By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Upgrades to Front Royal's wastewater treatment plant lie years in the future but town council this week caught an early look at the work ahead.
GHD Consulting representative Thor Young in his update on the project to council said the town faces several steps in the process to upgrading the facility before it can break ground.
The project is estimated to cost $45.61 million. But the town may receive an estimated $28.03 million from the state if it is found eligible for a water quality improvement fund grant, according to Town Manager Steve Burke. The eligible amount remains an estimate from the contractor based upon guidelines with the grant program. When the town applies for the funding the state will determine the eligible costs and determine how much money would be provided, Burke stated in an email Wednesday.
In order to help pay for the project town council also has discussed the need to raise the water and sewer rates for residents. However, council deferred a proposed rate increase originally planned for fiscal year 2013, Burke stated. Town officials are working with the consultant to review the capital and operating expenses to develop a new rate program for future budgets, according to Burke. Officials plan to present the results of the study to council in September.
The project takes a two-pronged approach: Upgrading the facility so it meets enhanced regulations for removing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous; and to expand the capacity of how much water it treats, according to Young.
The current wastewater facility is rated to treat 4 million gallons per day. The project seeks to increase that plant's capacity to 5.3 million gallons per day. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality then caps the loading of nitrogen at 48,729 pounds per year. As such, the plant must reduce its release of nitrogen into the water to 3 milligrams per liter, Young explained. That level is considered to be the limit of technology at this time, Young said.
"So this will be a very advanced treatment facility," Young said.
The DEQ set the caps on the nutrient levels of wastewater released by localities based on their populations at the time, Young explained.
"But what it's meant to be is sort of an all-time cap so as actually the population of towns increases the cap stays the same so it forces them to either do lower and lower limits or to practice water re-use by which their treating the wastewater and then reusing it instead of discharging it to the rivers," Young said.
Phosphorous will be capped at 3,655 pounds per year and the nutrient's concentration must drop as the treatment plant expands, according to Young. The plant currently is not designed to remove phosphorous or nitrogen at the levels required, he said.
As Young explained, the project comes in two phases, with the first phase addressing phosphorous and nitrogen releases as well as average daily capacity of the facility. The second phase addresses the peak hydraulic capacity of the plant, the cost of which relies on the success of the first, Young said.
Work on the project began in 2011. Town Council in December 2011 granted approval for GHD to proceed with the Biomag alternative in the preliminary engineering report. GHD submitted the final report to the town and the DEQ on April 12 this year. The state agency approved the report July 11.
A project schedule indicates the town would submit the preliminary design of the upgrades on Dec. 3. The town and the consulting firm in March 2013 would look at "value engineering" to bring down the costs of the project. GHD expects to submit the designs at different percentages of completion beginning July 12, 2013 and completing in late January 2014.
GHD expects to receive a certificate to construct the upgrades from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on March 3, 2014, and the town could advertise for bids from contractors a week later. Bids would be due May 14, 2014 and the town could select a contractor in August 2014.