RHINELANDER - You can imagine the kinds of things that end up in the port-a-potties during the four-day Hodag Country Fest each summer. The event produces up to 300,000 gallons of sewage with beer cans and other items that can't be processed floating in the mix.
Now, all that sewage will get treated by the City of Rhinelander.
The city and the Country Fest owners agreed to filter and treat the sewage at the city's plant along Highway 17 a few miles south of town.
According to Public Works Director Tim Kingman, Country Fest has been interested in such a deal for years, but Rhinelander didn't have proper equipment to sift through beer cans, bottles, and other solid items from Country Fest, nor did it always have the capacity.
That started to change after the city built its new treatment plant in 2011.
Through a City Council vote Monday night, Rhinelander agreed to pay for two-thirds of a $35,855 pricetag on a 'Mega Screen Septic Receiving System" that gets the job done. Country Fest will pay for the other third.
The equipment, which is essentially an 8-foot by 6-foot box screens out "undesirable" materials, which a worker with a rake sends to a different shoot for disposal. The liquid waste goes through the filter while the solids that can't biodegrade go to the landfill.
"It is a fair share negotiation and it is a benefit to parties even beyond those who negotiated," Kingman said.
The deal could mean 10 to 15 deliveries of sewage per day brought in from Country Fest by a private contractor. Kingman says the treatment plant has more than enough space to handle the extra load, which will equate to about 15 percent of the waste the city treats every year.
The plant processes about 1,900,000 gallons of waste each year. Liquid waste generally gets treated in about two days, then pumped into the Wisconsin River as cleaner fluid than the river itself, Kingman said.
Rhinelander brings in upwards of $100,000 in revenue from septic and holding tank waste companies sending waste through the system. The treatment plant currently operates at about 50 percent capacity.
Country Fest has hired private companies to haul its waste away each year, but that can get expensive. Kingman sees this deal as win for both sides.
"The city and all the community members have a strong backing of this event because it provides so much benefit to our community," Kingman said.
The city and Country Fest need to sign a finalized Memorandum of Understanding before the deal is complete.
The city ordered the new equipment just hours after the Council approved its purchase. Kingman expects it to arrive by July 1, in time for the festival which starts July 11.