Fewer than a dozen people gathered Wednesday evening at an open house at Ashland City Hall to discuss a possible regional wastewater treatment plant in southern Boone County.
Tiff Lauffer, who lives six miles west of Ashland, said that a regional treatment system “is something that has been neglected or just wasn’t done. It should have been done 30 years ago.”
One challenge, however, is finding a site that does not affect environmentally protected areas or the local drinking water supply. Public open houses like the one held Wednesday are designed to solicit information for a two-year, $480,000 project that will evaluate streams in the area. Engineers will collect samples to determine current levels of waste being discharged into the streams. The information will then be fed into a database that will calculate the maximum capacity of waste the stream can handle.
“When you look at an area with environmental concerns, you need to look at how we can undertake this from an engineering point of view,” said principle project investigator Kathleen Trauth of MU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Ashland Mayor Alan Bauer said his city is growing with new subdivisions to the south, north and west. Ashland’s current lagoon system has the capacity to serve the community, Bauer said, but additional capacity “is something we need to address and get some type of plan in place. We are just looking at upgrades so we can handle our growth.”
Tom Ratermann of the Boone County regional sewer said that, without a regional treatment center, the Ashland area could be ringed with interim lagoon systems.
Wastewater treatment in southern Boone County became an issue in 1997 when rezoning for the proposed Centre Point Research Park near Columbia Regional Airport was denied because of lack of infrastructure.
In 1999, a study found a need for wastewater planning in southern Boone County, Ratermann said. Ashland applied for an EPA grant to determine the best environmental and economic location for a treatment center, but the request was denied. In 2002, MU received a $242,500 special infrastructure grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. That money was supplemented with $106,151 in additional funds from MU along with $3,000 from Ashland, $31,000 from the sewer district, and $44,000 from Boone County Commission.
Gilbert Hake, president of the Lake Champetra Homeowners Association, said he came to the meeting to gather information for the association’s board. Hake said that he is interested in a regional sewage system because he wants to keep Lake Champetra healthy and clean.
Another open house to discuss a regional wastewater treatment center for southern Boone County will be held today.