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City moves forward with plans for mechanical wastewater treatment

Posted 10/23/13 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

The city of Watford City has been playing catch-up with its infrastructure since the beginning of the oil boom. With regard to its sewer system, the city has updated lift stations, added lift stations, and expanded their lagoons north of town. However, Justin Smith, superintendent of Public Works, states that despite these efforts, the city’s wastewater capacity is still limited.
Therefore, the city of Watford City is in the process of doing something it may have never considered before the city’s population tripled. It is in the process of building a new wastewater treatment plant.
According to Smith, the city approached the state to request a permit for a wastewater treatment plant. About three or four months ago the State Health Department agreed. They issued the city a Continuous Discharge Permit, which will allow the city to build the facility and discharge the treated wastewater into Cherry Creek.
“That set the wheels in motion to seriously start planning for the construction of a new wastewater treatment facility,” states Smith. “The city’s wastewater capacity was exceeded two years ago. And last year, we started down a path of expanding the city’s existing lagoon system.”
However, the city’s growth projection shows the lagoon expansion will only last a short time before it is exceeded again. When taken with the fact that land costs are high, and there is no more room to expand the city’s lagoon system, Smith states that the city felt the Wastewater Treatment Plant was the way to go.
“The lagoons will be abandoned once the new system is up and running,” states Smith. “The land will remain city property and the new treatment plant will be constructed inside one of the existing ponds.”
Smith states that getting to the point of having an operational wastewater treatment plant is a lengthy process, and the city is only 10 percent of the way through that process.
“We expect the plant will be operational by the fall of 2015,” states Smith.
In setting the plan in motion as quickly as the city did, city officials also needed a way to pay for the treatment facility. According to Smith, the city had an analysis done to determine what their options were for funding the project.
“We concluded that a buy-in system is the most fair way to pay for the project,” states Smith. “We felt that new growth should pay for the new plant, so that existing residents do not get burdened with paying for expansion.”
The new rate and fee structure went into effect at the Oct. 7 Watford City City Council Meeting and it is similar to rate structures used in municipalities with similar conditions.
Smith states that there are new rates for new hook-up fees, and those that connected to the system before Oct. 7 will not be charged this fee. Only new connections will be charged the new connection fee. The type of fee will be determined by the type of connection, and it is a one-time connection fee.
Though existing residents and businesses that are already connected to the system will not have to pay the one-time connection fee, their sewer rates will be affected.
“The utility rates for sewer have not been determined yet,” states Smith. “But everyone’s rates will be going up.”