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Erik Burgess, Published August 27 2013

West Fargo sewage lagoon expansion may help cut smell

WEST FARGO – Despite some residents’ concerns, the city of West Fargo plans to expand its sewage lagoon system as early as next summer.

The lagoon system is at capacity, said City Engineer Kevin Bucholz. The last time the system was expanded was in 1992, and the city has owned the 80-acre parcel it plans to use for the new expansion since then.

The new 60-acre cell will be added to the city’s existing 400-acre lagoon system and could help mitigate the odor that emanates from waste stabilization ponds near 12th Avenue Northwest.

“If we put less (sewage) in each cell, the treatment process goes faster and it’ll turn over faster, so in an effect, you may have less odors,” Bucholz said.

A handful of residents aired complaints at the Aug. 19 City Commission meeting about how the lagoon expansion will affect flooding in the area, Bucholz said.

The parcel on which the city plans to construct the lagoon cell typically holds water during flood season, he said, so the floodwater will be pushed elsewhere if the city puts a lagoon cell there.

The city is now studying how to lessen the impact of flooding, Bucholz said.

City staff will meet with concerned residents in the near future, Mayor Rich Mattern said.

He said with the rapid growth of the city, the commission seems set on continuing to use the lagoon system.

“We saw the need coming a few years ago, and that day is here, so we’re moving forward,” Mattern said.

Some residents say the city should move to a wastewater treatment facility, but Bucholz said even a treatment plant would require using some lagoons.

“Mechanical plants are not odorless,” he said.

Mattern said “in a sense,” some of the long-term planning for the city’s waste treatment is being held up by the uncertainty of the proposed metro flood diversion project.

If the $1.8 billion Fargo-Moorhead flood channel is approved and built, the sewage lagoons would be protected, so the land value would go up. The city would then likely have more serious thoughts about what that land is used for, Mattern said.

The city could seek bids for construction of the new lagoon this fall, and it could be operational by next summer.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518