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City contributes funds to fight phosphorus limits

Bemidji is already meeting a new requirement for phosphorus discharge, yet the City Council on Monday decided to contribute $1,000 to a fight against the new level restriction.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota, to which Bemidji belongs, is threatening a lawsuit with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency over its new requirement for all new or expanding wastewater treatment facilities to meet a 1 milligram per liter phosphorus limit. Phosphorus causes algae blooms in lakes.

Bemidji's limit is .3 mg/L, so it already is meeting the requirement.

However, the new requirement could affect 35 communities, costing about $135 million throughout the next five years, according to the CGMC.

The City Council in April this year voted to contribute $1,500 to lobby against the MPCA's new phosphorus limit. On Monday, the council voted to contribute an additional $1,000. Councilor Onen Markeson voted against both contributions.

Councilor Nancy Erickson said the MPCA itself has said the new limits will unlikely have any noticeable effects on the water quality.

Markeson argued that the MPCA is trying to clean waters in Minnesota and the city already is meeting the requirement.

The city already is financially strapped, he said.

Erickson said Bemidji is a member of the coalition and should join its fellow cities in fighting an unfair requirement.

"As a coalition, we work together as a group, as a team," she said.

Councilor Ron Johnson said the coalition is fighting, along with Bemidji, to have local government aid restored, which would benefit the city. Even though this particular issue does not affect Bemidji, he said it affects other coalition cities.

"It's a coalition - that means you work together," he said.