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The City of West Fargo is now one step closer to decommissioning the wastewater sewage lagoon treatment system on the north side of town. Starting Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, the City of West Fargo began sending 1 million gallons per day of wastewater (water that has been used in a home, business or as part of an industrial process) to the City of Fargo for treatment. The two cities entered into an agreement July 2017 for the City of West Fargo to utilize the City of Fargo’s sewer services by connecting with and using the wastewater collection and treatment facilities of Fargo.
The construction of a 3-mile force main from the City of West Fargo’s sewage lagoon network near 19th Avenue N. to a connection point at the intersection of Ninth Avenue N. and Ninth Street E. began in 2018 and was completed in October this year. While the initial flow will start at 1 to 1.5 million gallons per day, it will eventually increase to demand levels of 6 to 6.5 million gallons per day on average and 14 million gallons per day at peak times.
The existing wastewater lagoon treatment system in West Fargo is a series of 10 lagoon cells covering 600 acres of land, including 460 acres of actual treatment area that equates to 440 million gallons of storage. Ninety percent of the lagoon cells will be decommissioned using a cost-effective air drying process once the flow sent to Fargo is ramped up to full capacity. This process is expected to begin in 2020 and is estimated to take 5-10 years. One small lagoon cell will remain active for emergency situations or other solid waste disposal needs that may arise.
The City of West Fargo constructed the $5.5 million force main with capital improvement funds raised through the City’s sales tax. Under the 20-year agreement between the cities, the City of Fargo will bill the City of West Fargo for treatment at an initial rate of $3 per one thousand gallons of wastewater conveyed to Fargo. This initial rate will remain fixed for the first four years and may be adjusted by the City of Fargo in proportion to the rate increases of other regional users and users within the City of Fargo. Residents or properties served within West Fargo will continue to be billed by the City of West Fargo. The City of West Fargo is also responsible for the construction and continued maintenance of the City’s sewer system and connection to the City of Fargo.
Additionally, the City of West Fargo retains the right to set the rates billed to residents under this agreement. The City of West Fargo is currently conducting a utility rate study to ensure utilities fees are collected at a self-sustaining rate for the cost to provide services. The current sewer rates are charged on a monthly basis for the prior month’s service based on the same metered water consumption used to calculate a resident’s water bill. The rates are comprised of a $9 monthly service fee and an additional charge of $1 per 1,000 gallons of flow greater than 10,000 gallons.
The sewer regionalization project came about due to the rapid growth of the City. A 60-acre lagoon pond was added in 2014 to address the growth, but current and future capacity demands for wastewater treatment continue to be a concern. The lagoons also go through an annual blooming process during the transition from winter to spring that causes the ponds to emit a strong, unpleasant odor as the normal organic treatment process restarts.