Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bellevue reviews wastewater options

Express Staff Writer

The Bellevue City Council last week received the estimated cost of future growth on the city's municipal water services—upwards of $9 million.

Meridian-based engineering firm Keller Associates presented the Bellevue Wastewater Facilities Planning Study on Thursday, June 23, to the council.

The study assesses the city's wastewater collection and treatment facilities, determines improvements and prepares a capital improvements plan to address the city's needs.

"We tried to determine what needs to be done for the city's collection and treatment system," James Mullen, project manager for Keller Associates, said.

The eight-month study revealed the existing collection system installed in the early 1990s is in good condition, but the treatment system will not accommodate expected pressures of growth.

The treatment system's lagoons are approaching capacity and do not meet discharge permit requirements, specifically exceeding standards for nitrate levels.

"We have to upgrade this system. We have to comply. We are out of compliance," Councilwoman Tammy Eaton said.

Keller Associates evaluated alternatives for treatment systems according to a 4 percent projected annual growth for the city. The evaluation considered the best disposal option, to accommodate growth and meet regulations. Capital and operating and maintenance costs also factored into the final three treatment alternatives.

Mullen selected three alternatives—enhanced lagoons, STM-Aerator and a membrane bio-reactor—ranging in cost from $8.5 million to $9.9 million.

He suggested the city should schedule an open house meeting to gather public input, pursue a bond election in November and apply for grants to help fund the project. He also recommended raising the sewer bill rate to $35 per month. The city's current rate is $19.55 per month.

"We recommend the city raise rates to that level as soon as possible," Mullen said.

He said if the city does not receive grants, the city may have to raise rates to $55 per month.

Mullen also suggested the city should explore the possibility of exporting water to Hailey, after discovering that city was planning to quadruple the capacity of its wastewater facility.

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