The Aledo city council unanimously approved an $80,179 feasibility study to be done by engineering firm Freese and Nichols Thursday night to begin the process of the wastewater treatment plant expansion.
“We think the plant was originally built in 1990 and that was a 0.12 million gallons per day plant, so the city was a lot smaller back then and it was kind of a temporary installation at the time. In 1996, it was expanded and operated at 350,000 gallons per day at that time,” Freese and Nichols Principal and Vice President of Water Purification and Resource Recovery Gennady Boksiner said. “In 2009, we began planning for another expansion of the plant and the plant went online at the end of 2012, beginning of 2013. The important thing to note is from the beginning of planning to the time the plant actually went online was about four years and we’re here in 2019, that’s 10 years later, and I’m going to recommend the starting of the expansion.”
The wastewater treatment plant currently operates at a 0.6 million gallons per day capacity, but with the city’s growth, the plant is rapidly reaching 75 percent of its capacity.
“The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a rule that says once your plant reaches 75 percent of its [capacity], you have to be planning for an expansion. Once it reaches 90 percent, you have to be in construction, so you start getting nasty letters if that happens and fines if you don’t do anything about it,” Boksiner said. “You have already gone over [75 percent capacity] five times in the last two years. The rule lets you go over that line two times and once you go over three consecutive months, you’ll get a letter. We came very close last year to almost being over three months in a row, so November  and December we went over and then in January, the flows went back down. Then again this year, we went over twice.”
Boksiner said the increase in flows can happen during wetter months.
“The problem is when it rains a lot, a lot of manholes leak and run into the sewer,” Boksiner said. “Wastewater treatment plants are designed to accept three times the average flow rate for short durations of time because of this. We anticipate that when it rains, those flows are going to go up.”
The Freese and Nichols feasibility study will develop planning level bases of design parameters for the expansion, develop conceptual level expansion alternatives and costs, evaluate and identify funding mechanisms that the city would like to pursue, develop overall project schedule identifying critical milestones necessary to begin construction of the expansion prior to reaching 90 percent capacity and develop a feasibility report and conduct a summary workshop with the city.
“[We wil] determine the funding we need and then once the funding is in place, we can go into preliminary design,” Boksiner said. “We will be recommending a level of expansion.”
The total cost of the study will be $80,179 and funds are already available from the city’s budget.
“The feasibility study was put into our budget this year, so we budgeted it in anticipation of this expansion,” Aledo Mayor Kit Marshall said. “Back in 2009, the discussion was that we have the opportunity, the space to expand the plant three times, so is it possible that we would need to go ahead and complete the [full] expansion to manage the growth in the next five years, rather than two more expansions — just one that encompasses the full capacity.”
In response to Marshall, Boksiner said you can’t overbuild a wastewater treatment plant.
“Wastewater treatment facilities are biological treatment facilities, so they require certain amounts of waste coming in to function properly,” Boksiner said. “So it’s kind of a sweet spot and we will recommend the right size, whether it’s doubling the plant or increasing by 150 percent, we’ll have to see what makes sense to last you the next 10 years. But we don’t want to get it built so big that you can’t operate it.”
The council unanimously approved the motion to move forward with the study.