Richmond residents weigh in on sewer project
RICHMOND (GTNS) — One Richmond resident said that since 1997 when a problem of raw sewage was detected, no one from Washington County had asked for the opinions of Richmond residents on how to solve the problem.
“This is the first time we’ve been asked for our opinion,” Peggy Duwa told all five Washington County supervisors. She is a member of Residents for a Better Richmond, a group that is fighting the lagoon project.
The supervisors conducted a work session Tuesday evening at Holy Trinity Parish Life Center in Richmond concerning the proposed Richmond lagoon project.
Another opponent, Bill Knutson, thanked the supervisors for having the work session. He said it should have been done five years ago.
The crowd of 40-50 people applauded at times during the meeting to express their appreciation for the meeting in Richmond and the efforts of two newly seated supervisors, Jack Seward and Stan Stoops, to review the lagoon project. Supervisor and board chairman Ron Bennett voted against the project over the past two years he has served on the board.
Seward organized the work session. During the Jan. 8 supervisors’ meeting, he said he wanted the people of Richmond to be able to speak about the project.
Also at the Jan. 8 meeting, Stoops said the work session should be held in Richmond and it was.
At the work session, Seward passed out a document titled “Examining & Identifying Alternatives to the Proposed Richmond Sewage Lagoon Project.”
“I’ve never done anything like this before so I hope I’ll be learning along with everybody else,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Seward said Richmond has been designated an “unsewered community.” He said no one wants improperly treated sewage released around the community and the lagoon project has much opposition. He said some Richmond residents think there are alternatives to the project, and they were invited to make a five- to 10-minute presentation during the work session.
Seward said he hoped some viable alternatives to the lagoon would “bubble to the surface” during the work session.
Stoops asked the residents to “step backward” in time before the community was divided by the project and to talk to one another.
Seward’s and Stoops’s remarks set the tone for the meeting and everyone present respected the sharing of ideas and opinions in a calm atmosphere.
One of the ideas that “bubbled up” from the residents is that no one has identified the problem.
Richmond resident David Rosen said no one knows how many septic systems are in working order and how many are not. He doesn’t think a solution to the raw sewage problem should be designed until the extent of the problem is known.
Bonnie Knutson said she would be the first recipient of the effluent from the lagoon system if it were built. She has researched alternatives to the lagoon and provided some information about the alternatives.
Randy Berg, who has lived in Richmond most of his life, also has researched residential septic systems and lagoon systems. He said he found out the DNR will allow raw sewage to be dumped into a river under certain circumstances. He said he was shocked by that and concerned since he enjoys fishing and he doesn’t want to eat fish from waters containing raw sewage.
Berg said the cost of individual systems is coming down to around $8,000. He spoke about a homeowner, Chad Cooper, who installed a mechanical septic system on a yard that is not as big as his house and that it is a good system.
Another idea that bubbled up was homeowners need to be responsible for their own systems. Seward summarized one of the alternatives as “everyone in town should know if their system works or does not work.”
Mary Leedy favors personal responsibility. She also said there are systems that are better than lagoons. Other residents agreed with her.
Resident Tom Duwa said he is “petrified” at the thought of being “married to” Regional Utility Service Systems for the rest of his life. Others agreed.
Stoops said RUSS is “indifferent” to the people of Richmond and Washington County. He said the RUSS executive director, Bruce Hudson, is “indifferent” to this county. He also said that RUSS has been involved in “deceit.”
According to some, how much the lagoon system would cost is uncertain. Bennett said RUSS increased. The project was once estimated to cost $1.8 million. Those costs may now be as high as $2.3 million, Seward said. The monthly sewer bill Richland residents face was once $45. RUSS has raised that estimate to $55. Some speculated that RUSS has no idea what the monthly bills would be. Rosen said that making monthly payments on a low-interest loan to install a private onsite septic system may be lower than a monthly bill from the lagoon.
The next step Seward said is he will write a summary of the options provided at the work session. He said it may take three weeks for him to do so. The summary will be available to the public. Someone suggested the summary be placed on the county’s website and that will be looked into.
Seward also said he hopes a viable option could be paid for by the same grant and loan that would pay for the lagoon system.