Blaine council approves stormwater pond surveying contract

For the past five years, the city of Blaine, like many other communities, has been surveying all stormwater ponds in its community to meet a state mandate that stemmed from the federal Clean Water Act law.

The city of Blaine has been contracting with E.G. Rud and Sons, Inc. of Lino Lakes the past five years. Every year, this company sends people out to survey 20 percent of Blaine’s ponds. This amounts to about 54 ponds a year over five years, according to Blaine’s stormwater manager Jim Hafner.

What they are looking for is whether sediment is building up, Hafner said. It is important to make sure the ponds are functioning properly and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s MS4 stormwater management permit requires this work to be done, he said.

The Blaine City Council on a 4-2 vote Jan. 17 approved a five-year contract extension for E.G. Rud and Sons, Inc. According to Hafner, the survey cost per pond in 2013 would be $450. This dollar amount per pond will increase by $15 a year through the remaining four years. The average cost per year over the five-year period would be $25,920 for a total contract cost of $129,600.

Purpose of pond surveying

This all stems from the 1972 federal Clean Water Act. According to Hafner, the MPCA’s first MS4 permit was required in 2003 and revised in 2006 to map the storm sewer systems.

More recently, the Minnesota Legislature in 2009 required communities and watersheds that need MS4 permits to survey all stormwater systems, including ponds, to determine whether excessive sediment is impacting them and whether this sediment is polluted.

Marni Karnowski, a supervisor for the MPCA’s MS4 program, said sediment could come from excessive soil erosion upstream or naturally. If there is too much sediment in stormwater ponds, it forces water to leave the ponds quicker, which gives the ponds less time to treat the water. Suspended soil particles, such as algae being in the water, hurt the aesthetic quality and could harm aquatic life.

Coon Creek Watershed District Director Tim Kelly said the 2009 Minnesota Legislature was concerned about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) being conveyed from man-made stormwater ponds, wetlands and ditches and getting into natural bodies of water.

Kelly said PAHs are carcinogenic. How mobile the PAHs are could be determined by the pond surveying.

Hafner said with the baseline surveys now done for each pond over the first five years, this second round of surveys will enable the city to see if certain ponds are filling up with sediment. To date, the city has not had to excavate any sediment from ponds.

If sediment must be excavated from a pond, it will need to be tested to see if there are any PAHs or PCBs.

Hafner said E.G. Rud and Sons would be performing the surveys only. If the pond needs to be maintained, the city will bid for those services.

“If they don’t have those type of contaminants, we can dispose of them much like we do during our street sweepings,” Hafner said. “Otherwise, it would require special care and be fairly costly.”

Councilmember Wes Hovland asked if there were any federal or state grants to help with the pond surveying or cleanup and disposal of contaminated sediment.

Hafner told the council that there are no grants available for surveying the ponds. However, there could be funds available for disposing of contaminated sediments, but a community must have an ordinance in place that bans the use of coal tar sealants, which are sometimes used on driveways and parking lots.

Karnowski said the 2009 Minnesota Legislature appropriated $345,000 to provide grant funding for communities that needed to treat and dispose contaminated sediment that came from stormwater ponds.

However, she told ABC Newspapers that the entire $345,000 was awarded in different sets of grants that went to the communities of Buffalo, Circle Pines, Golden Valley, Inver Grove Heights, Roseville and White Bear Lake. A local 50 percent match was required.

Karnowski said the state Legislature could always choose to appropriate more funding for this grant program.

Hafner said the city of Blaine adopted a stormwater utility fee in 2008 that every property owner must pay to help cover the city’s costs for stormwater maintenance, according to Hafner. The 2013 fee for each residential property is $6.25 per quarter. Businesses are billed monthly and pay $21.96 a month.

Even with the council increasing everyone’s stormwater fee by $1 over the 2012 amount, the city’s storm drainage utility fund balance is still projected to significantly decrease from $918,105 at the end of 2012 to $602,380 by the end of 2013.

More revenue is coming in, but there are a number of system repairs and replacements that have been on the city’s list for some time, ditch maintenance and volume reduction projects. These capital projects are financed by the depreciation portion of the city’s storm drainage utility fund.

Hafner said any sediment excavation and treatment would be part of the city’s ongoing maintenance of the system. As the stormwater system ages, there will be more maintenance projects and costs over time.

Hafner said if the MPCA or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires any additional work on top of normal maintenance, then Blaine’s storm drainage utility find would be challenged to meet these costs. This could include the federal or state government requiring city administration reports on standard operating procedures for pond maintenance or asking the city to document how much capacity each pond has, Hafner said.

Bidding process

Councilmembers Dave Clark and Hovland voted against Hafner’s recommendation.

Clark asked who else was asked to submit a bid.

According to Hafner, the only other company that was asked to submit a bid was Carlson McCain, which had a 2013 per pond price of $750.

Hafner said there are other some companies out there that could do the work, but E.G. Rud and Sons, Inc. proposed this five-year plan and has kept their costs low over the past several years. When Hafner looked at other companies in the past, the price was always higher.

Clark said he would like to see more consistency between departments on when they would go with the open bidding process, which requires advertising a job rather than directly asking companies for price quotes.

City Manager Clark Arneson said the city follows state statute regarding the open bidding process requirements. Arneson said the city does not have a policy on this. It did not go beyond the discussion point, but it will be brought back for a future agenda.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]