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Janesville could spend $32 million to expand, improve wastewater plant

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ANN MARIE AMES
August 9, 2008
— A proposed $32.1 million improvement project at the Janesville Wastewater Utility could boost residents’ wastewater fees 30 percent in 2010.

The project would expand and upgrade the facility at 3300 Tripp Road, said Dan Lynch, utility director. New technology could reduce the amount of chemicals used in the treatment process, improve the efficiency of generators and let workers spread waste on farm fields rather than putting it in the city landfill, he added.


“It’s a big project, but it’s also a necessary project,” Lynch said.


The city council will study the project in a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers of the Municipal Building, 18 N. Jackson St.


If approved, the project’s design phase would start in January. Construction would start in fall of 2009 and end in December 2011, according to a memo written by Jack Messer, public works director.


In order to fund the project, officials propose a 29.7 percent user fee increase starting in January 2010. That’s an increase of $18.35 dollars to $82.44, according to Messer’s memo.


One third of the $32.1 million will go to expanding the plant’s capacity, Lynch said.


The treatment plant has a design capacity of 17.75 million gallons per day, according to the city’s Web site. The plant treats sewage collected from 300 miles of sanitary sewer, according to the site.


The rest of the money will go toward replacing equipment that is “worn out or wearing out,” Lynch said.


“If you don’t repair, the facility won’t perform when it needs to perform,” he said.


One change will be a return to the practice of spreading biosolids to farm fields, he said. When the plant was built in 1970, 100 percent of the sludge was spread on fields. That lasted through the 80s, Lynch said.


In the 1990s, workers started putting sludge in the landfill. Today, about 75 percent of the waste from the plant goes to the landfill, mostly for economic reasons, Lynch said.


A renovation will reverse that trend, Lynch said.


That will be a benefit to farmers, who can use the biosolids from the plant instead of buying commercial fertilizer. It will also reduce waste hauled to the landfill, Lynch said.


Another change will be eliminating the use of chlorine to sanitize treated water. Today, the water is chlorinated and then dechlorinated before it goes into the Rock River, Lynch said.


If the treatment plant is upgraded, the process will use ultraviolet light to sanitize the water, he said.


Upgrades also will replace internal combustion engines with microturbines. The modern turbines have 1 percent of the moving parts the combustion engines have, Lynch said.


That will make them easier to maintain, he said.


The treatment plant is a complicated machine that combines 100 pumps and other mechanical systems with the work of living organisms to separate solid waste from water, Lynch said.


“It’s the single most costly facility the city has,” Lynch said. “And, well, I’m a little prejudiced, but I think it’s the most complicated machine to operate the city has. It has a control system that is as high tech as anything any other department has.”



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