MERIDEN — The city is close to awarding a construction contract for a state-mandated $48 million project to lower the levels of phosphorus discharge at the city’s wastewater plant on Evansville Avenue.
The city put the project out to bid earlier this year after design work was completed by the engineering firm AECOM The city plans to enter a contract with the lowest-bidding vendor and is awaiting approval from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to award the contract, according to Frank Russo, manager of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Russo declined to name the possible vendor. Public Utilities Director Dennis Waz didn’t return requests for comment.
According to bid documents, the lowest bid for the project was submitted by C.H. Nickerson & Co., Inc., a Torrington-based contractor that has completed wastewater treatment plant upgrades for several Connecticut municipalities.
Construction is expected to start this summer, Russo said, and will last about 30 months.
“We’re thinking hopefully by July or August they’ll be on site,” he said.
Meriden is on track to enter into a contract by July 1, DEEP’s deadline set for municipalities to receive the maximum amount of state funding.
Meriden is expected to receive state funding for about 38 percent of the project’s costs, or just over $18 million, according to Russo. The city will receive a low-interest loan from DEEP for the remaining costs, which the city will pay back largely through water and sewer rate increases.
Meriden is one of several municipalities, including Wallingford, working to meet the new phosphorus limits. Phosphorus is considered an environmental hazard because it causes algae bloom, which depletes oxygen in water bodies and poses a threat to wildlife, according to DEEP.
Russo said DEEP implemented the stricter phosphorus limits because rivers and streams located downstream from municipal plants were getting “inundated” with algae. When the algae dies, it creates “a huge oxygen demand” for fish and other wildlife.
Russo said Meriden’s project will have two phases, the first of which will include all construction associated with the phosphorus upgrades. The city also plans to make upgrades to an aging pump stations located away from the wastewater plant.
There are different phosphorus filtration methods municipalities can use to lower discharge. Meriden plans to use an “upflow sand filter.” Untreated water will be injected with a coagulant, ferric chloride, which “binds to phosphorus in the water and makes it form larger particles which are easier” to catch as the water moves through the sand filter.
Russo said the plant currently discharges about 0.7 milligrams per liter of phosphorus, which will get lowered to under 0.1 milligram per liter with the new upgrades.
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