PAWSD discusses 2018 preliminary budget

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

[The budget was] presented to the board of the Pagosa Area Water Sanitation District (PAWSD) on Sept. 21.

The PAWSD budget includes four funds: a general, debt service, water enterprise and wastewater enterprise.

In a follow-up phone call with The SUN, Business Services Manager Shellie Peterson explained some of the larger changes for each portion of the budget…

Water enterprise fund

There were also a few notable proposed changes to the water enterprise fund.

“There are a lot of similarities to the water fund and the wastewater fund,” she said.

Both are proprietary funds, she explained.

“These are supposed to be run as you would a private business, meaning that the amount that you charge for service charges in all of your different revenues, ideally, should cover all of your related operating expenses and your capital expenditures and the debt service that’s involved with the enterprise funds,” she said.

Peterson noted that PAWSD can transfer from the general fund up to 9.99 percent of a funds’ revenues.

“So in doing that in a small way we’re subsidizing the enterprise funds with a little bit of tax dollars,” she said.

Capital projects was also included on the water enterprise fund as having a projected negative 35 percent change for 2018.

This projected change would move the capital projects budget from $428,211 in 2017 to $279,890 in 2018.

According to the draft budget summary sheet, there is a distinct decrease in capital expenditures, but many of the decreases are off- set by “increases in major mainte- nance item expenditures.”

“We’re projecting to spend less on capital next year,” she said.

In an email to The SUN Peterson explained that the reason for spending less on capital is that some years present a bigger need for capital projects than others.

“There really is not a ‘why’ to capital spending. Some years present the need for major new construction or processes more so than others,” Peterson wrote.

Water loss was also listed as a larger maintenance item in the draft budget.

“During the restructuring of the Colorado Water Conservation Board loan for the Dry Gulch prop- erty, a commitment was made to spend $125,000 per year on water line replacement or repairs to re- duce water loss,” she wrote.

Peterson noted that the water line replacement or repairs are not capital expenditures.

“They will not be capitalized and depreciated over a useful life,” she wrote.
The next big capital project will be the installation of ultraviolet disinfection at the San Juan Water Treatment Plant.

“That work is being engineered this year, dirt work, excavation will be started next year, and the UV project itself will be bid out in 2019,” she wrote.

The ending fund balance for the water enterprise fund is projected to have a 12 percent increase.

This would raise the balance up from $5,061,503 in 2017 to $5,666,128 in 2018.

“That’s saying if everything went exactly according to this formula I would have just over $5 million at the end of 2017, in this fund, and then yet I’m projecting to have a 12 percent increase in that ending fund balance,” she explained.

Why the fund balance is going to go up involves a few things, Pe- terson noted.

“Part of the reason that the fund balance is going to go up is because my revenues are going to go up just a titch, but my expenses are going to go up too, just a little bit,” she said.

Wastewater enterprise fund

Peterson explained that the wastewater enterprise fund and the water enterprise fund work in the same way, but offer different services.

“They operate identically other than the fact that they provide two completely different services,” Peterson said.

The majority of revenue that the wastewater fund receives is from the minimum monthly ser- vice charge for wastewater, she explained.

“The wastewater fund is less complicated because it’s a flat rate, everyone who is connected to Pagosa Area Water sewer is paying $32 per equivalent unit,” she said. The wastewater fund’s revenue is easier to determine because it doesn’t have a oating volumetric rate that the water enterprise fund has, Peterson noted.

Two of the bigger proposed percentage changes within the wastewater enterprise fund were wastewater collection and capital projects.

Wastewater revenue is projected to increase by 42 percent for 2018. The potential increase would move wastewater’s budget of $458,300 in 2017 to $652,935 in
2018.

“It means we are expecting our expenses to be higher in that department,” she said.

Collection of wastewater in- volves everything that happens in the collection system, the pipes underground, to bringing the sewage to the sewer plant, Peterson explained.

“We expect to go out to bid on $200,000 basis to have a commer- cial sewer line cleaning service come in,” she said.

The company responsible for the line cleaning would spray the sewer lines clean, and install cameras and create tapes from the cameras, Peterson explained.

With these tapes, PAWSD could see any potential problems within the sewer line, she explained.

Right now PAWSD is using local firm, Pagosa Rooter, to clean its sewer lines.

“They just aren’t able to televise for us, but we’ve been doing cleaning that way,” she said.

The problem for PAWSD is that it is harder to have larger firms come to Pagosa Springs because they won’t mobilize for that small amount of work.

“That’s the lion share of why that budget is going to increase,” Peterson said.

Another reason for the increase for wastewater revenue is having lift station rehab at lift station 21 and lift station 7, Peterson ex- plained.

Capital projects was again listed under this section of the budget.

Capital projects is proposed to have a 59 percent decrease in the proposed budget, from $371,525 in 2017 to $153,320 in 2018.

“In the capital department, we just have less being forecast, really where the big dollars are this year is more in the maintenance line,” Peterson said.

Both the water and wastewater funds stay at close to the same level of total expenditures, but the weighting is changed for this year, she said.

Snowmass wastewater plant overhaul update

Graphic credit Wikimedia.com.

From The Snowmass Suns (Britta Gustafson):

The water and sanitation district wastewater management plant, located next to the Snowmass Club Commons housing complex, is currently undergoing a major overhaul and expansion.

Upgrades to the current facility and a 44,000-square-foot expansion will allow the water and sanitation district to meet heightened state requirements for total removal of inorganic nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia from local streams and rivers. It also will improve efficiency as water demands increase.

Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013 issued Regulation 85, calling for the implementation of a strategic plan for all of Colorado’s water resources with a phased schedule for statewide wastewater plants to comply.

Each of the 44 water treatment districts in the state will now be required to start implementing these new regulations. Due to its size and location in a priority watershed, the Snowmass plant falls into the Department of Health’s first phase with a 2020 deadline.

The district considered 14 different processes and plant configurations to comply with total removal of inorganic nutrients before deciding on a University of Cape Town configuration with membrane bioreactor for enhanced biological nutrient removal.

Upgraded state-of-the-art equipment — including a supervisory control and data acquisition and an industrial control system that interfaces with equipment — will allow the operation of the plant to be monitored 24/7.

Probes can now detect potential concerns on a minute-by-minute basis, even offering remote monitoring and management.

As an example, Snowmass Water and Sanitation District resident project representative Shea Meyer said, “if a restaurant dumps grease, we can detect it a good deal before it contaminates and clogs up the system.”

Additional improvements will include the installation of new high-efficiency motors and a new charcoal-odor control system…

With a price tag of nearly $24 million, which Snowmass Village voters approved in May 2016 via a mill-levy tax, expectations are high…

The new plant should last at least 30 years, potentially upward of 50 or 60, Hamby said, “assuming additional (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations do not affect us.”

[…]

After thoroughly excavating the existing holding-pond base, the initial phase of the estimated 30-month project will officially begin.

Once the concrete pour is underway, the project construction contractor, RN Civil Construction of Centennial Colorado, will prepare and issue a timeline for the project.

RN Civil project manager Dave Ortt said he expects the construction schedule to be available within the next week.

Hamby said quality, safety and cost efficiency would all take precedence over the 2020 deadline and that the district may ask for an extension if necessary.

Community Open House & Reception: Edwards wastewater facility improvements, September 26, 2017

Edwards Wastewater Treatment Facility photo credit Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

Click here to view the Eagle River Water & Sanitation event page and to register:

Join us for a reception and tour of the $25 million Edwards wastewater treatment facility solids handling improvement project. Now that the landscaping is done, we’re ready for visitors!

Please register so we can plan enough food for all participants.

  • 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Open house, facility tours, and complimentary food.
  • Noon to 1 p.m. – Welcome, acknowledgements, speakers, and short tour.
  • […]

    Improvements include:

  • Preliminary treatment enhancements.
  • Expansion of the solids digestion process.
  • Rehabilitation of solids dewatering.
  • Landscaping and aesthetic updates.
  • New odor control systems.
  • Snowmass: Construction starts today on new wastewater treatment plant

    Wastewater Treatment Process

    From The Aspen Daily News (Madeleine Osberger):

    Construction on the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District’s new $24 million wastewater treatment building begins today, after a re-bid brought the project cost more in line with what voters approved in May 2016 to spend, according to district manager Kit Hamby.

    The district signed a contract Aug. 1 with RN Civil Construction of Centennial for a new 44,000-square-foot plant that can meet heightened state requirements for removal of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia from local streams and rivers. All 44 water treatment districts in Colorado must comply with the new regulations, although Snowmass happened to fall within the first round with a 2020 deadline…

    The majority of the cost — now budgeted at roughly $24 million — will be covered by the bond sales, which brought in $23.3 million. The remainder could be taken from a $7 million to $7.5 million capital project reserve fund earned in part from Base Village tap fees.

    Longmont: Wastewater infrastructure ain’t cheap

    Wastewater Treatment Process

    From The Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

    Longmont’s city staff is recommending raising the city’s sewer rate charges by 3 percent next year, followed by 2 percent increases in both 2019 and 2020.

    The City Council is to discuss the possible rate hikes during a Tuesday night study-session review of Longmont’s wastewater utility and that utility’s financial projections and needs.

    The Department of Public Works and Natural Resources staff said in a memo to the council that the proposed rate hikes “will allow the utility to maintain its target debt service coverage and appropriately fund operational costs” of Longmont’s sewage collection and treatment system.

    “The wastewater utility continues to experience cost increases that affect the utility’s financial outlook,” the staff wrote in that memo. “While staffing levels have been significantly decreased in the utility since 2000, resulting in annual cost reductions in excess of $2 million each year, operating costs have still increased by an average of 2.8 percent each year between 2006 and 2016.”

    Major drivers of those costs included regulatory requirements that necessitated large capital expenses at Longmont’s wastewater treatment plant, the staff said, as well as flood-recovery and repair costs for the sewage collection system, the city staff said.

    The staff also cited a need for “deployment of new metering technologies,” as well as climbing construction costs after the 2008 recession and what it said was an “aging wastewater infrastructure reaching the end of its life cycle.”

    In order to pay for capital improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and infrastructure, Longmont sold a total of $52 million in sewer bonds issued in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    Debt repayments from the wastewater utility’s budget fund have increased by $3.1 million a year because of those bond sales, the staff said, and the bond requirements include being able to maintain enough budget money to cover at least 110 percent of that debt.

    As part of its adoption of Longmont’s 2017 budget, the City Council approved an average 3 percent increase in customers’ sewer fees that took effect this year…

    Staff reductions, achieved after Longmont completed a 2000 water-wastewater strategic plan, “helped stabilize rates and provided more money for capital needs while service levels were maintained or improved,” the staff wrote.

    However, “while staff has continued to maintain service levels, major cost drivers in the form of regulatory requirements, natural disasters, new technologies, increasing construction costs and aging infrastructure have impacted the utility.”

    The City Council cannot make official rate-increase decisions during a study session but can direct the city staff whether to proceed with preparing a rate hike for formal council votes later this summer or fall.

    Clearas’ process uses algae to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from wastewater plant effluent

    From The Missoulian (David Erickson):

    Formed eight years ago, the company has developed a patented process to use algae to remove nitrogen and phosphorous from public wastewater treatment plants, keeping waterways from being inundated with the compounds that starve fish and plant life of oxygen. In turn, the algae can be sold to other companies for fertilizer, biofuels and other uses.

    Think of it as high tech farming.

    As the global population skyrockets, nitrogen and phosphorous pollution is becoming a significant environmental concern. Often referred to as “nutrient loading,” these two elements cause algal blooms in lakes and rivers that create “dead zones” that devastate vegetation and animals.

    Clearas officials say they have found a way to harness Mother Nature’s own solution to nutrient loading in a different way, making it a beneficial process that makes money instead of an ecological nightmare.

    Sewage contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, and those two elements happen to be what algae, the fastest-growing plant on the planet, likes to eat.

    Phosphorous and nitrogen are in demand from the agriculture sector for their use as fertilizers. So rather than having life-killing algae in nature’s waterways, the nutrients can be put to use in corn fields.

    “I think the simplest way to describe what we do is to say that we take harmful constituents out of the wastewater prior to discharge into our rivers, lakes and streams, and we do it biologically sustainably,” explained company CEO Jordan Lind.

    There are other technologies for removing those nutrients, but they often involve chemical treatment.

    Clearas formed as a company when algae farmers in the Bitterroot Valley wanted phosphorous and nitrogen from Missoula’s wastewater treatment facility to feed their biofuel. Lind recalls that the head of the wastewater facility told them they could take as much wastewater as they wanted for free, a much better alternative than buying synthetic nitrogen.

    It was a “eureka” moment. Kevin McGraw, the company’s co-founder and operations manager, realized that they could develop a technology to harness wastewater’s nutrients to grow a valuable product while doing public utilities a favor…

    The company developed a testing facility at Missoula’s wastewater treatment plant on North Reserve. A series of tubes feed 15,000 gallons of wastewater per day through algae and return it to the Clark Fork River much cleaner than it was before.

    The company recently landed a contract to implement their Advanced Biological Nutrient Recovery technology at a Utah municipality called the South Davis Sewer District, which will be a 4-million-gallon-per-day system.

    Lind said Montana has relatively lax environmental regulations on what wastewater facilities can discharge, but in other places tighter regulations mean that more and more cities will look to this technology…

    In fact, some of the explosions of bright green algae that can be found in the Clark Fork River and other bodies of water across the country in the summer are caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorous from agriculture runoff, laundry detergents and other sources.

    The beauty, Lind says, is that Clearas is recovering the resource rather than just removing it. They have centrifugal machines that can turn the algae into whatever consistency a customer needs, whether it’s a watery sludge for fertilizing a field or a dry cake for making plastics or fuels.

    “There’s lots of potential co-products that result from the treatment process,” Lind said. “So you truly are going waste-to-value. And that’s kind of the new trend in our space. All these municipalities and large industrial plants that have wastewater, there’s value in that waste. The question is how you convert it. And our method is a proven way to do that.”

    Lind said there is a lot of interest in the company’s technology in the Great Lakes region, in Europe and in Asia…

    The Utah contract is the first of what the company hopes will be a long line of dominoes to fall. In essence, they hope that once one municipality sees the technology working, then others will hop on board.

    It’s a little more complicated because taxpayer funds have to be used to upgrade wastewater treatment plants. However, they have high hopes. Right now, the company employs about three dozen people, and they have acquired an engineering firm to deal with helping cities implement the technology.

    Andy Gordon, the company’s market development manager, said he believes the technology could transform the world.