Osage Basin Gives Up Permit
By Richard Dean Prudenti
The Morning News
Thursday, November 03, 2005
TONTITOWN -- A permit to discharge treated wastewater will be transferred from the Osage Basin Wastewater District to the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority.
Osage district members approved the transfer Wednesday, helping the larger regional authority speed up the process of getting a discharge permit to serve several cities in Northwest Arkansas.
The permit allows the discharge of only 500,000 gallons per day into Osage Creek, which was never enough even to serve the district's own members Cave Springs, Highfill and Tontitown officials say.
The transfer saves time and money for the authority that plans in the future a capacity of 80 million gallons per day discharge.
"We want to serve all of your communities," said Chris Weiser, vice chairman for the authority board.
Cave Springs and Tontitown belong to the authority, and Highfill has applied to become a member.
Charles Digby, representing Highfill on the Osage district board, expressed concern that one city has the power to keep another from joining. Participating authority municipalities must unanimously agree to admit a city.
"I've heard rumors Tontitown won't let us in," Digby said, saying Tontitown has not yet signed a document to let Highfill become a member two months after the agreement was sent out.
To temper the mood, Osage district chairman Chuck Bell representing Cave Springs said, "What we're here for is to get service to all of the cities in Northwest Arkansas."
The process of obtaining necessary signatures from local and state authorities usually takes several months, said John Sampier, executive director of the authority.
The transfer of the permit means the Osage district will one day cease to exist.
Officials believe the construction of one wastewater treatment plant makes greater sense than two plants serving areas of Benton and Washington counties.
The first phase of the project will provide enough capacity to serve Bentonville, Centerton and possibly Highfill if the city becomes a member, Weiser said.
Authority officials hope to begin operating the facility in late 2008.
Osage district members agreed to abandon an easement and plans to install interceptor lines along Lick Branch from the Highfill city limits to the Osage site.
In exchange, Theresa Pockrus who represents herself and several property owners along the creek agreed to drop an appeal of the Osage permit to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.