Letter: Why does the city need a new sewer plant?
In the January 7, 2011, edition of the Verde Independent, Mr. Dan Lueder, the utilities director in charge of our water and wastewater (sewage) systems wrote an extensive article on the proposed, and all-but-approved new wastewater (“Water Reclamation Facility”) to be built on elevated ground within the flood plain of the Verde River.
He mentions that Brian Mickelsen had the foresight to envision multiple satellite wastewater treatment facilities to serve an expected continuing growth of Cottonwood on an average of 10 percent a year. Such growth came to a screeching halt with the onset of the great recession in 2008. In 2010 there were 8-10 residential building permits issued in Cottonwood, which indicates growth continues to be stagnated. The concept of satellite wastewater treatment plants rather than one plant serving all of Cottonwood has some obvious value such as reducing the threat of a terrorist attack on the municipal sewage plant.
The Wastewater Enterprise Fund has sufficient reserves to build this multi-million dollar (estimates run from $8.5 million upward) project, but is it necessary and appropriate?
Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has set criteria to determine when a municipal sewer system needs to begin planning, not building, a new facility. On July 6, 2010, the city manager reported to the City Council that “The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality did an inspection of the wastewater plant, which passed with flying colors. It was a very clean report. As clean a report as one can get related to wastewater.”
Whether the City Council actually saw the report or not, I do not know but I do know that as part of the report the capacity of the Mingus plant is 1.5 million gallons per day and it is running at less than a million gallons a day which is less than 66 percent capacity. As I recall, the percentage that triggers planning for a new plant is over 85 percent capacity.
So with the Mingus plant getting a sterling report and it is functioning well below its capacity, why do we need another plant?
I have attended all City Council and Work Sessions in regard to the proposed plant at Riverfront Park and have never heard hard facts or concrete information given to the City Council but only vague staff reports similar to the report in the paper, but yet the City Council continues to give its approval to the project. There needs to be cost-benefit analysis of the cost of building a new plant compared to just using the present Mingus plant. Yes, there is cost of pumping sewage uphill, but is this a sufficient reason to build a new plant with a perfectly functioning one working less than capacity?
It is understood that the plant on Mingus will continue to be operational so will we have two plants operating at 50 percent capacity? There has been no discussion or hard information given to the Council regarding the portion of Cottonwood that this new plant will serve. Mr. Lueder also states that watering the facilities at Riverfront Park draws valuable water from the Verde River via the Cottonwood Ditch as well as from a well.
I suspect the Cottonwood Ditch does not increase its flow from the Verde River because of the demands by the City to water the Riverfront Park facilities and the flow will not be decreased in the ditch if the Riverfront plant is built. In addition, any water placed on the Riverfront Park facilities makes it way back to the Verde River at some point in time, minus maybe 15 percent.
If Mr. Lueder wishes to use the Cottonwood Ditch and the Verde River as a reason to build a new plant at Riverfront Park and use reclaimed water for its irrigation, he should present hydrological facts rather than opinions or suppositions.
There has never been a public forum held in which the public is able to ask questions of the project and receive answers.
What part of Cottonwood will the new plant service, what is the cost benefit ratio of building this new plant, will building it allow certain pumps and lines to be shut down, will new ones have to be built, and finally even though there is enough funds available for the project, when will Cottonwood residents see a rate hike and what will it be? Please, City Council hold an open public forum to answer these and other questions before proceeding further on a project that many consider a white elephant based on present information.