Marshfield will need to address phosphorus in wastewater
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — “Everything started with the Clean Water Act of 1972,” said Sam Warp Jr., wastewater superintendent for the city of Marshfield. “That’s when the whole mentality started that we have to clean up the water. That is when it really got its start.
“Then the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) put out some guidance in the 1990s, (detailing,) ‘This is how we want you to clean it up.’”
The legislation imposed rules that would be addressed by the Department of Natural Resources.
“Wisconsin is way ahead of the rest of America,” said Warp. “In 2001 it put out statewide standards of 1.0 parts per million (1.0 milligrams per liter) of phosphorus. We were the first state to put out standards like that.
“(Lake) Petenwell and Lake Winnebago, a lot of lakes still turn green because of the phosphorus. They turn green because of algae, and the limiting factor on algae is phosphorus. If you can control phosphorus, then the lakes will not turn green.
“That is what the plan is: limit the amount of phosphorus getting in the waterways that make it down to Petenwell and Winnebago. Down by the Madison chain of lakes, there are a lot of them that turn green, so it is not just here.”
The crew at Marshfield’s Department of Public Works wastewater treatment plant tests phosphorus levels each day of water coming in and going out.
“We currently have about 157 pounds (of phosphorus) per day coming in — that comes from people and industry — and seven pounds going out. They want to get us down to two pounds per day. That last five pounds is very, very expensive,” Warp said.
Full upgrades to the plant would cost $25 million.
“Or you work with the agriculture community just outside of town and help them upgrade their farming practices. If it was free or easy to do, they would have already done it. That is why it takes a partner to do it with them,” said Warp.
“It’s kind of a three-legged stool. The ag community, the city of Marshfield, and then your land and water conservation people/UW-Extension. All three groups will work together to come up with a plan to reduce the amount of nutrients getting into the water,” Warp added. “We do have some options. They are not cheap options. They are going to cost some real dollars.”
As Wisconsin is the forerunner in regulating these standards, the city of Marshfield has no reference point on the steps it will use to address the phosphorus issue. However, the city and its partners will have time to explore their options.
“Once we get our next discharge permit from the DNR, which will probably be in 2017, we will know what our timetable is,” said Warp. “It will be somewhere between five and nine years.”