PRESCOTT VALLEY - A sewage treatment plant "was not even a pipe dream" when this community incorporated in 1978, Mayor Harvey Skoog said.
The pipe dream became a reality in 1993 when the sewer plant opened with the ability to process as much as 1,250,000 gallons of sewage per day, according to Neil Wadsworth, the town's utilities division manager.
Town officials began the second phase of the plant immediately, and it doubled the capacity, Wadsworth said. CH2M Hill OMI has operated the plant since 1993, and it sprawls across nearly 15 acres on Treatment Plant Road off Valley Road.
Town officials in August 2005 awarded a $17.6 million contract to Fann Contracting of Prescott for the third phase to triple the initial capacity to 3,750,000 gallons per day. Fann is due to complete the project Tuesday.
The growing town needs to expand the plant because it is nearing its existing capacity by treating about 2.3 million gallons per day, Wadsworth said.
Wadsworth, Skoog, the six other members of the Town Council, Fann Contracting owner Mike Fann, representatives from the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona and other dignitaries attended a ceremony Wednesday to mark the pending completion of the third phase. More than 50 people attended the ceremony, and a majority of them took tours of the sewer plant afterward.
"I'm glad that Neil had the dignity to tell you that there are bathrooms here," Skoog quipped.
He described the expansion project as "expensive and complicated."
The expansion involved a laundry list of new technology and improvements at the sewer plant, Wadsworth explained during the tour. The third phase included additional aeration capacity in the oxidation ditches (tanks), new technology to treat more sewage in a smaller area, new ultraviolet equipment to disinfect the effluent (treated sewage), an additional belt press, a utility water system for wash-down purposes and a backup generator.
The town obtained about $14.5 million in financing for the third phase, Wadsworth told the gathering.
He noted that Steve Owens, who chairs the finance authority board in his capacity as director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, attended the ceremony to present a cardboard check for a $5 million loan to the Town Council. WIFA makes low-interest, 20-year loans, Wadsworth said.
"If you don't have adequate wastewater treatment, you can't grow," Owens said. "So it is not just a loan; it's an investment."
The town will repay the loans through sewer capacity (hookup) and monthly fees, Wadsworth said.
The typical Prescott Valley homeowner pays a one-time capacity fee of $3,162, and a monthly base rate of $5.07, said Cordell Compton, customer accounts manager. Prescott Valley has about 14,800 sewer accounts.
Residents and businesses generate sewage that the treatment plant converts into effluent and biosolids (sludge).
The plant generates about 2.5 million gallons of effluent a day, including the sludge it separates from the water, according to Norm Davis, director of Public Works. The plant recharges about 500,000 gallons of effluent a day into the aquifer nearby at the Agua Fria River.
The plant pumps the remainder of the effluent to the lake at Mountain Valley Park and to the golf course at StoneRidge, Wadsworth explained. The golf course receives about 1 million gallons of effluent a day during the summer.
Wadsworth said the plant generates about 15 tons of sludge a day. Trucks take the sludge to sod farms and other land-application sites that use it as fertilizer.
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