Archive for Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Wastewater plant’s design put on hold

July 3, 2007

The city of Basehor's plans for a wastewater treatment plant expansion were off to a good start.

But the possibility of more stringent standards on wastewater proposed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has brought facility planning to a temporary halt.

Jeff Keller from Burns and McDonnell, the firm hired to design the expansion, told City Council members last month that new or upgraded wastewater treatment plants must provide higher-quality treatment as a part of the state's anti-degradation policy.

All new or improved treatment plants must meet the stricter requirements to decrease the total nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. How strict the requirements are is based on each city's economy.

More stringent treatment means a larger cost, which in turn means increased user fees for residents.

Keller said the state looks to the city's median household income to determine which level of increased requirements the city must follow. A 2000 census reported Basehor's median at $52,831.

The policy has already been applied in two cities, Lawrence and Rose Hill. While Lawrence's population of 82,000 is much higher than Basehor's, it's median household income was lower at $36,000. Rose Hill has a reported population of 3,000 and a larger median household income of $65,100. Both cities were only required to follow the minimum treatment level.

"I'm telling you that in recent history it shows that this is just an exercise, but I can't make any promises on that," Keller said. "The state decides that."

City Administrator Carl Slaugh explained the impact of such standards on user rates to Council members. To finance the projected $4 million plant cost with the minimum requirements, the user rate would need to be increased about 38 percent in 2008. The monthly sewer bill would jump from $37.86 to $52.25 or $627 annually.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1 percent of a community's median household income is the value below which the upgrade will not cause an economic burden on households, Slaugh said. If the average annual user fees to finance the upgraded plant are more than 1 percent, it suggests requiring the city to upgrade to a higher treatment level would not be economically feasible.

Council president Terry Thomas said he thought it was clear Basehor could only afford the lowest level.

Keller also updated the council on the new plant's design and included some suggestions.

"The typical design period is 20 years, but for a number of reasons, we suggest that your actual design period end in the year 2020, 13 years from now," Keller said.

The current loan on the wastewater treatment plant will be paid off in 2020, allowing the city to explore more options for future wastewater treatment, including a second plant.

The estimated 2007 population for Basehor is 3,500 and the more conservative or larger population projection of 8,200 in 2020 will be used when designing the plant.

"We've been designing around the more conservative number just to be safe," Keller said.

A graph of the amount of rainfall compared to the flows into the wastewater plant was shown to council members to illustrate the inflow and infiltration (I and I) problem the city's current system is experiencing. The graph showed that heavy flows would almost always show up the day after a heavy rain.

"That tells you rainwater is getting into your system," Keller said. "That's not what you want. It's expensive for you. You've got an I and I problem that if you fixed you could build a smaller expansion."

Another benefit to repairing the inflow and infiltration problem is the possibility of extending the life of the plant another five years to 2025. During the five-year period from 2020 to 2025, the city would be debt-free as far as the wastewater treatment plant and will be able to save money and have more time to plan for future expansions.

"What it buys you is time and the ability to prepare," he said. "Chasing down this I and I problem is worth it."

Other suggestions for the plant included duplicating the existing treatment basin design, updating the clarifiers and reconfiguring the administrative building space for a lab area and possibly electrical equipment.

Keller said the plant design was on schedule with a draft of the plan for review likely to be ready by the second week of July.

With the new state standards in mind, Keller suggested that the design plan be put on hold while the city prepares a short document or study to send to KDHE that explains why more stringent wastewater standards would be financially burdensome.

"Stop, write the letter, get a positive response from KDHE and then more forward," he said. "That's the wisest thing to do."

Slaugh said a letter containing this information would be sent to KDHE to show that the city would not be able to finance higher treatment levels. Planning will resume after the city has received a response from KDHE. The amount of time it will take to receive a response is unknown.

"Since we're only the third city to be faced with these proposed standards, we're unsure of how the state will handle this," Slaugh said.

In other action Monday night, the council:

  • Approved, 4-0, with council member Keith Sifford absent, a change to the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.
  • Denied, 4-0, an exception to policy for RecordNews for Neighborhood Revitalization application.
  • Approved, 4-0, to require a resident at 14720 State Avenue to pay solid waste fees or pay for a private haulers permit.
  • Approved, 4-0, a request from the Police Department to dispose of storm-damaged property.

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