New wastewater treatment plant could soak up $34.6 million
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A regional wastewater treatment plant estimated to cost $34.6 million was recommended for Glenwood Springs on Thursday by national engineering firm Sear-Brown.
Construction and operations costs could more than double residential sewer rates for all who use the system. But city officials said the recommendation is based on a long-term plan and insisted that a new plant will be mandated at some point.
According to the Sear-Brown recommendation, the plant’s service area would include customers in the West Glenwood Sanitation District. However, members of that district’s board have not yet agreed to become part of such a regional sanitation district.
The firm also recommended that the best place to build the plant is at Cardnell Ranch, a parcel of city land located west of the Municipal Operations Center and south of the Colorado River.
The city’s plant now sits just east of the Roaring Fork River at its confluence with the Colorado River – in an area slated for redevelopment by the city.
Sear-Brown project manager Bernie Poppenga announced the recommendations at a City Council work session.
Site not a surprise
“There have been a number of periodic review meetings that city staff has been involved in,” city engineer Larry Thompson said, “so it wasn’t a surprise to any of us where the recommendation was coming out.”
The recommendation was chosen from five possible alternatives.
The other four alternatives included two ways of expanding the existing plants and two other regional wastewater treatment plant systems at Cardnell Ranch.
City Councilman Rick Davis said that while the cost is high, the plant will have to be upgraded eventually.
“It’s a huge undertaking, but it’s something that has to be done sooner than later, or we’ll be behind the curve and it will be too late,” he said.
According to state law, sanitation districts must start their planning processes when a plant reaches 80 percent of capacity.
The West Glenwood plant is around 80 percent of capacity now and is looking at expansion.
The city’s plant, however, is at just 52 percent of its rated capacity.
Questions about need for new plant
But Thompson said the city plant’s capacity isn’t the main impetus behind the planning and possible construction of a new plant.
He said the plant’s age, 25 years, and questions about whether it can really handle its rated capacity of 2.3 million gallons per day are the real reasons behind the planning process.
Davis also pointed out that in the interest of being environmentally conscious, it would be healthier for the Roaring Fork River if septic tanks in the region were replaced by a regional wastewater treatment system.
City Councilman Dave Merritt said the higher-than-expected cost of a new wastewater system is troubling.
“Frankly, the high cost concerns us all,” Merritt said. “If we were going to go that route, it could mean a doubling or tripling of sewer rates.”
Merritt mentioned a proposal from Glenwood Springs-based Gamba and Associates that estimates a new Aero-Mod plant – like the new one that was constructed in Gypsum – could be built for $17 million.
“I think we’re going to have to sit down and discuss this more and find out what our real alternatives are,” Merritt said.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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