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Developer works to solve Arnegard’s lagoon problems

Posted 6/12/13 (Wed)

By Zach Stenberg
Farmer Intern

With small towns’ infrastructures being exhausted and not able to keep up with the demand in western North Dakota, one city is taking a different approach to solve one of its most pressing problems. The city of Arnegard is partnering with a private company, Arnegard Holdings, to deal with its sewage waste water problem.
Under a new 99-year agreement with Arnegard Holdings, Arnegard will be the first city in North Dakota to send its sewage to a private company to be treated.
“Arnegard Holdings has promised the city 300 new sewer hookups, and will handle our existing 118 sewer hookups,” says Virgina Elliot, Arnegard mayor. “They will charge for the new hookups, set rates, and have the discharge permits.”
The proposed new system will have a mechanical system and a pipeline that runs southeast of town.
The best part of the new arrangement, says Elliot, is that the proposed plan will cost the city of Arnegard nothing.
“Arnegard is a small town and we can’t afford to spend $4 million on a new system,” says Elliot. “A developer is stepping in and saying that they will put in a waste system and operate it. It serves their needs and our needs.”
However, the project is now on hold and is awaiting state approval of the plan and the outcome of a pending complaint from the North Dakota Dept. of Health on how the lagoon has been run.
On May 1, both the city and Arnegard Holdings were issued a notice of violation and an order of no new hookups from the Dept. of Health.
Arnegard’s current lagoon, according to Elliot, was set up to serve around 125 people.
The 2010 Census had 110 people living in the city. But Elliot estimates that there are now at least 400 people in town.
Arnegard Holdings contacted the city last July to get the lagoon up to specifications.
Arnegard Holdings then hired Tri-State Engineering as a professional adviser and consultant on the rules and regulations with regards to the waste water and operation of the lagoon.
In the meantime, trucks began to dump waste. But because of the volume of waste being pumped into the lagoons, the Dept. of Health stepped  in.
“It was not the dumping of the waste that was the problem,” says Karl Rockeman, State Health Department engineer. “It was the amount that they were bringing in. At times, they were dumping the equivalent of one day’s waste of Arnegard’s waste, which their system could not handle.”
Because of the violations, the city of Arnegard and Arnegard Holdings now face a fine up to $5,000 a violation per day.
Tri-State Engineering was not named in the notice because the contract was with Arnegard Holdings, and in essence, Tri-State was a subcontractor of Arnegard Holdings.
However, with Mayor Elliot and Arnegard Holdings working on a solution, the steps they’re now taking will be factored into potentially lowering any fines, says Rockeman.
“I feel confident with the agreement with Arnegard Holdings that this will work out,” says Elliot. “We can’t keep up with the infrastructure, so developers need to do this.”
For now, no new sewer hookups are being allowed in Arnegard which  is consequently stopping new houses and businesses from becoming built.
“There are 25 houses waiting for hookups and we’ve been getting calls from hotels and other businesses wanting to come in,” says Elliot. “But for now the most important thing is to get State approval for our plan.”
Arnegard, according to Elliot, is also applying for grants for a new water system since all the city water currently comes from wells.