Sewer system upgrade in Afton intended to protect the St. Croix

The sewer would replace private septic systems, many of which risk contaminating the river during floods.

St. Croix River near Afton aerial photo

St. Croix River near Afton, photo via Wikipedia.

The city of Afton is seeking funding to build a $4 million sewer system downtown, which has been inundated by water during big St. Croix River floods in the past. When those floods occur, septic systems can contaminate the water.

The city council member who represents the downtown area told the Pioneer Press that the project is needed to ensure the river is protected. “It’s important that we do this to protect the river. We’re a river town, and we need to be good stewards of the river,” Bill Palmquist said.

Because of the high costs of the system, the city is looking for as much financial help as possible. Their stated goal is to keep costs to property-owners to roughly the same amount as a new septic system might cost.

The city is requesting $1 million from the Minnesota Pollution Agency, as well as funding from the Department of Natural Resources. A $260,000 grant from the Board of Water and Soil Resources has already been secured.

The project is described on the city’s website as a complex plan:

The entire Project is complex and has many sub-parts, including the County Road 21 project through the Village, removing septic systems from the levee, removing residences from the floodplain, managing flooding events of the river and Kelle’s Creek and providing a “cluster” wastewater collection and treatment system for non-compliant and floodprone septic systems in the Old Village.

According to a report on the project, 30 percent of properties in the area currently have non-compliant septic systems, which are either risking surface water or groundwater.

In addition to protecting the St. Croix from contamination during flooding, the project would also reduce health risks from sewage spills and make way for improvements to Afton’s levee.

The project was the subject of a public hearing on May 6th. Contact Afton City Hall at 651-436-5090 with questions.

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