Five years ago, the neighboring Trempealeau County villages of Strum (pop. 1,001) and Eleva (pop. 635) faced identical problems. What to do about the communities’ aging wastewater treatment facilities?
The Strum facility, constructed in 1981, was in poor overall condition. The facility operated, on average, at about 65% of capacity. Forecasts indicated it would exceed capacity on an average day before the year 2030. In addition, the plant wasn’t capable of meeting the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ [DNR] phosphorous criteria.
In Eleva, a similar plant had been constructed in 1982. It operated at about 50% of capacity and it too would be overloaded regularly by 2030. The plant also did not meet the DNR’s phosphorous standards.
To address the issues of their aging treatment facilities the villages, in 2010, hired an engineering firm to complete a facility plan for the upgrade or replacement of their respective wastewater treatment facilities (WWTF).
After evaluating the various options and costs, it was agreed the best solution was to construct a new regional treatment facility to serve the needs of both communities – the Eleva-Strum Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility. Based on the evaluation criteria used, joint treatment was found to be 25% less costly than constructing, owning and operating individual facilities.
The villages were referred to WISCAP’S Rural Community Development Department by both the engineering firm and by the U.S Department of Agriculture – Rural Development for assistance in developing a funding package for the $6.5 million joint project. Bill Brown, WISCAP’s Rural Community Development Director, and Lisa Totten, Rural Development Specialist, worked on the package. U.S.D.A. funding applications were developed. WISCAP completed income surveys for both communities for a Community Development Block Grant [CDBG] application. WISCAP also prepared the CDBG application for Eleva. The various mix of grant and loan applications was successful, resulting in a total funding package of $6,510,000 (USDA-Rural Development loan in the amount of $4,167,000; a USDA-Rural Development grant in the amount of $1,915,000; a CDBG grant in the amount of $400,000; and local funds totaling $28,000).
Plans and specifications for the project were approved by the DNR in October 2011. The facility was designed and bid in 2012; constructed in 2013; and became fully functional in 2014. During the construction phase, WISCAP Rural Development Specialist Totten also served as CDBG Administrator for the Village of Eleva.
To provide oversight and financial management of the project during construction and operation of the new facility, the villages of Eleva and Strum established the Eleva-Strum Joint Sewerage Commission. Totten provided financial management assistance to the commission and continues to assist both communities and the Commission with financial management capacity building and U.S.D.A. reporting – services provided under WISCAP’s Technitrain program, funded by USDA-Rural Development.