Dignitaries attend Columbia's wastewater plant groundbreaking

Improvements are intended to produce savings, boost efficiency and comply with new rules.
Friday, January 15, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Officials from federal, state, city and county government broke ground Thursday morning on a $62 million upgrade of the  Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant that should be complete by the summer of 2012.

Money for the project comes from local, state and federal sources: $59 million came from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Revolving Loan Fund, and the remaining $3 million came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus act. The city will pay off the loan using proceeds of a bond issue approved by voters in April 2008.

After a November 2009 visit to several Missouri water- and wastewater-treatment facilities, Nixon and other officials concluded that federal and state spending on water quality-related projects would rank high in environmental and economic benefit. Nixon said funding for similar projects across Missouri totals $266 million. He also said wastewater treatment is among the nationwide focuses of the stimulus act, which has funneled about $7 billion to water-quality projects nationally. Missouri received $146 million of that assistance.

William Rice, deputy regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, attended the groundbreaking and applauded the project. "Projects like this not only improve the environment, but help restore America's economic outlook," he said.

Columbia City Manager Bill Watkins noted that the treatment plant serves both Columbia and nearby unincorporated areas, and he praised Columbia voters for their forward thinking. The bond issue in April passed with more than 84 percent of the vote.

Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman said there will be several benefits from the upgrades, including "increased reliability that will allow operators to take parts of the treatment facility off-line for maintenance while continuing to produce a high-quality effluent," increased electrical efficiency and less power consumption. New biosolids dewatering equipment will reduce sludge-hauling traffic to and from the plant, reducing fuel consumption and the impact to local roads.

The project also should reduce odor from the plant at 4900 W. Gillespie Bridge Road in surrounding neighborhoods.

Hindman said the city also will replace the plant's small engine generator with two larger ones that will maximize use of renewable energy in the form of methane gas produced as part of the treatment process. "The electricity produced by the two generators will reduce the amount of power we have to purchase from the city’s electric utility," Hindman said in a speech.

Mark Templeton, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, provided further detail on the upgrades, saying the two new 400-kilowatt electrical generators should decrease the plant's power consumption by 26 percent. Aeration unit upgrades should lower the power consumption in that part of the plant by 57 percent. Improvements to the sludge pumping system will reduce power consumption by an estimated 36 percent.

Hindman also said the project will allow the city to meet new regulations of the Clean Water Act, "which have changed significantly since this facility was built 30 years ago."

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