FAQ

When did the ALASD start?

The ALASD was created by an Act of the Minnesota State Legislature in April of 1971. The ALASD assumed responsibility for the existing treatment facilities and collection system on July 1, 1976. The new advanced wastewater treatment facility constructed by the ALASD became operational on October 1, 1977. Return to the top.

What local government units currently comprise ALASD?

Current local units of government that are ALASD members include: the City of Alexandria and the Townships of Alexandria, Carlos, Hudson, Ida, LaGrand and Lake Mary. However, not all of the land within any township is within the ALASD boundary. Return to the top.

Does the ALASD provide contract service?

The ALASD provides collection system and treatment services to the City of Nelson, the City of Forada, a portion of Leaf Valley Township, the Carlos State Park and the two state rest areas located on Highway I-94. Return to the top.

What is the process for annexation?

The annexation process is initiated by a resolution passed by a 4/5 vote of the local unit of government petitioning the ALASD to annex a prescribed land area. Prior to taking any action on the petition the executive director and engineer must provide a written report explaining the impact of such annexation on ALASD treatment and collection facilities. The Douglas County Planning Commission is granted 45 days to comment on the proposed annexation. By a majority vote that ALASD Board may approve or deny the annexation petition. Return to the top.

How big is the ALASD?

The area of the ALASD is over 100 square miles. The ALASD operates and maintains 222.4 miles of gravity sewer, 52 miles of pressure sewer and 4,522 manholes. The ALASD has 21 employees who operate and maintain the treatment facility 119 lift stations, 48 residential or mini-lift station and 124 residential grinder stations. The population of the ALASD is 23,000. Return to the top.

How did the ALASD become a reality?

Local citizens and public officials became concerned about the public health, safety and the environment. The treatment facilities of the city, Holiday Inn and Arrowwood Resort were all in violation of their respective operating permits. Many residential areas experienced onsite system failure primarily caused by tight clay soils and high water tables. After a year of meetings, the local units of government requested the legislature to pass enabling legislation that created the ALASD. Return to the top.

What is the mission or purpose of the ALASD?

The legislature determined in 1971, that in the lake area in and around the City of Alexandria, there were serious problems of water pollution and disposal of sewage could not be effectively or economically dealt with by existing government units under existing laws. The Districts mission is the protection of the public health, safety and welfare of the area, for the preservation and best use of waters and other natural resources of the state in the area, for the prevention, control and abatement of water pollution in the area, and for the efficient and economic collection, treatment and disposal of sewage. Return to the top.

Does the ALASD have a comprehensive plan?

Yes, the ALASD Comprehensive Plan for the treatment facility and interceptor sanitary sewer was updated in 2005. The ALASD owns the treatment facility and all interceptor sanitary sewer facilities. The ALASD does not have the authority to plan, initiate and construct lateral (local) sanitary sewer. Nor does the ALASD have land use authority. Return to the top.

What authority is provided to the local units of government that comprise the ALASD?

The local units of government that comprise the ALASD own the lateral (local) sanitary sewer. The local units of government have the authority to plan, initiate and construct and own lateral (local) sanitary sewer. These same local officials are also responsible for land use planning, the provision of public roads, potable water, some utilities and emergency services. This arrangement allows for planning, coordination and the implementation of improvements at a grass root level. Return to the top.

What is the organizational structure of the ALASD?

The ALASD Board of Directors is responsible for all policies and overall operation of the ALASD. The executive director is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the ALASD and reports directly to the board. Return to the top.

What are the responsibilities of the ALASD board?

The board is assigned by law the responsibility of carrying on a continuous long range program of planning with respect thereto and given the authority to take over, acquire, construct, better, administer, operate and maintain any and all interceptors and treatment works needed for the collection, treatment and disposal of sewage in such area, as well as local sanitary sewer facilities over which the board assumes operation and maintenance responsibility at the request of any local government unit. Return to the top.

How does one become an ALASD board member?

The local units of government that are members of the ALASD appoint board members to terms of 1, 2, 3, or 4 years. Return to the top.

When and where does the ALASD Board of Directors meet?

The board meets the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the ALASD office at 2201 Nevada Street, Alexandria Minnesota. All meetings are open to the public. Return to the top.

How much are the ALASD Board Members paid?

They are paid $80 for each meeting attended. The board chairman is paid $100 for each meeting attended. Return to the top.

What is the responsibility of the Executive Director?

Ensure that all resolutions, rules, regulations, or orders of the board are enforced. Appoint and remove employees, upon the basis of merit and fitness, along with all subordinate officers and regular employees of the board. Present to the board plans, studies and other reports and recommend to the board for adoption such measures, as he deems necessary to enforce or carry out the powers and duties of the board, or the efficient administration of the affairs of the board. Keep the board fully advised as to its financial condition. Prepare and submit to the board, and to the governing bodies of the local government units, the board’s annual budget and such other financial information as the board may request. Recommend to the board for adoption such rules and regulations as he deems necessary for the efficient operation of a district and all local sanitary sewer facilities over which the board may assume responsibility. Perform such other duties as may be prescribed by the board. Return to the top.

What is a treatment facility?

Treatment facility is defined as “any plant installed for the purpose of treating, stabilizing or disposing of sewage, industrial waste, or other wastes.” Return to the top.

What is interceptor sanitary sewer?

Interceptor sanitary sewer is defined as “any sewer and necessary appurtenances thereto, including but not limited to, mains, pumping stations, and sewage flow regulating and measuring stations, which is designed for or used to conduct sewage originating in more than one local government unit, or which is designed or used to conduct all or substantially all the sewage originating in a single local government unit from a point of collection in that unit to an interceptor or treatment works outside that unit, or which is determined by the board to be a major collector of sewage used or designed to serve a substantial area in the district.” Return to the top.

How does the ALASD pay for the capital construction of treatment facility improvements and interceptor sanitary sewer?

By property tax allocation to each local government unit based upon tax capacity and current debt payments; a Wastewater Treatment Expansion Fee (WTEF) paid by all new connections to sanitary sewer and contributions from user charge revenue. Current capital debt will be paid in full within 17 years. The approximate revenue source distribution over those 17 years is 36% from property tax allocation, 37% from the WTEF and 27% from user charge revenue. Return to the top.

What is the current user charge?

The user charge is $23.08/month for a single-family dwelling and $5.10/1000 gallons for commercial and industrial metered customers. A treatment surcharge applies to customers whose waste exceeds the general municipal pollutant loading. This surcharge is intended to cover that additional cost of collection and treatment of these wastes. Currently a surcharge is levied on the wastes discharged by SunOpta Ingredients and SunOpta Asceptic. Return to the top.

What is the user charge revenue use for?

The user charge pays for the operation, maintenance, repair and replacement of the sanitary sewer collection system and treatment facility. All local units of government have entered in to a service contract with the ALASD to operate and maintain the lateral (local) sanitary sewer on their behalf. Return to the top.

What is the asset value the ALASD?

The value of all ALASD assets exceeds $42 million. At year-end 2012 the cash balance of the ALASD was $3,121,304. The ALASD has four separate funds. Each fund has a specific purpose and three funds are restricted for a specific use and monies from these funds cannot be used to subsidize any other fund. The purpose of the Enterprise Fund is for the operation and maintenance of treatment and collection facilities and with a year-end cash balance of $932,607; the Repair and Replacement Fund (restricted) has a cash balance of $12,720;  The  Capital Debt Service Fund (restricted to debt payment) had a cash balance of $2,175,977;. Return to the top.

What is the financial condition of the ALASD?

The financial condition of the ALASD is good according to the ALASD staff and the independent audit firm of Dinham and Folkert, Associates, Chtd. Return to the top.

Are the finances of the ALASD audited?

Yes, the ALASD commissions and annual audit perform by the independent audit firm of Dinham and Folkert, Associates, Chtd. This report is submitted directly to the ALASD board and copies are forwarded to the Office of the State Auditor, bond-rating agencies, to the ALASD’s financial consultant Springsted Incorporated and to the general public in electronic form upon request. Return to the top.

Does the ALASD monitor the quality of area lakes?

The ALASD has voluntarily monitored area lakes since 1976. Since 1984 the ALASD has monitored area lakes for total phosphorus, chlorophyll a, transparency, conductivity, temperature profiles and dissolved oxygen profiles. Lakes currently monitored are Winona, Agnes, Henry, Brophy, Cowdry, Carlos, Le Homme Dieu, Burgen, Geneva, Victoria, Latoka, Ida, Mary and Andrew. Upon request, most of the monitoring data is available electronically with the remaining data available by photocopy. Return to the top.

What is the quality of treated wastewater when it leaves the treatment facility?

The removal efficiency of Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD5) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) exceeds 98% and exceeds 96% of Total Phosphorus (TP). For the most part, the treated wastewater effluent meets state and federal drinking water standards, with the exception of sulfate (salt) concentrations and fecal coliform. The later meets standards when heavy disinfection is implemented. The wastewater effluent also meets permit limits established by the EPA and MPCA. Some of the limits and normal results are shown below. Return to the top.

Constituent Permit Limit Actual Performance
Biological Oxygen Demand 15 mg/l 4-6 mg/l
Totals Suspended Solids 13 mg/l 2-4 mg/l
Total Phosphorus 0.30 mg/l < 0.30 mg/l Effective 2.1.10

Is the ALASD regulated?

The ALASD is regulated most directly by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency. The ALASD is also regulated by most of the same governmental agencies that regulate private employers. Return to the top.

What challenges face the ALASD in the future?

There are two major challenges that face the ALASD and they both may impact ALASD efforts to contain cost. The first and most immediate challenge is to maintain a reasonable and competitive user charge rate in the face of recent dramatic cost increases, particularly for natural gas, fuel, process chemicals and electricity. The second major challenge is a regulatory environment that is continually changing. Return to the top.

Is a TMDL study of Lake Winona taking place?

Yes. This study is under the jurisdiction and control of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Return to the top.

What is a TMDL study?

TMDL is the acronym for Total Maximum Daily Load. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards, and an allocation of that load among the various sources of that pollutant. Pollutant sources are characterized as either point sources that receive a wasteload allocation (WLA), or nonpoint sources that receive a load allocation (LA). Point sources include all sources subject to regulation under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, e.g. wastewater treatment facilities, some stormwater discharges and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Nonpoint sources include all remaining sources of the pollutant as well as anthropogenic and natural background sources. TMDLs must also account for seasonal variations in water quality, and include a margin of safety (MOS) to account for uncertainty in predicting how well pollutant reductions will result in meeting water quality standards.

The TMDL calculates the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a waterbody so that the waterbody will meet and continue to meet water quality standards for that particular pollutant and allocates that load to point sources, (Wasteload Allocation or WLA), and nonpoint sources(Load Allocation or LA), which include both anthropogenic and natural background sources of the pollutant. TMDLs must also include a margin of safety (MOS) to account for the uncertainty in predicting how well pollutant reduction will result in meeting water quality standards, and account for seasonal variations. Return to the top.

How might the results of the TMDL study on Lake Winona impact the ALASD?

After the TMDL study is completed and approved the next phase is the development of an Implementation Plan. Should the Implementation Plan recommend a more restrictive phosphorus limit than the current limit of 0.30 mg/l (300 ppb), the ALASD would likely need to expend additional funds for the capital improvement of the existing treatment facility to provide the capability to remove more phosphorus from the treated effluent, or for a rapid infiltration system that would result in a deep groundwater injection of treated effluent. With either alternative the cost to ALASD customers would be substantial. Return to the top.

How might the results of the study impact the Alexandria area?

The most obvious result is a substantially higher treatment cost that would be passed on to ALASD customers. Depending on a number of factors it may someday result in a moratorium on new connections to sanitary sewer. Return to the top.

What concerns does the ALASD have regarding the TMDL study?

That in an effort to minimize administrative and regulatory costs, the MPCA will strictly adhere to a one size fits all approach using numeric Water Quality Standards (W.Q.S) that may not be representative of shallow lakes and Lake Winona in particular. In the case of shallow lakes the W.Q.S. are designed to increase clarity with the likely result of increased macrophyte (weed) growth throughout the lake. It is the opinion of ALASD shallow lake consultant, Joe Bischoff of Wenck Associates, that reduction in external nutrient loadings is not, in itself, sufficient in itself to attain the clear water state desire by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The ALASD’s principle concern is that the TMDL study will result in high socioeconomic costs coupled with little environmental benefit, if any.

Below is a chart showing annual phosphorus loading from 1978-2012.  The trend line shows continued reduction in phosphorus loading from 1978 to the present.

Below is a chart showing average annual wastewater treatment plant flow in millions/gallons/day from 1978-2012. During this time flow has increased from 0.900 m.g.d. to 2.700 m.g.d. Return to the top.

What is the impact of chloride concentrations on Lake Winona?

Chloride is considered a low level pollutant. The concentration of chloride leaving the ALASD treatment facility is 700 p.p.m. This concentration should not impact fish. An independent laboratory commissioned by the ALASD performs whole effluent toxicity testing annually. This testing indicates that the current chloride concentration does not have a chronic impact on the two most sensitive species found in Lake Winona. Return to the top.

Where does the chloride originate?

The primary source of chloride entering the ALASD wastewater treatment facility is the discharge from water softeners in our homes and businesses. Return to the top.

Can the chloride in the wastewater be removed?

Yes, the chloride can be removed but at a very high cost.. The current user charge rate would likely double and property tax allocation to pay the capital cost would increase by approximately 50%. Return to the top.

What else can be done to lower the concentration of chloride entering Lake Winona?

Other alternatives include the provision of soft water by the municipal supplier, the mandatory installation and use of alternative water softeners throughout the ALASD, or a blanket prohibition on the use of individual water softeners throughout the ALASD. Return to the top.

What is the ALASD doing to prevent sewer backup & overflows?

CSSS collection lines can backup into basements or overflow from a manhole cover. The frequency of backups or overflows is minimized when the sewer pipe is made of plastic, concrete or iron, as opposed to vitrified clay. Preventive maintenance and real-time alarm monitoring of lift stations also results in fewer backups and failure. Usually these occurrences are quickly observed, corrected and cleaned up. The residual material is organic and usually breaks down in a short period of time with no long-term environmental damage. These incidents are reported by the ALASD to the MPCA in accordance with the NPDES Permit. Return to the top.

Do central sanitary sewer systems cause growth?

The ALASD is unaware of any studies that support the thesis that CSSS cause growth. It is likely that CSSS is constructed because local units of government have experienced or anticipate growth. Perhaps population growth and high density development in any area creates the need for CSSS. With population growth, the need for permanent infrastructure CSSS becomes a necessity and is generally more cost effective when a total costing method is used. However, once CSSS is provided, our experience is that developers, builders, and ultimately homebuyer’s prefer these developments.

The Douglas County zoning ordinance provides additional incentive for CSSS service by allowing smaller lot sizes than developments without central sewer. County and city ordinance also requires that provision of CSSS to all new subdivisions within the ALASD boundary. Return to the top.

Do central sanitary sewer systems deplete the groundwater supply?

The more significant issue is whether this removal of water from its source is greater than the natural recharge to that source. In Douglas County, we probably do not need to be concerned unless we develop many large agricultural processing industries, and/or reach a population of several hundred thousand people. (David Rush, Director, Land & Resources, Douglas County Minnesota)

Based upon the Lake Le Homme Dieu Nutrient Study of 2002 and a later report, Dr. John Erdmann of Wenck Associates calculate that only 1% of ALASD treatment facility flow enters Lake Carlos and treatment facility flow reaching the Long Prairie River is near zero discharge. This means that almost 100% of the wastewater discharge of treated effluent is recharged to the groundwater within the ALASD service area, or like SSTS systems, evaporates into the atmosphere. Return to the top.

Flow Flow from ALASD P load P load from ALASD
(mgd) (cfs) (cfs) (%) (lb/yr) (lb/yr) (%)
ALASD plant: Current performance 2.7 4.2 4.2 100% 2,038 2,038 100%
Winona-Agnes-Henry chain 2.4 3.7 2.1 56% 682 420 62%
Lake Le Homme Dieu 20 31 2.1 7% 2,437 147 6%
Lake Carlos 103 159 2.1 1% 6,262 51 1%