Oregon plans to apply for a loan from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to help pay for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.
Oregon’s OEPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requires the city to increase secondary treatment capacity of the wastewater treatment plant from 24 MGD to 36 MGD in two phases over a five year period.
“This expansion of the plant according to the requirements of the NPDES permit renewal is something communities like us all across the country are dealing with,” City Administrator Mike Beazley said at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday. “We feel very good thus far how this is taking shape.”
The improvements will eliminate secondary treatment bypasses and sanitary sewer collection system overflows during wet weather events.
Phase 1 improvements consist of the replacement of two influent screens, replacement of three raw sewage pump motor drives, replacement of two blowers, full replacement of air piping and replacement of air diffusers in the aeration tanks and a dissolved oxygen control system, site restoration, and associated Supervisory and Data Acquisition upgrades.
“Phase 1 is a lot of equipment replacement,” said Public Service Director Paul Roman. “It’s a good investment. I think you’ll see a return on the investment, especially with the blowers and new aeration tanks.”
Phase 2 improvements consist of new final clarifier with associated secondary sludge pumping facilities, aeration tank improvements consisting primarily of replacement of stop plates and slide gates, disinfection improvements consisting of replacement of the chlorine feed and safety equipment, effluent pump replacement and improvements, site restoration, and associated Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition upgrades.
The $16 million project will be funded by state grants, loans, local income taxes, and an increase in the water and sewer rates.
“We now have about the lowest rates in the region, and are among the lowest in Ohio,” said Beazley. “And even after this process is done, I expect we’ll still have the lowest rates in the market. We haven’t had a rate increase in five years, and there are not a lot of communities that can say that. We’ll learn more in the coming months and sit down with some hearings late this year and through the budget process in early 2014 and make a decision together on how to actually make the final funding decision. In the application, we spelled out our willingness to go out and raise money.” “When you tell us we have the lowest rates in the region,” Councilman Sandy Bihn said to Beazley, “f you add our income tax dollars to that, then where do we stand because that’s the true cost of the plant to the Oregon community.
“We have a relatively efficient operation,” said Beazley. “Our total costs are still low compared to the market. We’re one of the very few communities I know of that helps to pay for the capital side of its water and sewer services through income tax revenue. Water and sewer bills are lower here because they are subsidized by taxpayers. That’s a community choice historically because one of the ways we achieved our independence from our neighbor was by having this plant and these services. But there’s no question that the total costs are subsidized by the income tax.”
“We pay 2.25 percent and our suburban counterparts pay 1.5 percent. And a large part of that is because we’re subsidizing the water and sewer with it. I think it’s a fair comparison,” said Bihn.
Roman said the city plans to apply later this year for additional state funding for the project.
“Everything is within our NPDES permit schedule,” said Roman. “We are required to start Phase 1 in January. That means we have to have this loan closed in November.”
The OEPA has made funds available through a Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF) to provide financial assistance to communities needing to make such improvements.