From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):
The largest construction project in city history, the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility, must improve the quality of water returning to the Animas River by March to meet state regulations…
The multi-million-dollar construction project was designed to remove more nutrient pollution from the water and increase the plant’s capacity, he said. New carbon filters are also planned to eliminate the infamous and sickening smell that sometimes permeates Santa Rita Park.
The city is eight months into a 24-month construction schedule, and, thus far, the project is on time and on budget, he said.
The first two major components of the plant – the aeration basin and the blower and chemical building – are scheduled to be finished in March. Those systems will remove nutrients to keep the city in compliance with state regulations, Boysen said.
Heightened levels of the naturally occurring nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous, can cause algae blooms that reduce oxygen in the water and kill fish, according to the Environmental Protection Agency…
The city contracted Archer Western to upgrade the sewage treatment plant for $54 million and set aside an additional $5 million to cover unforeseen costs, Boysen said in an email.
As of late December, the city had spent about $500,000 of its contingency fund, he said.
“There are always unanticipated issues or unknown conditions that require modifications to the original contract,” Boysen said.
In 2015, voters approved $68 million in debt to fund the plant and additional sewer infrastructure improvements.
To pay off the debt, residents saw three years of double-digit sewer rate increases. In January, rates go up another 3 percent, bringing the average city resident’s monthly sewer bill to $49.94, or about $599 annually. Those who live outside city limits but are connected to the city’s sewer services pay double.