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Fargo leaders OK negotiations for sending city wastewater to proposed Casselton plant

The plant would use treated wastewater from Fargo's plant, similar to an agreement with Casselton's Tharaldson ethanol plant.

A field of soybeans being harvested
Improved genetics have allowed farmers to grow soybeans further north in the last 25 years or so.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald file photo
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FARGO — Fargo's City Commission has approved continuing negotiations with the proposed North Dakota Soybean Processors plant near Casselton for a major wastewater service project.

It would be similar to an agreement started in 2007 with the Tharaldson ethanol plant near Casselton in which treated wastewater from the north Fargo plant is shipped through a 26-mile, 12-inch pipeline for use in processing.

Most of the treated wastewater is used up in the industrial processing or evaporates with less than half then returned to the city plant where it's treated again and then discharged into the Red River.

Water Reclamation Utility Director Jim Hausauer said any wastewater treated by the regional plant goes through two cleansing systems that result in water of near drinking quality. It can then be sold for industrial uses.

The water meets North Dakota Health Department and federal Environmental Protection Agency standards, Hausauer said.

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City Administrator Bruce Grubb said in presenting the plan to commissioners on Monday night, April 4, that the city would work with the company and the Cass Rural Water Users District on an agreement.

The effort would involve infrastructure improvements including expanding the city's wastewater facility and the pipeline.

The Cass Rural Water Users District would finance the improvements needed, with the soybean company repaying the debt.

Once in place, the city would own and operate the new plant addition, with an estimated cost of about $10 million. Construction could start as soon as later this year.

Based on the quantities sought by the soybean plant, the city would be paid about $900,000 annually in gross revenue, boosting the city's income from its regional plant. Tharaldson currently provides about $1.2 million in gross revenue to the city each year.

The new soybean crushing plant would use about 800,000 gallons per day of the treated wastewater, less than the 1 million to 1.4 million gallons that Tharaldson, one of the top producing ethanol plants in the nation, currently uses per day.

The city currently discharges about 15 million gallons of effluent daily into the Red River, but that would be reduced with the new customer.

Hausauer said engineering studies have shown the reduction in treated wastewater by diverting it for industrial uses would "cause no harm to downstream users."

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In an interview after the meeting, Hausauer said it would be a "win-win" for all involved. He said it would use the treated wastewater, help the plant and provide that added income for Fargo.

Commissioner John Strand asked if it would be a burden on the fresh water supply for Fargo. Grubb said it would have no effect as it's only wastewater.

The new plant would need a very small amount of fresh drinking water, but that would be supplied by the Cass County Rural Water District, Hausauer said.

Fargo also provides sewage treatment and water services for West Fargo, Horace, Oxbow, Harwood and other small communities.

The soybean plant is expected to crush 42.5 million bushels of soybeans in the first year and is a joint venture between the Minnesota Soybean Processors and Louisiana-based CGB Enterprises. Farmers have been strongly in support of the project as another outlet for their crop.

Some Casselton residents, however, have been objecting to the location of the plant arguing it's too close to its residential area with concerns about smell, noise, traffic and light pollution, according to Mayor Lee Anderson.

The mayor, who said he is neutral on the plant location so far, said the company will be having two days of meetings next week to answer questions about the project for residents and even the City Council. They will be at noon and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, and Wednesday, April 13, at the Casselton City Auditorium.

Anderson said the City Council has not yet received a lot of details about the project but said the meetings should help. He said the city's planning and zoning commission will take up the zoning permit needed by the plant in the city's extraterritorial property in late April, with the City Council then making the final decision.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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