It would cost $35 million to improve Carson City’s aging wastewater-treatment plant and $135 million for a new plant, people touring the facility were told Monday.
Those were the rough estimates tossed out by David Bruketta, city utilities manager and plant environmental operations manager. He conducted the tour for about 15 residents, several of them from Sierra Nevada Forums. That group is hosting a pubic discussion tonight about water, sewer and wastewater needs, as well as rate-increase plans.
The forum is set at the Bob Boldrick Theater in the Community Center, 851 E. William St., and begins 5:30 p.m. Rate increases will vary for different residents and uses, but are expected to range from 5 percent to 15 percent annually over the coming five years.
“This is an industry-wide problem,” said Bruketta, noting the American Society of Civil Engineers has rated wastewater-treatment and reclamation plant infrastructure below average across the United States.
Bruketta said he used ballpark figures for the tour, afterward showing estimates for upgrading the treatment plant of nearly $39 million and an overall cost for the plant and sewer system upgrades of $49.3 million. He said the water system, with which he doesn’t deal, could cost an additional $17.2 million.
A final rate-structure ordinance and the plan will go before the Board of Supervisors in September, Bruketta said, but the board already has chosen a five-year period rather than stretching the plan over a decade. He reminded those on the tour that the proposal to boost rates includes a built-in depreciation system for future needs.
And he said, without casting aspersions, that previous Carson City governing boards had decided not to retain depreciation financing in the rate structure now in effect. Yet that may mean the matter provides rate payers a mixed way to look at the past and future, given that rates in Carson City are lower than they could have been.
“We’re the lowest,” he said. “Even with these rate increases, we’re going to be the lowest” in the region.
Bruketta likened the situation to financing college, which is quite expensive, and leaving the future cost unfunded as children advance through grade school and high school.
“We’re seniors now,” he said, implying the next step is leaving high school and paying the cost of postsecondary education.
The heart of the plant’s problem, he said, is the secondary treatment system. He said upgrading it will cost about $18 million. Part of the two-tiered secondary treatment part of the plant uses aeration, which was put in during the late 1970s. He said that 1978 aeration system would be replaced with a new one, the old one heading for the scrap heap.
“It was never designed to last 35 years,” he said.
Bruketta said the plant handles 4 million to 4.5 million gallons daily, though it has a capacity of 6.9 million. However, he said, the lower volume than in previous years carries the same amount of waste to be treated and that taxes the system.
The problem, he told those touring, is that Carson City’s treatment facility has faced continual breakdowns due to aging parts and safety concerns associated with the process.
“We’re starting to see more permit violations from the state,” he said.