the city of Mankato for 2010 to reduce Minnesota River pollution until Willmar's new wastewater treatment plant begins operation this fall.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requires Willmar to reduce phosphorus at the old treatment plant in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to comply with a Minnesota River Basin national discharge permit.

Rather than spend thousands on phosphorus-reduction improvements at the old plant, Willmar can buy phosphorus credits from another wastewater plant operator in the Minnesota River Basin. Willmar bought credits from Mankato in 2008 and 2009.

The agreement for 2010 was recommended by Public Works Director Mel Odens to the council's Public Works/Safety Committee and the committee voted this week to recommend the City Council approve the agreement.

Odens said this will be the last time Willmar will need to buy credits. Willmar's new treatment plant will begin operation Oct. 7.

According to experts, phosphorus is a nutrient essential to both plant and animal life. Aquatic plants require less phosphorus than terrestrial plants to grow. Excess amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen cause rapid growth of algae, creating dense populations, or blooms.

These blooms become so dense that the blooms reduce the amount of sunlight available to submerged aquatic vegetation. Without sufficient light, plants cannot produce the food they need to survive. Also, the loss of sunlight can kill aquatic grasses.

In other publics works business this week, the committee recommended the council approve the low bid of $125,290.78 from Metro Fire of Ham Lake to upgrade the Willmar Fire Department's 51 self-contained breathing apparatus units. A higher bid was submitted by Mine Safety Appliances Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., for $273,720.82.

The Metro bid will be considered by the council Monday night.

Both companies had earlier submitted bids for the upgrades on Feb. 22, but the council rejected the bids because the Metro bid was found to contain an error and the Mine Safety bid came in over budget. The Fire Department then advertised for new bids, and the new bids were opened on March 23.

The upgrades will be purchased through the Fire Department's 2009 Assistance to Firefighters Grant. Besides approving the bids, the committee recommended that excess funds from the 2009 Fire Department budget be used to cover the required 5 percent local match of $6,584 and amend the 2010 Fire Department budget accordingly.

Also this week, the committee approved the low price quote of $69 per hour from Cleaning and Restoration Services of Willmar to lease the company's air or vacuum street sweeper. Pro Sweep of Willmar submitted a higher quote of $125 per hour.

Odens said the vacuum unit from Cleaning and Restoration Services will be used to remover finer particles that are not removed by the city's broom sweeper. Removal of finer debris particles will help the city comply with stricter storm water pollution prevention rules.

The city has budgeted $30,000 in 2010 for leasing the vacuum sweeper. Council member Ron Christianson had urged the city to explore the possibility of leasing a vacuum sweeper rather than buying a vacuum sweeper for the Public Works Department.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150