September 11, 2017 09:47AM
By Matthew Zabierek,
WALLINGFORD — The Town Council on Tuesday will consider spending an additional $600,000 for a study to evaluate the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
In December 2015, the Sewer Division budgeted $500,000 in its 2016-17 capital budget for the wastewater facility plan. That amount would be augmented by the $600,000 budget amendment the council will consider.
The Sewer Division is preparing the facility plan for “anticipated changes in the permitted phosphorus discharge” allowed by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, according to a memo written by Neil Amwake, general manager of the Water and Sewer Divisions.
The plan has two phases. The first includes studies of three phosphorus treatment technologies, according to Amwake’s memo. The second involves a comprehensive evaluation of the existing wastewater treatment facility, including structures, equipment and processes.
“The town’s wastewater treatment plan has been in continuous operation for more than 28 years with no comprehensive study undertaken in that time period to thoroughly review, assess and evaluate the equipment or processes,” Amwake said in the memo, which was sent last month to Public Utilities Director Richard Hendershot.
Reached by phone, Amwake declined to elaborate.
“There are aspects and parts of the plant that really need to be repaired and replaced as anyone would expect after that length of time,” Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said last week.
The total cost of the facility plan is estimated at $1.1 million. Amwake explained in his memo that the town is eligible to receive a state grant for 55 percent of the cost, about $605,000, once construction begins.
“With a 55 percent reimbursement grant, the town will be eligible to receive reimbursement of $605,000 once construction is initiated, resulting in a net cost to prepare the facility plan of approximately $495,000; an amount nearly equal with the original budget appropriation,” the memo said.
The Public Utilities Commission voted last week to approve the additional $600,000.
The levels of phosphorus discharge from the wastewater facility are regulated by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit issued by DEEP, the memo said. It is anticipated that DEEP will issue a draft renewal permit in April 2018 with lower levels of permitted phosphorus discharge.
Wallingford is one of 11 municipalities in Connecticut that have been or will be issued “discharge permits for total phosphorus at or below an average monthly concentration of .31 mg/L,” according to the memo.
These municipalities are eligible to receive a grant for 50 percent of the design and construction costs for the phosphorus removal project, provided that they enter a construction contract for the project prior to July 1, 2019. If the town doesn’t enter a contract prior to that date, the grant would only cover 30 percent of the project costs.
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 blooms, which depletes oxygen in water bodies and poses a threat to wildlife.
The construction cost for the phosphorus removal was estimated at $19 million in 2012, Amwake’s memo said.
The town is required to complete the project so that the treatment process is fully operational to achieve the new phosphorus limits no later than April 1, 2022.
The town put out a request for qualifications for a consulting service to prepare the facility plan in April. The town has since “invited the top-ranked firm to enter into negotiations to establish the scope of services, compensation and other contractual terms,” Amwake’s memo said.