Plant upgrades take center stage

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Dave Prickett, vice president of Woodward and Curran, right, discusses upgrades needed for the Waste Water Treatment Plant Tuesday night at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls as First Selectman Gerard Smith, left, and Selectman Chris Bielik listen. –LUKE MARSHALL
Dave Prickett, vice president of Woodward and Curran, right, discusses upgrades needed for the wastewater treatment plant Tuesday night at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls as First Selectman Gerard Smith, left, and Selectman Chris Bielik listen. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — Officials detailed needed upgrades for the town’s wastewater treatment plant during an informational meeting Tuesday night.

The Board of Selectmen held the meeting with Dave Prickett, vice president of Woodward and Curran and project manager for the plant upgrade.

Before turning the meeting over to Prickett, First Selectman Gerard Smith told the dozen residents in attendance the upgrades to the plant were not a choice.

“It’s not something whether we want to do it or not. It’s a mandate,” Smith said.

Woodward and Curran is currently working on a plant study that will tell the town what needs to be updated and how to go about it.  

Prickett said the biggest problem the town has is the age of the plant on Lopus Road.

“The typical life expectancy of a treatment plant and mechanical equipment is 20 years,” Prickett said. “You’re over 40 years. So you’ve gotten more than double your life expectancy out of that equipment.”

In addition to the age of the plant, Prickett said the other major challenges the town faces are new permit requirements for phosphorus and nitrogen and the operational challenges during wet weather.

Prickett said the overall study included looking at the infiltration and inflow, which is storm water that enters the sewer system during wet weather. The study found the town has a serious problem with storm water entering the plant.

“It results in increased flows to your treatment plant, makes it harder to keep the solids in the plant and to contain the biological activity,” Prickett said.

Prickett estimated the total cost of the project to be $16 million. The price is high, he said, because upgrades to the plant have been deferred for nearly 40 years.

Resident Robert Spear asked how the money will be spent.

Prickett said plant consists of an inflow pump station, primary clarifier, which is used to remove debris from the water, a small aeration system, two secondary clarifiers and a UV system the disinfects the water prior to releasing it.

He said only the aeration system is proportionately sized to even be reused.

Prickett said the current clarifiers are so small that when the town experiences heavy flow, such as during a storm, the solids are washed and the water doesn’t make it to the UV system to be disinfected.

The three pump stations throughout the town also need upgrading.

In addition to the work at the plant the town needs to be able to meet the new phosphorus and nitrogen requirements the state has mandated by May 2014 or face fines, Prickett said.

Resident Joseph Pavlik voiced concerns the price might increase if the company runs into unforeseen problems.

“Our town has run into a couple of situations with recent projects where, all of a sudden, there has been overruns,” Pavlik said. “I don’t doubt that we need this project, but it starts off at $16 million and a couple years later we are up to $25 million. Is your company in a position to lock into a price?”

Prickett said there are no guarantees in the price, but the company has gone to lengths to ensure they have budgeted for surprises.  

“The $16 million represents the highest priced alternative that the company is looking at [for the plant] plus a 30 percent contingency,” Prickett said.

Prickett said the town’s current budget for the project is approximately $600,000. Woodward and Curran is putting the yearly payment for the project at approximately $978,000.

“The annual capital cost for $16 million over 20 years at a 2 percent interest rate, assuming no grant funds, which is very conservative, is going to exceed your current annual budget. So this is a very serious capitol project that Beacon Falls is facing,” Prickett said.

Prickett said there are two large grants out there that can help offset the price of the project. The first is from the state’s Clean Water Program, which could cover up to 25 percent. The other grant would come through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I think it’s appropriate to continue to plan for the worst at 0 percent grant and seek those grant funds as we move forward,” Prickett.

The town will hold another meeting, likely at the end of the month, to discuss how to move forward, Smith said.