City signs on to lobbying effort against new wastewater rules

Regulations could force expensive upgrades

Shawano city officials have signed on to a lobbying effort against new regulations being considered by the Legislature that could force expensive upgrades to the Wolf River Treatment Plant.

The local plant and others around the state are drafting a letter to state legislators in opposition to a proposal that would tighten restrictions on the amount of phosphorus being discharged.

The requirements would greatly decrease the allowable phosphorus levels for treatment plant discharge of phosphorus into the Wolf River Basin, City Administrator Eddie Sheppard told the Common Council on Wednesday.

“It would have a substantial impact on our plant and many plants.” he said, “and would cost potentially millions of dollars in plant rehabilitation to meet these requirements.”

Sheppard said the industry doesn’t necessarily agree with the idea that there is any significant issue with phosphorus discharge from the plants.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t believe the minimal amounts coming out of wastewater treatment plants have anything to do with the larger issue, which is phosphorus runoff from farms and people fertilizing their lawns and stormwater,” Sheppard said.

“That’s where the bulk of it comes from and there’s really no regulation governing that. So it feels like it’s kind of an unfair to focus on these wastewater treatment plants.”

Sheppard said most treatment plants could not meet the new restrictions without significant and expensive upgrades.

“They would have to add quite a bit to their plant for extended holding times and in fact very few plants could meet it in their existing configurations,” he said.

Sheppard said it is ultimately consumers who would pay for plant upgrades.

“They’re going to pass along any increased costs in capital to ratepayers so they can afford it,” he said, adding that the lobbying effort was an attempt to “protect our users from that.”

The council voted unanimously to sign off on the letter that would be sent to local legislators.