UNION — In order to comply with upcoming discharge restrictions by the Ohio EPA the City of Union will be upgrading its waste water treatment facility at a cost of $3.25 million.
The required upgrades will also mean costs for water and sewer service will increase, but Union will still be among the most affordable / lowest cost for these services.
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requires a permit for all facilities discharging pollutants from a point source to a water of the state. Pollutants are broadly defined as any type of industrial, municipal or agricultural wastewater. Examples of point sources are publicly owned treatment works, industrial facilities and urban runoff.
A Permit-to-Install (PTI) is needed for any installation or modification of a wastewater treatment, conveyance or disposal system. Sanitary sewer extension, wastewater treatment plant construction, onsite sewage treatment systems installation, and sewage holding tank installation are examples of projects that may require a PTI.
Union’s wastewater treatment plant discharges to the Stillwater River. Following the planned upgrades City Manager John Applegate believes the city will have zero pollutants entering the river.
“We knew we were going to need to improve our plant,” Applegate said. “We’ve known for years we didn’t have enough aeration capacity and we also knew we needed a bigger and better final clarifier, and we are at that point now.”
Dan Miklos, founder of water and wastewater engineering firm Advanced Treatment Sciences, Inc. (ATS), now with Hazen and Sawyer, provided an overview of the project to city council.
“The biggest problem is the EPA many times takes months to review a set of plans before they will issue a PTI, and if they did that it would have cut out time we need for the construction,” Miklos said.
Rate increases in water and sewer service are needed to pay for the debt service related to the upgrade project. Sewer rates would increase 15 percent, which equates to a $4 per month increase. Water consumption rates would increase $1.75 per one thousand gallons or 12.9 percent. For 2018 an effective rate increase of 14.7 percent would take place.
A second increase in 2019 would take place of 13 percent effective rate for water and sewer.
“It’s not a drastic increase, but there is a substantial change because your rates are so low,” Miklos noted. “You have had good management of the system for years so you were able to maintain very low rates.”
According to Miklos, the rate increase would generate an estimated $115,000 in 2018 based on the current water consumption and customer base. In 2019 it would generate $236,891 above the 2017 revenue.
“As John said, we are looking at upgrading your aeration system so you can meet your new ammonia limit, and a real large deep clarifier so that you can process all of your flow through the initial part of the plant,” Miklos said, pointing out that this would be the majority of the upgrade. “We are estimating right now, conceptually, an estimate of $3.25 million cost for the upgrade.”
The 2018 and 2019 rate increases would provide enough capability for the city to stay even with the upgrade costs while maintaining service within the water/sewer department.
“We are hoping that we will have the ordinance to start establishing the rate increase and the necessary bond documentation for the next council meeting,” Applegate said. The next council meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 10.
One thing the city hopes to do is combine several bond notes that are coming due Dec. 1 to obtain a better interest rate. All of this related legislation would be on the next council agenda.
In order to save money on the wastewater treatment upgrade the city will be performing a lot of the work itself.
“When it comes to laying the lines, installing the electric and controls, all of that stuff, we do it now. So our goal is to be able to do that like we did back in 1982 with the last upgrade. That is why our rates have been so low and that is why that plant is still operating,” Applegate said. “That will only enhance what we do to the Stillwater River.”
Applegate also noted that he is never been known to be someone to throw something away if it is still useful.
“We still use every concrete tank. Some of the equipment that pumps and runs the blowers and things of that nature have been changed out over the years but anything that we could use, we are still using. With this expansion we will continue to do that,” Applegate stated. “We are very proud of that. We are not somebody who just throws something away for the sake of getting it all brand new. The plant has done an excellent job. The lagoon was the first in the state of Ohio to be aerated.”
Applegate also said that it has been his goal for a long time to have a “zero discharge” plant, meaning no pollutants entering the river.
“Dan is excited about it and I am excited about it and we are going to make that happen and it will be unique,” Applegate added. “If things go well it is going to be really unique. This increase will allow us to do that, to keep taking care of the Stillwater River.”