Along with the “My Turn” letter I wrote in the Verde Independent on Sunday, May 22, there also appeared a letter written by Bob Oliphant who again delivered incorrect information about the reasons for the Riverfront Reclamation Plant. Also, if you read my letter on-line you were also presented with a picture of a wastewater plant that in no way represents what the city is proposing. The plant proposed is much smaller and completely enclosed. In fact, we anticipate using this smaller plant design for future development so we can use the reclaimed water in the area in which it is produced.
In regards to Mr. Oliphant’s letter, hopefully you discerned from my letter that the proposed reclamation plant is not about adding capacity, it is about finding a productive alternative to continuing to pump raw wastewater several miles uphill to the existing plant and adding another sewer line between Riverfront Park and Garrison Park at a cost of around $3 million. The current line is over capacity and deteriorating. If we reduce the volumes through that line by processing wastewater at Riverfront Park, we can extend the life of that line for a significant period of time. We will also be able to use the reclaimed water for a productive purpose by watering the sports fields, dog park, community garden, cemetery, old Cottonwood tress that are dying, and possibly some of Dead Horse State Park.
In terms of the capacity of the Mingus Wastewater Plant, the 2010 inspection report from ADEQ noted that the plant was running at 66 percent capacity. During a City Council meeting, Mr. Lueder was asked about the current operating capacity of the plant, and he said it was about 70 percent. For an unprepared estimate, I would say this is fairly close. In fact, for several months in 2006 and 2007 the plant was operating in excess of 70 percent capacity. The only reference we can find in the minutes regarding a capacity of 50 percent came from a Planning and Zoning Commissioner and a staff member who had not had responsibility for the wastewater plant for almost two years and the only point they were trying to make is that the Mingus Plant had enough capacity to absorb the planned development of Mesquite Hills. Per the minutes, Mr. Oliphant was against the Mesquite Hills Development project and was trying to convince the Planning and Zoning Commission that there was not enough capacity in the Mingus Plant to support that development.
In terms of the Mingus Wastewater Plant being obsolete, if you look up the word “obsolete” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is defined as “No longer produced – Out of Date.” This certainly describes the Mingus Plant. As ADEQ indicated, it is operating well, but that is a testament to the staff that works to keep it running well. As we continue to use the Mingus Plant and whether we ever need more wastewater capacity or not, that plant will need to be updated if we continue to use it. It has already been updated once in 1999 when its capacity was increased to 1.5 million gallons per day and the treatment process was improved.
In summary, the new reclamation plant is not about capacity. Will we gain some capacity? Yes - and that will result in cost savings in the future. Is it the primary reason for the new reclamation plant? No. The principle reason we are moving forward with this plant is that we will otherwise need to replace an over-taxed, main sewer line at considerable expense, and rather than doing that we have elected to take an approach that we believe makes more sense and will provide significant additional benefits to our community, both now and into the future.