State, federal standards have costly impact on city utilities

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) increase the costs associated with operating any public water and wastewater system.

Over the next five to 10 years, those standards will have an even larger impact on the City of Cassville.

"There is a set of standards and guidelines that we must operate under," said Eugene Dilbeck, city administrator. "They mandate the amount of chlorine we use and the quality of water that comes out of the wastewater treatment plant. We have very little control over the costs associated with operating the system."

Recently, EPA and DNR eliminated permits that allowed cities to bypass lagoons during times of high water. This year, the Cassville City Council approved a voluntary compliance agreement, which requires the city to develop a plan to eliminate the need for the bypass. The plan should be implemented within five years.

"Around 40 percent of the water processed at the wastewater treatment plant is groundwater and not sewage," said Dilbeck. "Most of our inflow and infiltration problems are downtown. All of the down spouts in that area drain into the sewer system."

As the city implements the plan to eliminate the bypass by controlling inflow and infiltration issues, all of the down spouts will need to be removed and repaired to drain away from the surface. The city will also be repairing many of its outdated clay sewer lines.

"Our camera system has been great for showing us the deteriorating lines," said Dilbeck. "Water is getting into the cracks in the breaks in the tile. Many of our manholes are below the flood levels, which is another way that water gets into the system.

"This will be a $2 million or $3 million project," said Dilbeck. "It will probably cause us to go to the public with a proposal for a financial mechanism to consider."

If the city makes adequate progress on the implementation of a bypass elimination plan over the next three and a half years, EPA and DNR could offer a five-year extension for the completion of the entire project.

If Cassville does not implement a successful inflow and infiltration correction plan, EPA and DNR could decide to fine the city up to $10,000 per day for wastewater violations.

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