City ponders wastewater treatment plant options

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Does the city stay, or should it go?

That’s the central question council members face as they ponder a proposed expansion to the wastewater treatment plant. While a move to city-owned property on Baldy Mountain Road would provide greater flexibility and open new options for increased water quality, remaining at the current site along the lakeside near Memorial Field could save costs. According to Steve James of JUB Engineers, a contractor on the project, striking a balance between water quality and cost is key for the plan.

“It doesn’t make sense to have really clean water if nobody can afford it,” James said.

With the city’s wastewater treatment permit up in 2022, officials face the additional requirement of treating for phosphorous. Expanding the treatment plant will satisfy that and other additional requirements that may be necessary for a permit, as well as update aging infrastructure.

The Baldy Mountain Road property offers several advantages, James said. It’s a big site, allowing for a more flexible design and much easier construction. However, at three miles away from the existing site, the city may have to install expensive piping and pump systems. On the other hand, staying at the existing site allows the city to phase in elements gradually, leading to a more manageable cost. Because the site is so crammed with equipment, however, something will need to be removed to make way for new upgrades.

Opening the project up to the Baldy Mountain Road site would also allow the use of new water treatment technologies. According to James, JUB Engineers narrowed the options down from 40 technologies to a final four. The MBR and BioMag treatment technologies offer high water quality, have relatively small size footprints and utilize both sites, but they are also the most expensive options. MBR requires the most energy to function, while BioMag has somewhat reduced energy requirements and water quality.

An upgrade to the existing technology offers a reduced cost, requires a moderate amount of energy and only requires the existing site. However, it has the weakest water quality rating.

Finally, EAAS technology has the largest building footprint and demands the increased space of the new site. However, it has low energy requirements and better water quality than the existing technology. The cost of construction is moderate but bears the additional expense of pump installations.

Planning for the wastewater treatment plant project has unfolded with guidance from the public. A community advisory committee consisting of city officials, local business owners, representatives of major industries and local residents has offered input for what promises to be an expensive, rigorous project. Meanwhile, a technical advisory committee of professionals and city representatives has helped hash out the fine engineering details of the many options under consideration.

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