WALLINGFORD — Proposed upgrades to the town’s aging wastewater treatment plant are projected to cost about $86 million.
The work will be done to meet stricter phosphorus discharge limits and upgrade other processes at the plant, which has not been overhauled since it opened in July 1989. Most existing systems and equipment are near the end of their useful life, officials have said.
The first phase, estimated to cost $55.7 million, will address the state-mandated phosphorus limits, according to a presentation given to the Public Utilities Commission this week by AECOM, a firm hired to design the project. The project’s first phase was previously projected in March to cost $47 million .
The second phase, estimated to cost $30.8 million, will upgrade other equipment and processes, including nitrogen removal.
Wallingford is eligible for state funding to pay for a portion of the phosphorus removal upgrades and a low-interest loan for the remaining phosphorus costs. To receive the maximum amount of state funding possible for the phosphorus upgrades, the town needs to meet a series of state deadlines, including entering into a construction contract by July 1, 2019, beginning construction no later than April 1, 2020, and completing the phosphorus upgrades by April 1, 2022.
The second phase is expected to be completed from 2023 to 2033 and will be broken down into “smaller subprojects” to level out the impact on ratepayers. The second phase includes $9.7 million to upgrade the plant’s process for handling solid waste, $7.2 million to replace various equipment and $3.5 million to expand lab space, which is undersized based on current standards, according to the presentation given by AECOM.
Much of the project will be funded through water and sewer rate increases.
Public Utilities Director Richard Hendershot could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he anticipates the project will have a large impact on rates.
“I don't know how there could not be,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson wasn’t aware of the new cost estimates on Wednesday, but expressed concern.
“Other communities that have undertaken this are showing significant increases in water and sewer rates,” said Dickinson, who has long been opposed to the new phosphorus mandates. “The economy isn't good. At one time, 90 to 95 percent of this was paid for through state and federal funding. Well, they don't have the money, so where are we supposed to get the money?”
Earlier this year, the Meriden City Council approved a rate increase of 5.7 percent that will take effect this fall. As a result, the average home consuming 3,000 cubic feet of water per year, will pay $31 more for water and sewer annually.
Wallingford is one of many municipalities undertaking upgrades to meet stricter discharge limits enacted by the state. Phosphorus is naturally present in human waste but is also added to drinking water as an anti-corrosive for pipes to eliminate lead contamination. Phosphorus is considered an environmental hazard because it causes algae bloom, which depletes oxygen in water bodies and poses a threat to wildlife.
Officials will hold a public workshop on the project on 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 315 of Town Hall.