From: Jack G. Conrad [mailto:jackgconrad @ earthlink.net]
Sent: Tuesday, December 9, 2003 11:35 PM
To: Organizer@Friendsofthe EaganCoreGreenway.org
Cc: Organizer@FriendsofPatrickEaganPark.org; Ward, John
Subject: Report on Eagan City Council Workshop on Alum Dosing
Report by John Ward on Eagan City Council Workshop on Alum Dosing
--- Monday Evening, December 8, 2003 ---
This is a summary of Monday night's information meeting held by the Eagan City Council regarding the proposed alum treatment facility for Fish Lake and, downstream (or at least down the storm water pipe system) Black Hawk Lake. The information is from my notes and, if not accurate, hopefully is pretty close.
Don Holmes, Jack Conrad and me (John Ward) were there so this summary will be added to or adjusted by these folks or anybody who saw it on TV. Terry Davis, Margo Danner and Dorothy Peterson from the Parks Commission were also in attendance.
This meeting was in response to a mailing to residents adjacent to the two lakes and JP47, the natural pond that was used for alum/phosphorus sediment containment while the treated water flowed to Fish Lake. The alum treatment period was 1998--2000 and showed the treatment did tend to clear Fish Lake of plant overgrowth including pond scum but, when the treatment stopped, the lake started to return to the scum zone. Eric Macbeth presented the above history and, as at the last meeting, suggested that a much larger alum treatment facility would be the best way to treat Fish and Black Hawk lakes to reduce pond scum and improve clarity.
Mayor Geagan invited comment and Pat McCarthy was the first to speak-about three acres of his farm that is in danger of becoming the new alum/phosphorus settling pond. He is "against the project", wants his land to be part of the "greenway" with "county easements", doesn't want a new pond dug, and still is upset that the current alum treatment facility was put on his land against his will several years ago.. He also noted that this same three acres was in danger of becoming a golf course a couple years ago and he wonders where the pond would have been in that event. He was the first person this evening to note "water comes out of the catch basin" and it is "stinky water"---both statements about, I think, JP47.
The following is a summary of questions and comments from people who live close to the lakes or JP47 and responses from Eric Macbeth, Ken Vraa , Tom Hedges or the Mayor and Council. Why no alum now? (not approved). What is the result of no alum (lakes get more scum) What is the cost? (Eric, I think, settled on $110,000 a year for 20 years, at the last meeting the first five years would cost something under $1,000,000.00). What is the effect of alum treatment on wildlife in Fish Lake? (makes some things better but isn't a cure-all). Linda Haugen in whose yard is part of where JP47 is located, noted that the alum treatment killed fish and turtles, there are still no (alum treatment stopped in 2000) Egrets or Blue Herons, the pond hasn't been dredged as promised and the attempt to dredge last year killed 30 trees that were replaced with only 5 smaller ones and, when the water is low, the alum sediment stinks. (City will make new, concerted effort to dredge the pond and get the sludge to a secure landfill as required, I believe, by state law) Black Hawk Lake fluctuates six feet in depth due to rapid storm water runoff. (Probably not that much, the lake is a big part of the storm water system and alum will have no effect on water volume and level changes).
Comment from a woman who lives on Black Hawk Lake-lost 53 trees on their property due to variable lake levels which started after the hookup to the storm water system, they thought the lake would stay the same as it was when they move in.. The lake got "worse and worse" over time, it was a "sea of algae" and it "looked like we lived on a cesspool". Additional concerns expressed were condemnation of Mr. McCarthy's land, that the entire watershed wasn't being treated if the alum plant was built, if lead weights frequently found on the ground around tire places were a concern re water quality.
John generally again answered the questions above noting that an environmentally friendly solution would reduce pond scum, increase water quality and improve wildlife habitat, help stabilize lake level fluctuations, not involve toxic sediments, land condemnation, and, in addition to collecting phosphorus as alum does, would also trap sediments, reduce erosion, and capture other pollutants such as road salt, heavy metals in our water supply. A nearby environmental solution to the phosphorus problem is Burnsville's rain gardens that are attractive, paid for by the city, a voluntary program for homeowners, and part of a very good study to compare the amount of phosphorus in water filtered through rain gardens to a very similar area in Burnsville without rain gardens.
Jay Riggs of the SWDC (Soil and Water Conservation District) has been discussing the Fish Lake Watershed area (the same as the alum area above except this includes, I expect, the 500 or so acres alum doesn't help) with the Barr Engineering and, just this afternoon, Barr finished a preliminary report showing full study (around $50,000 to $65,000) for demonstration of effective and cost effective environmentally friendly alternatives to alum. Dakota County may cost share this type of evaluation if it were part of a scientific study similar to that in Burnsville.
The Council received summaries of a similar study in Madison, Wisconsin selected as roughly comparable to Eagan by Barr Engineering (and another related evaluation I got from the Internet) that showed the goal, a 40% reduction of the 580 tons of sediment going into Lake Wingra each year, could be achieved by environmental means for a range of $6.00 to $18.00 per year.
Phosphorus, pollution, erosion, road salt, ground water and other problems were also helped by trapping sediment and Eagan should have similar broad benefits from an environmental treatment plan as opposed to the single benefit of phosphorus sequestration by alum. Jack Conrad was marginally complementary of Eric Macbeth and the Council's efforts to find the best solution, he encouraged them to acquire information on alternatives to alum before any decision. Don Holmes spoke as well, indicating that he was "impressed with the Council" for "going slow", being careful to do "the right thing" and "avoiding "quick and easy solutions." Both Jack and Don made a good impression on the audience and Council.
My overall impression: The Mayor and Council are somewhat impressed by the alum plan---it comes from within the city staff, involves the DNR and MPCA, is easy to grasp but there is a real backlash from JP47 problems with communication, smell, pond toxicity, back flow and two year delay on the promised dredging. They fear similar and probably bigger problems in the same neighborhood with an expanded system and possible issues with the use of large amounts of alum, the cost will be especially high if Mr. McCarthy's three acres received full market value with condemnation (Diamond T was $150,000 an acre as Jack mentioned).
They like the environmental ideas but are wary of new territory and don't want to spend the money for a study unless it will definitely show at least some alternatives are cost effective and better than alum. I hope get a couple of possible study results for phosphorus reduction along with the cost and effectiveness to better explain the proposed Barr study (i.e., if you commission the study, expect this type of result and you can make these decisions-Mike M. didn't think Madison was "like" Eagan so the comparison wasn't useful) before the January meetings. I believe they are willing to be convinced if given good the information in an understandable way.