Trustees earlier this month approved the foundation for such change, an expansion master plan for the site that could run the town nearly $25 million in construction costs over the next few years, and an additional $2 million for consultants to steer the early stages.
Several factors — ranging from the predictable to the esoteric — are driving the need for the facility’s expansion, according to Adam Parmenter of HDR, Inc., the firm charged with shepherding the town through the project.
According to Colorado Department of Health regulations, towns must begin to make expansion plans when their facilities reach 80% capacity; at 95%, construction must begin. Delays could get state regulators to slap communities with growth restrictions.
In 2017, Erie’s North Water site hit about 81% capacity, processing roughly 1.58 million gallons of wastewater per day. By 2020, that number is expected to hit 95% of the facility’s processing capacity, equivalent to 4 ½ Olympic swimming pools…
If Erie’s projected growth keeps pace (and with current trends, there’s no reason to expect otherwise), Parmenter said the facility’s liquid capacity would be exceeded by 2021.
Consultants are recommending a plan out to 2028, expanding the plant into a 3.03 million gallons per day system, a 50% capacity increase from what the existing facility does now.
The expansion will take place in steps, however, over the next decade, according to Erie Public Works Director Todd Fessenden.
“We will be in design over the course of the next year for the expansion of the plant” he said, “then we’ll be in construction late next year or early 2021.
“The master plan is really just laying out the next 20 years so we can have a schedule to look at,” he added, “whether that be regulatory milestones or looking at certain capacity stages, a lot of those things you have to be planning ahead for before those things hit.”
Another of the drivers, and perhaps a more pressing matter, is the plant’s solid operations. Whereas the plant’s liquid-stream processing is more of a straightforward capacity issue, dealing with the deluge of solids on a daily basis is often rooted in the quality of the science.
In order to get the solids that come through the plant to the designation of “Class A Biosolids” — a standard that meets EPA guidelines “for land application with no restrictions,” meaning reclaiming it to a point where it can legally be used as fertilizer or compost — the plant’s technology needs to perform a specific set of tasks.
As it stands now, the North Water site is essentially at capacity for processing solid waste, Parmenter said, and the “system isn’t running the way it was originally designed to create Class A Biosolids.”
Without changes, the system’s current process — which includes trucks having to move solids off-site — would cost the town roughly $1 million per year in hauling costs.
According to officials, the costs of the expansion project will be footed by the town’s growth through its existing tap fees.