With a multimillion dollar spending outlay coming to Brookfield as part of a waste water treatment upgrade, Elm Grove was left wondering how to plan for its future without knowing how much it would have to spend.
Elm Grove had the luxury of not having to invest the more than $50 million Brookfield will in its own equipment because the village contracts with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to handle the community's systems.
New phosphorous restrictions set by the Environmental Protection Agency and adopted by the state under Gov. Jim Doyle, will reduce phosphorous requirements from 1 milligram per liter to 0.22 milligrams per liter in Elm Grove.
Elm Grove is one of 28 communities served by MMSD that will have to invest as much as $500 million in new technology to handle the changing requirements in the communities being served.
Kevin Shafer, executive director of MMSD, said that is a worst-case scenario number and there are chances to reduce it by working with communities to identify the biggest problem areas for phosphorous.
Studies to determine fix
Right now, MMSD is doing load studies at its plants to determine how much water these facilities can handle and how much phosphorous they are processing. These studies, Shafer says, should help MMSD determine how massive the changes will be from a technology standpoint.
"Once we know what the limit is that we're trying to reach, we'll look at both technology improvements at the plants and what's called the adaptive approach," Shafer said.
"If we see a certain reach of the rivers that have more phosphorous coming in, that would tell us that if we are targeting our investment toward those reaches, we might get more bang for our buck.
Communities will have a voice
MMSD meets with communities like Elm Grove on a regular basis to discuss the needs of both the communities and the district. Shafer says every community will have a voice in determining how to best meet the needs of its municipality.
"They'll know pretty much as soon as we know and they'll actually help us come up with the solution," Shafer said, adding that technical representatives from all 28 communities will be part of the team to determine a final solution.
"This isn't going to be a deal where we come up with a bill and say pay it."
At some point, however, there will be a bill Elm Grove and 27 other communities will have to pay. How those costs are differentiated and even vague estimates as to what the final numbers might be have not been determined.
Cities, like Brookfield, that have their own waste water treatment plants have the luxury of building cost estimates into their capital budgets. Elm Grove, on the other hand, won't have a chance to put a long-term plan together until MMSD determines the scope of its changes and what each community will have to pay.
In short, Elm Grove knows that it will have to pay, but the question remains as to how much and when.
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