Wastewater rates increasing

Wastewater rates increasing by David Lias A recent study of Vermillion's wastewater treatment plant shows that the facility is straining to meet the current needs of the city.

To meet projected wastewater demands, improvements to the plant will have to be made, and that means user rates will be going up.

Without the improvements, the city could possibly experience an interruption in the ability to treat wastewater to a quality required by the city's surface water discharge permit.

Officials of Banner and Associates, the firm that conducted the study and drafted a proposed facilities plan, told the Vermillion City Council April 5 that an upgrade of the treatment facilities is recommended.

The plan suggests the work be done in two phases. Phase I would proceed with funding applications and engineering in the fall of 2004.

Phase II would proceed with funding applications in the fall of 2005 and engineering in the summer of 2006.

The projected cost of Phase I is $3.6 million. The work will address the biological treatment capacity issue at the

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plant, through the addition of more aeration basin capacity.

Phase I will also address major equipment concerns such as the replacement of existing pre-treatment equipment, replacement of filtering equipment, and a conversion to ultraviolet light disinfection. Electrical and mechanical systems also will be improved.

Phase II improvements include the replacement of digester covers and clarifier mechanisms at a cost of approximately $1 million.

The construction of the recommended improvements to the plant will make rate adjustments necessary. Present rates will not generate sufficient revenue to satisfy the debt service and operations and maintenance cost projections for the improvements.

Rates are scheduled to increase gradually over the next four years. The billing for a fixed 3/4-inch wastewater meter, for example, is $8.45 for 2004-05.

That cost will increase to $10.05 for 2005-06, $12.04 for 2006-07, and $12.92 for 2007-08. Similar increases are proposed for other meter sizes in the city.

Without the improvements, the treatment plant will be unable to handle a projected increase in wastewater loads as the city's population increases in future years.

The facility, which has been in continuous service for 19 years, also would not be able to accommodate future industrial development in Vermillion without the improvements.

City officials are attempting to secure grant funds from various sources to help pay for the improvements. If they are successful, it will lessen the financial burden on Vermillion citizens.

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