Vermillion improving its water treatment plant

Vermillion improving its water treatment plant by James Patrick At the May 3 Vermillion City Council meeting, Tim Miller from Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) presented the City of Vermillion Water Rate Study. As an introduction, this story started in 1999 when the council authorized a water distribution system analysis and water treatment plant condition and capacity study.

These plans were accepted and adopted by the city council in July 2000. The distribution plans identified several areas in the city with undersized water mains (4"). The city has been budgeting and replacing these undersized water mains and will continue to do so until completed.

The water treatment plant was placed in service in 1972 and in 2000, when the water treatment plant condition and capacity study was completed, the majority of the equipment in use was still the original equipment and major portions of the plant needed repair.

The original plant was designed to handle 20 years of growth, at which time a plant expansion was envisioned. Since the growth has been slower than projected, 32 years later we still are not at capacity even though the water department sells approximately 374 million gallons per year,.

However, the equipment at the plant needs replacement due to age. The work necessary to upgrade the plant was prioritized and scheduled in three phases. Phase I, completed in 2002, provided an alternate means of disinfection in lieu of chlorine gas and there were some necessary building improvements at an approximate cost of $190,000.

Phase II improvements addressed the need to upgrade the electrical and control systems, renovation of pumps and valves, standby generator, new lime transfer equipment, and a new telemetry system to the wells and towers. Phase II cost approximately $1.5 million and is scheduled for completion by June 1.

These improvements were financed by State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan funds with the city council committing to three annual rate increases sufficient to make the loan payment. These rate increases were passed in 2002 and 2003 and the proposed increase for this year was added to the 2004 budget last fall as a continuation of the bonding obligations made by the city council two years ago.

The next planned phase, Phase III, improvements include the addition of a second solids contact clarifier basin, an essential component in the water treatment process. The existing plant has only one clarifier that will be 35 years old when replaced.

An additional clarifier will be placed in service prior to removal and replacement of the existing unit. Phase III improvements were estimated to cost $3.2 million in 2000 and were proposed to be completed in 2006-2007.

To assure ourselves that our rates to all customers were fair and equitable, last fall, MRES was engaged to complete a water rate study. The study demonstrated that the projections from three years ago are on target and this year's increase does not need to be modified from projections. The study also determined that rate adjustments will be required over the next three years to complete the needed water plant upgrades by 2006 to 2007.

To prepare for the bonding needed to compete the water treatment plant in a year, the city council will consider a resolution to raise water rates over the next three years. The average customer's bill will increase by approximately $1.67 per month from the current $16.88 to $18.55 this year, another $1.67 per month next year, and $1.80 per month in 2006.

The improvements in the water plant will allow the city to continue to deliver quality water well into the future.

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