BRITT | Water main breaks on First, Second and Third streets and a well valve leak this winter may be the least of the city of Britt’s water woes.
On Tuesday, March 5, Greg Sindt and Wes Brown with Bolton & Menk, an engineering firm hired by the city in August, updated the City Council on its review of Britt’s wastewater treatment facility, water treatment plant and storm sewer system.
“I'd say you've got a difficult situation here in that both your water and wastewater basic infrastructure are in need of significant improvements or replacement,” Sindt said. “That's a real short-term shot on the financial impact.”
The City Council unanimously approved three professional service agreements with Bolton & Menk totaling no more than $10,000 to amend the city’s wastewater treatment facility plan.
Britt must upgrade its wastewater treatment facility to meet Iowa Department of Natural Resources mandates by 2020, which could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Our opinion is that both facilities have had a long service life, but they really ... are nearing the end of their service lives,” Sindt said about the city’s wastewater and water facilities, both constructed more than 50 years ago. “There's a lot of improvements going to be needed for both of these plants.”
The city’s storm water system also has “a lot of inflow and infiltration of clean water” that’d need to be addressed in the future, he added.
The improvements would likely come with multi-million dollar price tags — something Britt, and its taxpayers, couldn’t shoulder at once.
Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, proposed integrated planning, which allows cities that have multiple infrastructure projects to prioritize them based on protection of human health, protection of environment and a cost-benefit analysis.
Sindt recommends the city start with the water treatment plant — deferring the wastewater project five or 10 years — because of its impact on human health.
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Britt Mayor Ryan Arndorfer agreed.
“The (Department of Natural Resources is the one pushing wastewater and our fear is that we’re going to invest in building $7 (million) or $8 million wastewater treatment facility and then the next day our water plant has a major issue that we have to now address,” he said. “There’s no way we could financially afford to do both.”
The integrated plan reflecting such a proposal would require review, and approval, from the DNR, which Sindt said he plans on submitting within the next two months.
If approved, the DNR would amend the city’s discharge permit for the compliance schedule to meet the laws.
“The big thing is you don't just throw money at a problem as somebody kind of demands it,” Brown said. “You're more in control of it. You say we're going to spend money in this sequence.”
Arndorfer said the city will likely have to reexamine its water and sewer user rates to cover some of the improvements’ cost, which Sindt said was “very prudent.”
City Administrator/Clerk Debra Sawyer said the average bill for a single person is $46 per month, including water, sewer, garbage and recycle expenses.
Sindt said other residents will likely be paying more than that while cities look to update their aging infrastructure.
The city also discussed maintenance on its two water towers but decided to postpone a decision until its vision for improvements at the water treatment plant or wastewater facility are firmed.