Rifle plans costly new sewage plant | PostIndependent.com

Rifle plans costly new sewage plant

In the wake of an emergency move to beef up Rifle’s wastewater treatment system, the city is now in the process of designing a $16 million to $18 million mechanical sewage plant. Growth both in population and industry in the city of 8,500 has put pressure on its utility infrastructure.Currently the city relies on two lagoons to process its wastewater, said city engineer Charlie Stevens.One lagoon serves the city south of the Colorado River and Interstate 70 and another the north side.With the passage of an emergency ordinance this week, Rifle City Council gave a green light to an $800,000 interconnector system – a bore under the Colorado River – that will connect the two lagoon systems and carry the city until the new mechanical plant is completed in 2008. Once the bore is completed, excess waste from the north lagoon will be pumped under the river to the south facility.The ordinance came in response to a notification from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) that the city’s north lagoon was operating too close to its capacity limits and was in violation of state regulations.”(The lagoon) reached its limits faster than anticipated,” said public works director Bill Sappington.CDPHE has given the city until Aug. 25 to meet regulations.Besides being close to capacity, the lagoons’ discharge into the river is also exceeding limits set by the state to protect threatened and endangered fish species identified as living between Rifle and the Grand Valley, Stevens said.Regulations governing the amount of ammonium nitrate discharge cannot be met “because we don’t have the right process,” he said.Those limits can be met only by a mechanical sewage treatment plant that will eventually replace the antiquated lagoons. The new plant will be located in west Rifle on land where uranium mill tailings were dumped when a Union Carbide processing plant was operating until the 1970s. That land has since been reclaimed and is now being eyed by the city for development.CDPHE is now reviewing the city’s application for permits to operate the new plant, and the design process is also under way, Stevens said.When it’s completed, the plant will be able to treat 2 million gallons of sewage per day with the capacity to expand to 4 million.The $16 million to $18 million price tag will come as something of a shock to Rifle residents, who will see their rates jump significantly.”Realistically the minimum will be an 80 percent increase,” Stevens said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com

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