LEADWOOD – Leadwood city officials met Monday morning with representatives from Taylor Engineering, Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and the USDA to discuss how the city can return to compliance with its wastewater/sewer treatment plant.
The meeting, led by State Rep. Linda Black, D-Bonne Terre, was seen as a first step in resolving problems with the plant. However, the problems require much more than a quick fix, especially since the city also is having problems with its drinking water.
And, until the audit is completed, getting the necessary information for a loan or grant to address the problems will be difficult at best.
City officials signed a settlement agreement with the DNR and the Attorney General’s office in 2006 after a routine compliance inspection the previous year revealed sludge in the stream below the city’s wastewater treatment facility as well as an unnamed tributary to the Big River.
According to the settlement agreement, DNR staff observed “…the presence of filamentous organisms keeping the activated sludge from settling properly in the clarifier and causing solids to pass over the weir of the clarifier into the receiving stream.” The issue put the city in violation of several state laws, including the Clean Water Act.
The agreement settled claims against the city by the state. In it, Leadwood agreed to pay $35,000 in fines and paid $3,500 of it up-front. The remaining fine was suspended on the condition that Leadwood does not violate the Clean Water Act again and meets the other conditions of the agreement. Within 18 months, the city was to address inflow and infiltration and must submit a complete construction permit application or an inflow/infiltration plan reductions plan prepared by a Missouri licensed professional engineer. Within 60 days of the agreement, the city was supposed to submit an evaluation of sludge storage and handling.
Failure to follow the conditions, including payment of the civil penalty would allow the state to pursue the matter in court.
The agreement was signed by then Jim Stahlman, who was mayor of Leadwood at the time.
“They have complied to an extent, but we don’t feel they’ve satisfied all the areas that should have been satisfied, said Mary Ann Sutter, DNR enforcement case manager.
If the city completes the conditions of the agreement, the DNR will drop the remainder of the $35,000 fine. However, if the problems with the wastewater/sewer plant are not corrected, the city will have to pay that fine.
Aldermen Anna Woods and Ken Meinershagen, along with Mayor Dennis Parks, said one problem the city has had in fulfilling the conditions is the frequent change in leadership.
Stahlman walked out of a meeting and quit in July 2006. Jeff Mahurin held the seat until 2009, when Bill Link won the election. Link resigned in August 2009 after pressure from the board to do so. Mayor Pro Tem Donnie Eaton stepped in as mayor until October, when the board voted Dennis Bayless in as mayor until the April 2010 election. John Hartley won the mayoral seat in that election.
Hartley resigned in November, and Dennis Parks has served as mayor since then.
Several changes of aldermen also occurred during that period, due to elections and resignations.
The lack of continuity contributed to the city not getting an audit done since 2005. Without the audit, the city will not qualify for grants and will find it difficult to prove financial stability when applying for loans or grants.
“You will need three years of financial statements,” said Terry Luetkemeyer of the USDA’s Rural Development loan agency. “You need to show that you can handle incurring a debt and support a bond issue.”
City Clerk Sarah Moyers said the person hired to prepare records for audits from 2006 through 2009 cut back on work after Police Chief Jerry Hicks died in December.
“She wanted to give us time to grieve,” Moyers said.
Parks had hoped that paperwork would be ready for the audits by the end of December. He said he has not been given a time frame for the audits to be completed.
Audits for 2010 and 2011 also need to be done.
Problems with the water/sewer plant are bad enough that the city needs to build a new treatment facility. Although the board under Hartley agreed to hire Taylor Engineering to serve as consultants and to review the facility’s needs, no contract has yet been negotiated, said Tim Robbs of Taylor Engineering. A separate contract would be needed for the company to write and engineering review/plan, he added.
There are many steps to getting approval for a loan or one of the Rural Development grants, Luetkemeyer told the board. Among those steps are an environmental review, a facility plan and passage of a bond issue. A possible complication is the prevalence of lead in the soil.
The DNR also has loans for water and waste water infrastructure. However, neither the DNR nor the USDA have funds to help cities get their financial and other information needed to apply for loans or propose a bond issue.
Parks said the city’s drinking water has problems.
“We can’t meet standards for drinking water now. We can’t pass a bond issue if people don’t have water,” he said.
Meinershagen said he has only 17 pounds of water pressure, which is several pounds less than normal pressure. He has a pump to increase the water pressure for showers.
Margaret Yates of SEMO Regional Planning suggested that the city consider passing a bond for one project and a second bond for the other project.
Aldermen later said they do not believe residents would approve two bonds.
DNR staff said it was important not only to design a facility that corrects current problems, but also addresses changes that are coming down the road. In response to a request from Parks, DNR staff noted that state law requires that first preference be given to products made in Missouri and/or America.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at email@example.com.