Several Holmen Public Works Department employees celebrated Christmas Eve out in the cold after being called out to respond to a mechanical malfunction at the village’s wastewater treatment plant.

“We had a mechanical problem; one of the blowers shut down,” said Holmen Public Works Department Director Dean Olson in his report to the public works committee at its Jan. 4 meeting. “Employees had to work outside in the cold.”

Without the blowers sending air into the fluid wastewater, the frigid temperatures disrupted the treatment process.

“The blowers provide the needed air that is infused into the fluid wastewater to promote the treatment process,” said Olson. “The problem we had was the fact that a belt on the blower broke that stopped the air from entering the tank, thus stopping the circulation of the fluid, resulting in an ice cap forming on the top of the wastewater due to the cold temperatures.”

On a positive note regarding the wastewater plant, Olson reported the village’s application for renewal of its Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit has been approved. WPDES permits are issued by the state Department of Natural Resource’s Bureau of Water Quality under the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Any entity sending water to either groundwater or surface water must have a permit. Any discharged treated water must meet water quality standards. Among the standards regulating substances in the treated water is the level of phosphorus.

The village’s aged wastewater plant is having difficulty meeting phosphorus standards of .075 mg/l. However, the village is currently working to build a new treatment plant, and since Holmen is working to upgrade its sewage treatment, the DNR has extended the time the village has to meet regulations.

“If we are making these strides, they are willing to work with us,” said Olson. “If we don’t meet the limit, they can fine us on a daily basis until we comply.”

The designs for the new plant are nearing completion and Olson told the public works committee members the village hopes to advertise for construction bids in February with the goal of awarding the contract the first part of March. Completion of the project is scheduled for the fall of 2019.

In connection with the extreme cold in the early weeks of the month, the public works department contacted residents with a history of frozen water lines serving their homes to let their water run.

“We track the amount, but we don’t bill them for the extra flow,” said Olson.

Meanwhile, the public works committee voted to recommend the Holmen Village Board approve the purchase of a 2018 Ford F250 pickup for the the public works department at a cost of $34,100. The purchase will be made from the Ewald Automotive Group.

The EAG has the state contract for vehicle purchases. By buying through the dealership having the contract, municipalities such as Holmen can take advantage of the special rates afforded through the agreement.

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Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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