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Wells authorized for Onaway wastewater plant cleanup

December 7, 2011
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ONAWAY - More wells to monitor any lingering contamination that may be at Onaway's wastewater plant have been authorized by the city commissioners.

All four members of the Onaway City Commission present at Wednesday's meeting voted to authorize the hiring of a well driller to install the wells; Commissioner Chuck Abshagen was absent. Sagasser & Associates, a Gaylord-based environmental consulting firm, estimated the wells will cost $10,000 to $15,000 to install, City Manager Joe Hefele said.

"It's very important that we get them in as soon as possible," Hefele said.

The wells are part of a cleanup process that began in October 2010 after Onaway Public Works employees discovered an underground pipe carrying ferric chloride had been cut. The pipe, which ran from the wastewater plant building to the plant's lagoons, dumped as much as 9,000 gallons of ferric chloride into the surrounding soil.

Once the spill was discovered, city officials notified the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, who recommended they hire an environmental consultant to direct a cleanup of the spill. Sagasser & Associates recommended the contaminated soil be dug up and taken to a licensed landfill, replaced by drain stone, and topped with clean soil. The soil removal, along with the installation of several test wells, was done earlier this year, Hefele said.

After the additional wells are installed, samples taken from them will be used to determine what other steps need to be taken to clean up the site, Hefele said.

Ferric chloride is an acidic and corrosive chemical compound, and Hefele said it is used at the waste water plant to control phosphorous levels in the lagoons.

In his report to city council, Hefele said that Sagasser & Associates would contact drillers qualified to install the wells and stressed the timeliness of the matter.

"It is imperative that we keep things moving, as this monitoring will go a long way in determining whether any additional action is necessary, and we need that info to determine our costs associated with cleanup," he wrote.

City officials believe the line was cut some time during construction of the wastewater plant, which was built between 2003 and 2005, Hefele said. The city has filed suit against the contractor that built the plant and the engineering firm that oversaw construction.

In other business, the lift for the courthouse's newly constructed stair tower is ready to be delivered and should be installed by the end of winter, Hefele said. The lift will provide access to the second and third stories for people with disabilities, and the stairs around it will provide a second entrance and exit for the third floor. This second means of egress means the third floor can now be restored and occupied, preferably by public offices, Hefele said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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