SOUTHINGTON — Town officials released bid requests earlier this month for a $57 million upgrade to the water treatment plant.
New state requirements to remove phosphorous from water discharged into rivers prompted the upgrade, which engineering officials say will also modernize equipment, move a portion of the plant out of the Quinnipiac River’s 100-year flood zone and eliminate odor problems.
“We’re thrilled that we’re going to be able to go forward with this. We’re just looking forward to seeing what the bids look like,” said David Zoni, chairman of the town’s sewer committee. “It’s going to be a big change for the treatment plant.”
Voters approved $57 million for the project at a referendum in 2016. Construction costs will be a portion of that with the remainder consisting of engineering costs and inspections.
Public Works Director Keith Hayden said the state will reimburse about $17 million of the project’s total cost.
State and federal officials consider phosphorus an environmental hazard because it causes algal bloom, which depletes oxygen in water bodies and poses a threat to wildlife.
Hayden said town leaders settled on a process whereby a coagulant is added to water at the treatment plant. Phosphorous in the water starts to clump “like oatmeal” with portions of steel added to the mixture, sinking the phosphorous which is then removed.
“It’s a new technology, we did a lot of research,” Hayden said. “The operators that have used it highly recommended it.”
The oldest portions of the plant are from 1958. Newer machinery will operate more efficiently, saving energy costs according to Hayden.
The plant operates at half capacity, allowing the planned upgrades to take place on one half of the plant and vice versa. There’s no projected need for more capacity, Hayden said.
Before water is discharged into the Quinnipiac River, it’s subjected to ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and germs. The structure in which that process takes place will be moved farther from the river to prevent it from being submerged in the event of major flooding.
The first three stages of the water treatment process will be done in an enclosed structure. Zoni said that should eliminate odor problems that have plagued neighbors of the plant on Maxwell Noble Drive.
Bids for construction will be opened Sept. 6. Hayden was encouraged by good quotes for other wastewater treatment plant projects.
Zoni said he was glad the plant would be able to operate in a more environmentally-friendly way, but was concerned about piecemeal regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state. Nearly a decade ago the town added a nitrogen removal process to the plant as a result of new regulations.
“What else are they going to find that they’re going to need us to eliminate?” Zoni said.