A group of Chanhassen residents is up in arms over the city’s plans to build a water treatment plant in their Lake Harrison neighborhood, citing concerns about a chlorine accident and the possible loss of property values due to the plant’s look and purpose.
The plant, estimated to cost $19.7 million, is slated to be built on city-owned land. It would rid the water supply on the west side of town of iron and manganese; an existing plant serves the east side of Chanhassen.
The homeowners group is urging the city to consider other locations for the water plant. City officials said that an alternative location would boost the cost as much as $2.8 million.
But Steven Mueller, the homeowners group’s spokesman, said: “We’ve got to be really thoughtful and intentional and get this right. Is that still the best location?”
In the end, the Planning Commission voted 4 to 0 on Tuesday to recommend that Chanhassen move forward with the plant. The City Council is expected to take a final vote on Sept. 26.
Mayor Denny Laufenburger said he’s been aware of the group’s opposition for months. But plans for the plant have been posted on the city’s website since before houses were built in the Lake Harrison neighborhood, he said.
Homeowners also worry that the plant would look even less attractive if the Department of Homeland Security mandates new national requirements for securing water distribution.
“It will look like a prison,” said Jag Reddy, a neighbor who works for a water engineering company.
City officials disagree. If that security level is ever required, Laufenburger said, the least of the city’s worries will be an ugly fence.
He added that he understands the need to be “ever vigilant” with security after 9/11, and doesn’t want to dismiss residents’ anxieties.
Not everyone is against the plans. Residents Marsha and Paul Theis said they’re eagerly anticipating the facility. Their water is rust-colored due to iron and manganese, Marsha Theis said, waving an oversized photo of her discolored bathroom sink, and they’re tired of it.
“I find [the homeowners group’s] scare tactics with the Homeland Security thing to be a bit over the top,” she said.
As a chemist, though, she said that she’d like to see the plant use oxygen to clean the water instead of chlorine.
Reddy also asked why the city hadn’t considered using a different method, since chlorine can be toxic if spilled. Technology has progressed since plans for the plant were made, he said.
As the meeting drew to a close, Kate Aanenson, community development director, said the timing of the project wasn’t being debated — the City Council had already discussed that.
But other commission members added comments to the recommendation. Mark Randall said the city needed to be sure it was making the best choices, not just the easiest ones. And John Tietz said the City Council should review alternate filtration processes, even if they were more expensive.
City staffers are preparing a report on why chlorine was picked as a filtration method, Laufenburger said.
The opposition hasn’t given up, Mueller said. Group members will attend the Sept. 26 City Council meeting to argue their points again.
“Everything seems to be aligning to ‘just following protocol’ and rubber stamping this project,” Mueller said.
If the council approves, construction is scheduled to start in November, and the plant would begin operating in April 2018.
Erin Adler 612-673-1781