Elkhorn seeks new approval for water plan
MADISON Elkhorn is seeking state approval to construct two wells and a treatment plant to replace similar aging facilities at a cost of $10.1 million.
Since 1998, the city has studied retiring its 1895-era Centralia Treatment Plant and the nearby wells that feed it. While the building seems sound, the mechanical equipment inside used to soften and reduce radium in the water is decades beyond its expected life, City Administrator Sam Tapson said.
"The issue also is the three wells that serve Centralia are adjacent to a Brownfield site where groundwater contamination hasn't been a problem, but it makes no sense to sink new wells there," he said.
Since the Centralia plant will inevitability fail and the city has been growing near the Interstate 43 interchange with Highway 11, locating new water facilities along Cobb Road north of I-43 makes the most sense, Tapson said.
The city council approved the well and treatment plant project in 2009, and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission soon authorized construction. The project stalled because acquiring land took longer than expected, growth slowed during the recession and the council didn't remain committed to the project, Tapson said.
The two-year window approved by the Public Service Commission in 2010 has closed, and the city needs to reapply to build the project.
Assuming the Public Service Commission approves the plan, $2 million from cash and borrowed funds would be used to begin designing the treatment plant and drill the wells by year's end. The wells would remain capped until financing can be obtained from a state safe drinking water program and a rate application is submitted to the Public Service Commission.
"There's no doubt about it. Current cash flow won't meet the debt service for this project. The downside is that there will be impact on users through a rate increase, but these are old facilities that need replacing," Tapson said.
Higher rates expected to be approved in 2014 should finance the $7.5 million treatment plant, which should be completed by 2016. That's when it's expected the city will need to replace some of Centralia's three wells to maintain a sufficient water supply to satisfy state Department of Natural Resources requirements.
If the loan and rate approvals go according to plan, the project should be completed in 2015, ahead of the city's 2016 projected supply problem, Tapson said.
Although no firm plans have been made, it has been suggested the Centralia building be converted to a community center or utility offices, Tapson said.