The city of Holland is developing plans for an estimated $15,964,000 worth of improvements to its water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure. About a half-dozen residents of the city attended a public hearing the Holland City Council held on April 20 to present information and take questions about the plans.
The problems and the proposed solutions
According to information presented at the hearing, Holland’s sanitary sewer system was built in 1950 and is a completely gravity flow system consisting of about 9,300 feet of clay pipe. Deterioration of the clay pipe has caused significant inflow and infiltration into the city’s sanitary sewer system. That inflow and infiltration has led to overloading of the city’s four-cell wastewater treatment facility that was constructed in 1984.
Jordan Odegard, project engineer with Bollig Inc., said the wastewater treatment facility was designed for 96,000 gallons a day of flow, but has taken in as much as 300,000 gallons a day when there is wet weather. That has caused water to be prematurely discharged from the ponds into the Rock River.
“That tells us that it’s kind of short circuiting that whole system and there’s just too much water coming through that system,” Odegard said.
During a Compliance Evaluation Inspection and file review in August, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) documented that the city reported 25 effluent limit violations and failed to submit 11 discharge monitoring reports during the review period of July 2019 through June 2022. In response, the MPCA issued a notice of violation to the city dated Aug. 25.
MPCA Communications Specialist Stephen Mikkelson said the corrective actions required by the MPCA in the notice of violation were completed and the case was deemed concluded in October. Those corrective actions included that the city submit a report detailing what actions it would take to prevent future violations.
The city plans to replace the sanitary sewer collection system and service lines from the main line to the foundation of homes. It also plans to add rip rap to and dredge the wastewater treatment ponds. That work is estimated to cost $4,819,000.
In addition, Odegard said the city’s water distribution system, which was installed in 1979 and includes about 15,100 feet of 6- and 8-inch plastic pipe, is deteriorating. He said water main fittings and service saddles are deteriorating and there have been leaking fire hydrants and service line breaks. An inspection done around 2018 also showed that there were traces of lead found in the coatings of both the interior and exterior of the water tower.
To address those issues, the city plans to replace its water distribution system, add valves, replace hydrants, replace water service lines from the main lines to the foundation of homes and rehabilitate the water tower. That work is estimated to cost $8,370,000.
The third phase of the planned project will add storm sewer. There is some storm sewer along County State Aid Highway 24 in the city, but other than that there is only some corrugated metal pipe under driveways and streets, and swales and ditches along the sides of streets. The lack of storm sewer has led to flooding during heavy rains and spring thaws.
To address that issue, the city plans to add storm sewer along portions of Main Street, Rock Street and Carter Avenue. That work is estimated to cost $1,345,000.
The three elements of the project plus another $1,430,000 in related expenses, such as street work, bring the total estimated project cost to the $15,964,000. If the city financed the project with a 40-year loan at 4 percent interest without any grants, it would add up to an estimated $709 per utility customer per month.
“It would be an empty town,” said Mayor Kent Woelber.
To make that cost more reasonable the city is seeking United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development funds and a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Small Cities Grant. Additional funds could come from Pipestone County for work on county-maintained roads in the city that was already planned, as well as other grants.
Odegard said Rural Development will consider existing and new loans the city has, its reserves and other information to develop an affordability threshold and provide grant funds to make the monthly user cost more feasible.
“We don’t know what it is yet, but they’ll set that based on all these and it’s not going to be to the point where it’s going to drive people out of town because they don’t want that either,” Odegard said.
Odegard said Bollig expects to finalize a preliminary engineering report and an environmental report by July and hear a response from funding agencies by this summer. A field survey could then be done this fall. The design of phase 1 of the project could take place this winter or next spring and phase 1 construction could take place during the summer of 2024 or 2025 with additional phases after that.
“This project’s probably going to get phased just because it’s a lot for the feds to allocate $16 million to just Holland at one time,” Odegard said. “There are a lot of cities on their project priority list.”
He said it’s not yet clear how many phases there will be or what each phase will include, and that the project is ultimately contingent upon the availability of federal and state grant funds.
“The ball is kind of in the government’s court,” Odegard said.