The Jacksonville City Council approved the first phase of a 15-year process to completely overhaul the wastewater treatment plant.
This past October, the U.S. EPA began placing new limits on municipalities wastewater to limit the amount of phosphorus going into the Mississippi River from the Midwest. The element has primarily created a hypoxia zone at the mouth of the river where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Jamie Hedden, engineer for Benton & Associates, says the city kickstarted the major project with approval of the redesign and construction of a new head works at the wastewater treatment plant. He says the head works is the first stop in the city’s sewer treatment process: “It’s the first stop of the Wastewater Treatment Plant. All of the wastewater comes to the head works, and it’s the first screening that takes the large solids out, and really it’s the first chance to get some of those solids out of the [treatment] process before we want to do finer treatment. The head works has been in very poor condition for a number of years. Also, the existing head works won’t support the new phosphorus treatment. We have to really replace an existing asset that’s not doing so well, but also, improve how it operates at the same time.”
The first phase will cost approximately $12 million. With the city doing the project in five phases, it will allow them to maximize grant opportunities through the state to pay for it with little impact to taxpayers and the city’s general fund. Hedden says now is the right time to get the project started: “The total program is about $35 million in total. Now, we are also talking over 15 years, and we are at Year Zero here. We are doing the best we can to estimate [the costs] in the future, but right now there is a good contingency there because we really don’t know exactly what it’s going to be at that point. Funding will mostly likely come from the Illinois EPA’s SRF loans and low interest loans and grants. Right now, the principle forgiveness possibilities with that program are very favorable for the city. Current terms and interest rates are just over 1%, and the city qualifies for between 15-30% principle forgiveness or a grant.”
Hedden says there will be little to no interruptions in service to the city once the project is underway. He says that the city will use temporary facilities or utilize a different pumping process to minimize any interruptions.