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Emerald Park owner disputes bill

City wants to collect for reserve capacity

Dec. 7, 2006

Attorneys representing Veolia Environmental Services, owner of the Emerald Park Landfill, have filed a lawsuit against the city of Muskego, disputing a $439,000 bill from the city.

The bill is for the reserve sewer capacity the city acquired from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District in 2002. Each community that ties into the regional sewerage district operates its own sewer service, but ultimately that effluent is sent to one of two treatment facilities run by MMSD.

The lawsuit was filed at the Waukesha County Courthouse on Nov. 7, several months after Veolia received a bill from the city.

In 1999, MMSD held public hearings as part of the 2010 Smart Growth plan, which set the city of Muskego's sewer capacity to 2010. While MMSD set parameters of how much sewer capacity could be used, it was up to the city to bill its sewer customers and Veolia was among several new sewer customers receiving the city's sewer service.

"In 1999 we disclosed what our capacity was going to be," said Mike Slattery, of Veolia Environmental Services. "And we said there was going to be no increase in service or capacity."

At issue is how the city classified the southeast side landfill as a future user versus an existing user, which is the main source of contention in the lawsuit because an existing user pays about five times less than a future user. The future user rate applied to the portion of the landfill that expanded after 1999. Even though officials from the landfill said they weren't going to increase in service or capacity, they had already expanded the landfill.

Now, the city is trying to sort out exactly how much Veolia should pay.

"The city is attempting to receive payment for the reserve sewer capacity the city has already paid to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District," said City Attorney Stan Riffle, adding that the city pays MMSD in advance to obtain capacity rights for sewer.

The city has already filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit because the statute of limitations has run out on the matter. At the time, Veolia was required to pay either the whole bill or make an installment plan, but didn't do either, Riffle said.

The original bill was for $349,000, but the city has added on interest.

"Emerald Park is saying that some of the new expansion is being served by a holding tank and we're talking about that," Riffle said. "That's what we're trying to figure out."

What complicates things further is that Emerald Park, previously owned by Superior, was purchased by Veolia in 2002 and initially operated under the name of Onyx.

"Veolia recognizes they owe something, but I believe we will reach an agreement on this before it goes in front of a judge. We're trying to work this out," Riffle said.

Slattery agrees that the two sides are trying to work out their differences before going to court.

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