Duluth’s wastewater treatment facility in urgent need of repairs

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 8:12 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. -- Duluth’s wastewater treatment facility is in urgent need of millions of dollars worth of repairs.

Last year, the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District faced catastrophic failure in one of its four clarifiers.

“It’s the center-well column that is the main support for the internal mechanisms for the clarifier that collapsed and failed,” said Marianne Bohren, the Executive Director of WLSSD. “That collapsed the rakes and took that clarifier out of service.”

Gone was an important piece of machinery with an important purpose.

“The clarifier themselves is for the solids to settle in the wastewater treatment process,” said Bohren.

After further inspection, WLSSD found similar structural damage to its three other clarifiers.

They were quick to make temporary repairs.

“However, if we don’t do permanent repairs to all four clarifiers, it will impact a 530 square mile region,” said Bohren.

That region consists of 150,000 residential homes, businesses, and local industries like our hospitals and colleges.

With urgency, WLSSD is turning to the state, asking for $17.5 million in funding for a $35 million permanent repair project.

“When we are having trouble with the clarifiers, we need to replace those,” said Sen. Jen McEwen with the DFL. “That is top priority.”

After requests for funding during the last session came up short, Duluth Senator Jen McEwen said she will find a way to bring home the bacon this time around.

″We are going to be prioritizing this and we will get it done one way or the other,” said Sen. McEwen. “Whether it’s through other bonding or other spending allocations.”

In the meantime, WLSSD reminds everyone the temporary repairs are working well.

″We will continue operating in the short term, but we do need these permanent repairs to move forward quickly,” said Bohren. “We have our fingers crossed.”