BENTONVILLE — The City of Bentonville faces a $10 million environmental concern this year if city officials are unsuccessful in their efforts to repeal a 2011 mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"The greatest challenge for Bentonville in 2012 will be the E.P.A. and our efforts to mitigate their unscientific and arbitrary demands," Mayor Bob McCaslin said.
McCaslin is referring to a July 15, 2010 mandate from the E.P.A. that says the total max daily load of phosphorus from the city's wastewater treatment facility into Town Branch Creek should be limited to 0.1 milligrams per liter by February 17, 2017.
The mandate places an unreasonable and burdensome financial penalty on the users of Bentonville's wastewater treatment services, McCaslin said.
The reason the mandate is unreasonable is because there is no scientific rationale for it, said Mike Bender, director of public works.
"The mandate was "recklessly slapped on us," Bender said. "It would be fine if it was scientifically proven, but if it’s not (the city) has a problem spending several million that isn't justified."
The city's wastewater treatment plant, even with improvements, cannot filter phosphorus levels down to 0.1 milligrams per liter, Bender said.
In order to meet The EPA requirement, the city is required to spend an estimated $10 million on advanced filtration membranes. That's money the city would prefer not to spend if it isn't warranted, Bender said.
The city is already taking steps necessary to fight the EPA mandate by commissioning studies of the wastewater treatment facility and by hiring an attorney to represent the city in its battle against the federal agency.
City officials hired Geosyntec to study the science behind the EPA mandate. Geosyntec is a consulting firm with offices all over the world. The company specializes in environmental studies and remediation, natural resource assessment and restoration, and engineering for environmental, water resources, geotechnical and structural infrastructures, according to its website.
The city is also working with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on a comprehensives study of Town Branch creek, according to Bender. Reports from Geosyntec and ADEQ about the validity of the E.P.A.'s mandate as well as the overall health of Town Branch Creek are expected soon, he said.
City officials plan to schedule a meeting with EPA officials as soon as they have reviewed those reports, Bender said.
McCaslin said there are several other challenges he and other city officials plan to address in 2012.
These projects include: completing the Southwest I Street and East Central Avenue widening projects and construction of a new Community Center located at the intersection of Southwest Regional Airport Blvd. and Highway 112 South.
The city is prepared to meet each challenge presented to it by living within its means and avoiding any unnecessary expenditure of tax dollars, McCaslin said.
"We believe Bentonville is a special place and we commit to make it even better through our service to the citizens," McCaslin said.