By Nathan Bourne

Sewer Decision in Landowners' Hands

Seeley Lake Sewer


November 16, 2017

SEELEY LAKE - The Seeley Lake Sewer Board adopted a resolution at its Nov. 8 meeting to levy special assessments on property in the district to pay for construction of the proposed wastewater treatment plant and Phase 1 of the collection system.

In other business, the board signed the inter-local agreement with the county. They also discussed a letter from landowners with wells near the proposed wastewater treatment plant that are concerned about their wells becoming contaminated.

District Manager Greg Robertson explained that the resolution sets in motion the notice and protest period during which landowners will have the right to protest the assessments.

Notices will be mailed to all landowners and legal notices will be published in the Missoulian and the Seeley Swan Pathfinder. After publication of the notice, landowners who choose to protest have until the end of the business day on Dec. 18 to return their protest letter.

Landowners who support the assessments don’t need to do anything.

All properties in the district will equally share the cost of the treatment plant while Phase 1 will also be paying for its collection system. Across all four phases, each property’s portion of the debt for the treatment plant is $8,552.69. The collection system adds $7,153.85 worth of debt for a total of $15,706.54 debt per property in Phase 1.

The official estimate for repayment of the debt for Phase 1 properties is now estimated at $656.86 per year ($54.74 per month) and properties in Phase 2, 3 and 4 is estimated at $360.74 per year ($30.06 per month).

In addition to the debt service, Phase 1 will pay operating and maintenance (O&M) cost while the other phases will continue to pay the current administrative assessment they are paying now.

O&M is estimated to start out at a subsidized rate of $437.68 per year ($36.47 per month) for Phase 1 bringing its total estimated annual bill to $1,094.54 ($91.21 per month). The monthly rate is projected to climb $12 as subsidies expire and additional phases are constructed.

Phase 2, 3 and 4’s administrative fee is currently $79.85 per year ($6.65 per month) for properties with dwellings and varies with the size of the lot for land without dwellings. Lots with dwellings would pay a total estimated annual bill of $440.59 ($36.71 per month). As these phases are constructed, they will also pay O&M costs in place of the administrative fee.

Debt service and O&M for all phases will not be billed monthly but will appear annually on property tax bills.

The board signed the revised inter-local agreement with Missoula County. The board had previously signed it but when it went to the county commissioners it was edited further so it needed to be resigned.

Two significant changes were made. The limit on county employee’s time spent helping the district was removed and a sentence that may have been interpreted as the county commissioners having control over the sewer district’s manager was removed. The county does not have any control over the sewer district’s policy.

The board received a letter claiming to represent approximately 110 landowners near the proposed wastewater treatment plant. The landowners are concerned about their private wells becoming contaminated by the treated water entering the aquifer uphill from their property. The letter specifically asks about medical waste.

Robertson said that the proposed treatment plant does not specifically treat for medical waste because the technology to do so isn’t available.

Medical waste in the wastewater comes from a couple of places including prescription drugs, either ingested and passed through the body or from people flushing extra or outdated medicines down the toilet. Robertson said research is just beginning to explore if there are any health risks associated with drinking water contaminated with medical waste.

Robertson said this is a nationwide issue. If research determines there is an issue, then the technology to filter out medical waste will be developed.

The district must test the treated water for a variety of things before discharging the water into the ground but medical waste is not one of those things. All the treated water passes through an ultraviolet light that kills any microorganisms before discharging into the ground.

Robertson said one simple way to reduce the possibility of having pharmaceuticals getting in the groundwater has already been discussed with the county health department. A public outreach program may be used to discourage people from flushing their extra medications down the toilet. There are other ways to properly dispose of medications.

The next District board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 21, time and location to be announced. Robertson hopes to have the landowner protests counted and be ready to announce results at the meeting so the board can decide if it can move forward with the planned construction or not.

A public information meeting took place Nov. 13. Look for the Pathfinder’s coverage of it in the Nov. 23 issue.


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