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Backus wastewater treatment system finally running

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The city of Backus held a ribbon cutting and ceremonial “first flush” Friday, Nov. 22, to celebrate the end of a seven-year project to update the city sewage treatment system.

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The possibility of connecting the Backus sewer system to the Pine River Area Sanitary District’s (PRASD) wastewater treatment facility 10 miles away was first discussed at the May 8, 2009, Backus City Council meeting. Ultimately, this is what the council pursued.

Construction of a 10-mile pipeline following the Paul Bunyan Trail began this past July 29. The construction was completed and the sewer connection has been active since Nov. 12. By Nov. 22, 116,930 gallons of waste had already been flushed through the system.

“It’s great to have it done after years of back and forth. It’s good to be finally done and good with the state,” Backus Mayor Kurt Sawyer said.

Herschel Blasing, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) senior control specialist, said the project completion is one of the highlights of his professional career.

“It’s not like the city wasn’t willing to do something that was necessary. It was just an issue of trying to get funding to complete the project,” Blasing said.

The project cost the city of Backus roughly $2.5 million. Approximately 67 percent of this cost was met using grants from USDA Rural Development and the Public Facilities Authority.

Engineer Greg Kimman of Short Elliot Hendrickson said the only construction remaining is work to be done on a deteriorating lift station east of the Backus water tower. The work is scheduled for December and will not have any impact on city wastewater services.

Since 2006, the city of Backus has been working to update its sewer system to meet MPCA requirements. It was approximately this time that the MPCA said there was too much ammonia in the groundwater surrounding the city’s drain field. Thus began the city’s search for a solution.

Possible solutions were discussed along the way, including pumping wastewater to a treatment facility in Hackensack, use of Submergible Poo-Gloo Aeration Domes to remove ammonia from city wastewater, and installation of a pond system on property purchased from Jim Coffland in Pine River Township. Each solution was eliminated because each did not meet the city’s needs. The final agreement with PRASD was signed Sept. 20, 2011.

Sawyer and PRASD Chairman Marvin Ryan performed both the ribbon cutting and the ceremonial first flush.

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