$59 million long-term sewage plan could swell Quincy water bills

Posted: Jun. 24, 2013 11:23 pm Updated: Jul. 9, 2013 12:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Quincy customers could see water and sewer bills more than quadruple over a 20-year period to pay for a proposed $59 million plan that would reduce the amount of untreated water that is returned to the Mississippi River.

The plan presented Monday night to the Quincy City Council calls for the city to build nine new box culverts to hold wastewater until it can be treated, limiting the amount of times untreated water flows into the river.

The combined-sewer overflow system now used diverts wastewater to the city's wastewater treatment plan, but it is unable to handle the load during heavy rainfall. The city currently is capturing only 60 percent of wastewater, with untreated water reaching the river an average of 57 times a year.

Policy established in 1984 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls for cities to capture 85 percent of wastewater and limit the times water goes untreated to between four and six.

Estimates by the Cambridge, Mass.-based engineering firm of CDM Smith estimates the project would take 10 years to complete and would mean the average annual household water-sewer bill would increase to $575 by 2033, compared with $128 today to pay for the upgrades.

Those rates could rise if construction costs increase.

The firm also recommended the city install a new high-rate treatment facility, which likely would be two large storage vessels to retain excess water.

"Instead of allowing (the wastewater) to go into the river like it currently does, it's going to capture 100 percent of that overflow and transfer it down to our wastewater treatment plant," Director of Utilities David Kent told aldermen.

The plan would be implemented over 10 years -- two for planning and financing, four for design and permitting, and four for construction. It will be submitted to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency this week for review, which could take up to four months. A public hearing will be scheduled.

Mandeera Wagle, a project manager with CDM Smith, said the cost of the plan is on the low end of those considered. Construction costs for all options -- including separating sewer lines that carry wastewater and rainwater -- ranged from $49 million to $888 million.

"The more money you spend, the higher percent capture you'll get, but at a certain point, you're spending more and more money and not getting that much additional captured," Wagle told aldermen.

The plan was originally submitted to the IEPA in July 2009, but the two sides disagreed over whether half the city's six combined overflows were releasing water into a sensitive water area. The overflows in question were the Cedar Street overflow that drains into Quincy Bay, the South Side overflow that drains into Curtis Creek, and the Whipple Creek overflow.

The project was expected to cost $120 million if the sensitive water area designation was in place.

The city appealed the decision to the Illinois Pollution Control Board, which ruled in March 2010 that the areas were not sensitive and the IEPA should issue the permit. The IEPA filed another appeal which was also denied by the board in June 2010.