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June 17, 2019

5/18/2019 7:30:00 AM
Country Fest septic waste to be treated at city plant

The city of Rhinelander and the organizers of the Hodag Country Festival are moving forward with a plan to screen and treat waste generated during the annual musical festival at the city's wastewater treatment plant.

On Monday, city alderpersons authorized Public Works director Tim Kingman to purchase the necessary equipment to screen the untreated Country Fest sewage. According to information presented by Kingman, the city will pay two-thirds of the cost of the equipment while the festival will cover the other one-third.

Kingman said the city and festival organizers have been trying for years to work out such an arrangement, but the plant lacked the necessary equipment and capacity to screen the sewage.

The waste that would be accepted is what is collected from the port-a-potties that serve as bathroom facilities at the festival grounds.

"In the past, the treatment plant did not have the ability to treat all of that waste at once, and it was very problematic when we did," Kingman said. "This waste contains a lot of cans and a lot of debris that is just a big, big hassle to get all of that out of there."

Kingman said he located a piece of equipment, a screen that costs $35,855, that would remove debris from the waste. He discussed the matter with the festival organizers, and a preliminary agreement was reached where the festival would cover a third of the cost of the equipment, roughly $11,750, in exchange for a lower fee for handling the waste.

"This one event is the one that really needed this," Kingman said, adding that the equipment would make it possible for the city to handle similar waste from other events.

The city already accepts waste from septic haulers throughout the year when other means of disposing of it are not available. This amounts to about $43,000 in additional revenue for the treatment plant, Kingman said. The sewer revenue would cover the city's share of the cost of the equipment.

"We do have three or four haulers coming in on a routine basis, particularly when it's wet out. Septic haulers have to go to an alternative place to dispose (when it can't be applied to farmland)," Kingman said. "We have ended up being that place. And we have gained a great deal of revenue being that alternative place. This screen can only help improve the waste acceptance; other people will use this as well."

Kingman estimated the additional revenue to the plant would be in the neighborhood of $4,350 over the two weeks of the festival.

"Ultimately, this pays for itself because it improves the waste that we're treating at the treatment plant. So it is sort of a win/win/win," Kingman said.

In the event that the plant could not immediately treat the waste as it comes in from the festival, the plant has a holding tank large enough to temporarily store it until it can be treated, he added.

The expected useful life of the equipment would be at least 10 years, he said.

Kingman presented a draft of a memorandum of understanding between the festival and the city spelling out the agreement he had worked out with the organizers. The MOU must be reviewed by an attorney before ir can be finalized. The hope is the new procedure will be place for this year's festival in July.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernewsonline. com.

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