After receiving an order from the Department of Natural Resources in 2009 to replace its aging sewer system and make major upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, the city has only spent about $2.5 million of its $30 million budget so far. But that figure is right on track, said Public Works Director Bill Beck.
“A lot of what we’ve done up until now has been discovery work, gathering data,” Beck said. “All the smoke testing of the sewers is finished and we’ve also done all the camera inspection and cleaning we’re going to do in this phase. These major projects that spread over multiple years, they take time and there are stages you have to go through to get everything set.”
Once the smoke testing and cleaning was complete, staff put the data into the city’s GIS system, allowing engineering firm Olsson Associates to asses the amount of work needed, Beck said.
“Olsson is working on that scope of work, detailing exactly what we need to do, where,” he said. “Everything we’ve done so far is cheap compared to what we’re going to have to do. Gathering information is a lot easier than digging up sewer lines, replacing pipe and building overflow basins. Wastewater repairs are very expensive, so while we haven’t spent that much so far, the major expenses are ahead of us.”
One of those major projects is $3.4 million in upgrades to the city’s three wastewater treatment plants. Approved by the council during its meeting Monday, the improvements will help the city meet new permit requirements.
“We have disinfection at both the central and southeast plants and we’re now required to remove more organic material from water so you don’t have bacteria still in there,” Beck said. “There are a few ways to do it, but we’ll be using ultra-violet radiation treatment.”
Workers will instal specialized tubes that will force wastewater through channels to subject it to the radiation, killing any bacteria left behind.
“We have a lot to do to get that online,” Beck said. “Put in new pipe valves, build a concrete structure to make sure there we have the proper sized channels for the amount of flow we have. It’s going to take about a year to complete.”
Beck noted that by rolling the upgrades into the $30 million DNR project, the city is saving time and money.
“By doing this all at once we don’t have to pay multiple fees,” he said. “It’s a small project, compared to some of the others we’ll be doing, but it’s a much- needed one. And anywhere we can save money, we do.”
With some sewer projects expected to go to bid toward the end of the year, Beck estimated work could start by late winter or early spring.
“We have until 2016 to get everything finished,” he said. “And right now we’re still on schedule to meet that deadline.”