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Donax Wastewater Reclamation Facility, water rates discussed

By Staff | Aug 9, 2017

An update was provided during last week’s City Council meeting regarding the Donax Wastewater Reclamation Facility, as well as sewer and reclaimed water rates.

Danny Nelson with Tetra Tech provided a project update for the Donax Wastewater Reclamation Facility, stating that the city continues to meet their effluent water requirements as they currently exists, but there are some improvements that are needed to extend the usefulness of the facility.

Nelson discussed the baseline alternative, which would be to repair plant one and bring it to the treatment levels of plant two and three. The second alternative, built on that and added an increased nitrogen removal filters.

Natural Resource Director James Evans said in 2016 the performance levels for nitrogen and phosphorous were 4.64, which will be moved to one with the advanced treatment. That means, he said a 78 reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus.

“We have a Total Maximum Daily Load, there is a draft out there that the Department of Environmental Protection is going to approve that TMDL and make it essentially a legislation that we have to live by. Mandatory, absolutely. The community of Sanibel will be required to meet nutrient load reductions throughout Sanibel, whether it’s storm water improvements, filter marshes and improvements to our wastewater treatment plant to make those designated daily load reductions as described in TMDL,” Evans said.

He said it’s going to be a significant job to reduce the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, but the Donax project is the only project they can get a reduction at that capacity.

The alternative that the council elected to pursue, Nelson said was a more robust system that will allow for increased treatment, increased nutrient removal and increased capacity.

“This improvement is essential. I cannot think of a better project to have and do,” Mayor Kevin Ruane said. “This last cycle, the funding for this construction aspect, we were vetoed $1.4 million. One of the contributing factors when the governor was looking for money, we were given $825,000 for the design and planning. We had not spent a penny. If there is anything this council can do it is to make sure to spend that money.”

Nelson said they have gone through the conceptual alternative selection, as well as the preliminary design report. Now they are at the final design portion.

“We are currently on schedule with your grant, or very close to that schedule,” Nelson said.

The project, he said is looking at two phases, which can be completed simultaneously as one project. He said the final design should be completed within the next couple of months, ready to go out to bid.

The overall construction phase, he said will take them into 2021.

“The grant as it sits today you have a deadline of the end of March of 2018, so we are looking at right now we are in that same time frame. It can be accelerated, or slowed down,” Nelson said.

The grant is split into three different components – preliminary design, design and permitting and bidding and contractor selection.

Nelson said staff is ready to submit the preliminary design for $158,599 this month, which is reimbursable.

The council unanimously approved to move forward with the permitting and reimbursement of the first grant component.

City of Sanibel Fiance Director Steven Chaipel provided an update of the annual Sanibel Rate Study for the sewer system.

In 1974, the centralization of Sanibel Island sewer services began as a private sector, before the city acquired the consolidated wastewater system in 1991. Now the program has expanded to 99 percent of centralized sewer system. There are 4,291 sewer customers and 68 reclaimed water customers.

The sewer system is run very similar to a private entity, Chaipel said, adding that it is privately run, surviving on user fees and revenue generated on its own.

He said their study is based on projections of an increase in the CPI of about 2 percent annually. He said they also have to meet their debt coverage requirements.

“This study was designed to fund the entire capital program,” Chaipel said. “Our survey does look at a six year capital plan, so there are other expenses that happen on a normal course of business, plus the operating expenses that are required to run the system.”

Based on the information put together, he said they are proposing a 4 percent rate increase for the fiscal year 2018 for the sewer system. The reclaimed water would also be a 4 percent rate increase.

“By ordinance, we increase the sewer rate by 3 percent every year. We propose by fiscal year 2020 it returns to the 3 percent,” Chaipel said.

The City Council approved the rate increase for 2018.