Big Lake Wastewater

We have been working on planning a wastewater treatment project for the homes and facilities around Big Lake. There are over 250 homes and seasonal cabins around the lake, and bigger water users such as the Sawyer Community Center and Mash-Ka-Wisen, and many of the septic systems are already failing, or out of compliance. Because of the high density of housing development, and the lack of space or suitable soils for installing new septic systems, we needed to consider all of the options available for managing wastewater, so that we can protect Big Lake for fishing, boating and safe swimming, and protect individual drinking water wells.

The first step was completing a feasibility study, paid for by a state Clean Water Partnership grant. We organized a steering committee with members representing Fond du Lac, Carlton County, the Big Lake Association, WLSSD, and eventually Perch Lake Township. MSA Professional Services was hired to evaluate all the reasonable alternatives for managing wastewater in the Big Lake area, and advise the steering committee on the best approach. Through mass mailing, a newspaper story, and three public meetings, the steering committee brought information on the progress of the feasibility study to the public, and presented a final feasibility study report in May 2004 (copies available in the Cloquet Public Library, the Fond du Lac Tribal Center Library, Sawyer Community Center, and the Fond du Lac Resource Management Division). The recommendation was to build a small-diameter wastewater collection system, sending it to a local treatment plant that will settle and disinfect the wastewater, then discharge to recirculating sand filters. The treated wastewater would ultimately seep into surrounding wetlands for the final purification.

In 2004, Fond du Lac received a grant from the EPA to continue the wastewater planning process for Big Lake. MSA is still working with us on the engineering and design. Perch Lake Township has retained an attorney to prepare an application for creating an independent sanitary district, whose board of directors will make policy and administrative decisions about the wastewater system. Fond du Lac is working closely with the attorney on the financial and legal issues associated with building and operating a wastewater system that will serve both tribal and non-tribal residents. We are still gathering information about existing systems and the range of incomes, so that we can begin working on grant and loan funding to build the recommended wastewater system.