Monticello sewer plant nears completion

Construction on the City of Monticello’s new sewer plant is behind schedule, but on budget and already exceeding expectations, according to a report given to the city council recently by Public Works Director Jim Grabarczyk.

The project, bid out in 2016 to Curry Construction of Mattoon for $12.928 million, is expected to total an estimated $14.89 million after engineering fees and contingencies are added in.

Grabarczyk said the plant is already processing waste, but there is plenty of construction choreography occurring to keep the old facility operational while the new one inches toward completion.

“We’re essentially leaving the old plant operational while we build a new plant around it, so that’s particularly challenging because you have pipes that need to run a new direction. But you don’t want to change them all at once. So you change one, make sure it works, then move to the next. There’s a sequencing to it,” he said.

There have been delays, mostly due cold weather that ran into April of 2018, more sludge to process than anticipated, and finding an extra manhole in the current system that was not on any city or engineering records.

“All the wastewater in all the town goes through that manhole, so we can’t just shut it off and build one there. We have to do it while it’s there, and because it’s there we’re going to have to move it a little bit,” added Grabarczyk.

The overall project was slated for a December 2018 completion, but the delays will push that into June of this year. The good news is that phosphorus removal – one main reason a new plant was needed – has been coming in at levels of .2 milligrams per liter, lower than the 1.0 mg/l being required by the draft NPDES permit, which also lowers the allowable maximum to .5 mg/l by the year 2-30.

“The good news is its functioning as designed and it’s actually doing better than we thought it would do,” added the public works director.

The phosphorus removal will help keep more of the chemical out of the Lake Decatur watershed, while also helping reduce the amount of aquatic algae.

The plant should also alleviate at least some of the concerns of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which filed a four-count lawsuit against the city in 2015 for releasing untreated sewer and storm water from manholes during a large rain event. The EPA was consulted on what the new plant should include.

Still left to be done on the sewer plant upgrade are the setting of a new electric transformer, demolishing and rebuilding the drying beds, taking care of the above-mentioned manhole, finishing up buildings and piping work.

“All in all it’s working. It looks kind of like it’s a mess when you look at it, but it’s coming along well,” said Grabarczyk.

He added that the most visible portion of the current plant – the ‘polishing pond’ that motorists can see as they drive along Bridge Street – will be kept but no longer be used to introduce chlorine, since that will be done elsewhere at the new sewer plant. The pond can be used to store treated water when needed, according to the city’s permit.



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