City Officials Break Ground on Phase 1 of Wastewater Plant Improvements

By Jeremy Coumbes on September 27, 2023 at 8:48am

The next major infrastructure project in the City of Jacksonville officially got underway Tuesday afternoon.

A groundbreaking was held at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant on the future site of the new headworks facility. The construction project is the first of a three-phase plan to update and modernize the plant and bring it up to federal requirements over the next ten years.

Mayor Andy Ezard along with a slew of city and county officials, as well as city department heads ushered in the start of the project by turning the first shovel fulls of dirt.

Cameron Jones with Benton & Associates says the project is the first step in bringing the Jacksonville Wastewater Treatment Plant fully into the 21st century. “We’ll be able to clean the water better, more efficiently, replace things that are getting old after thirty years of life.

It’s a harsh environment in a wastewater treatment plant. But we want to be able to grow economic development and be able to support whatever comes our way. Make a facility that is flexible but yet is improving the water quality in our area and improving the streams downstream and making it a place that everyone wants to live.

The city has already been approved for $ 2 million in grant funding and a low-interest loan toward the more than $12 million project.

Mayor Ezard says he was happy about the large turnout for the groundbreaking to kick off the project. He says this project is very dissimilar from the new Water Treatment Plant on Hardin Avenue.

Sewer plants are different and with doing the phased approach we’re happy to have great help from the IEPA with some funding. Even though it’s not the sexiest project, it’s very worthwhile and I think folks will appreciate it when that ten years comes up.”

The head works facility is the first stop in a wastewater treatment plant that puts the water through a first screening to remove all solids. It will replace existing head works that engineers say have been in very poor condition for a number of years.

Officials with Benton & Associates say there will be little to no noticeable interruptions in service as the project is underway.

During his comments in commemorating the groundbreaking, Ezard said that in particular, Leland Walker who is in charge of the Wastewater Treatment Plant was a driving force in seeing eventual upgrades after the new Water Treatment Plant was built.

Ezard said Walker knows so much about wastewater, they call him a “cone-sewer” of sorts. Ezard went on to say that sewer plant jokes are not one of his favorite things, “but they are a solid number two.”