Farmer says plant hurts his profits

Sep 13 2010 - 11:20pm

WILLARD -- Farmer Tom Hall, who leases school trust lands north and west of the Willard-Perry wastewater treatment plant, told the city council recently that runoff from construction of the plant has already harmed profits from the land and will continue to harm the land once the plant is operational.

Hall harvests seed from native plants to sell for state land reclamation projects.

During the city council meeting, Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, said the application for operation of the plant had been appealed by Western Resource Advocates. The sewer board recently met with the Department of Water Resources and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

"We are well above the compliance of the current state standards," Councilman Corey Barton said. "A discharge ditch will be built, and the injunction will be lifted. The initial discharge permit will be issued. They do not have any idea what the effects will be other than we'll be putting in more water."

Councilman Mitch Zundel added that every treatment plant in Utah drains into Great Salt Lake.

Sewer board chairman Steve Pettingill said the sewer is not yet in operation and therefore there is no runoff. He said permits for the runoff were approved by the Army Corps of Engineers to flow into the existing canals southwest of the treatment plant.

The canals currently are being used for Willard Bay runoff.

Easements for the canal and runoff were obtained from the state of Utah, the landowner. The easements for the sewer are 12.5 feet on either side of the canal.

Hall said, during construction of the treatment plant in spring 2009, the construction crew hit a spring while digging under Interstate 15.

"The construction crew brought in two large diesel pumps and ran two lines of water into a culvert and started to de-water the area," he said.

The discharge ditch water ran onto the land farmed by the Hall family, making the land unusable for harvesting native plant seed.

Foxtail barley and other broadleaf plants started to invade the land leased by the Hall family.

"Invasive broad leaf plants kill native salt grass, making the land unusable," Hall said.

In dry years, the grass has large heads of seed. In wet years, the grass grows tall and the seed heads are smaller, cutting into the profits of the Hall family.

During the construction phase of the project, Hall said, water was discharged onto the land west of the treatment facility.

"Think about that jungle of plants. Now think about that with a bunch of fertilizer thrown on that," Hall said, referring to the phosphates and nitrogen that will be discharged from the wastewater plant once it is operational.

Hall said he and his father have tried to talk to the city of Willard and to Sunrise Engineering about the water runoff but have been told that, because they are not the landowners, the groups do not need to work with the Hall family.

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