FULTON - Fulton's wastewater treatment facility will undergo a $13 million dollar upgrade within the next couple of years and it's not alone.
New regulations from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will cost public and private wastewater treatment facilities an estimated one-billion dollars in upgrades across the state.
Revisions to the current Water Quality Standards Rule will classify an additional 90,000 stream miles as "fishable/swimmable" and will require wastewater treatment facilities to disinfect their effluent (treated wastewater leaving the facility) and reduce ammonia concentrations.
According to the DNR's website, the purpose of the revised rule is to "update state water quality standards to ensure they are functionally equivalent to federal standards and to improve the clarity, specificity and effectiveness of the standards. This rulemaking is required under Section 303(c) of the federal Clean Water Act and addresses primarily federal and state initiatives, EPA disapprovals and Missouri Clean Water Commission directives."
Fulton must apply for a permit every five years to discharge wastewater into Stinson Creek, a small creek located next to the wastewater facility. "The water is clean right now and we are meeting our existing permit," said Darrell Dunlap, Fulton's superintendent of utilities. Wastewater entering the treatment facility is murky and contains particles of solid waste. After treatment, it's crystal clear and free of solid waste. However, this still isn't good enough to meet the DNR's new water quality standards.
"They're (DNR) wanting to cut back ammonia, they're wanting to cut back phosphorus and different things that they're finding in the stream down below the plant," said wastewater supervisor Joe Chism. "We're actually improving the quality of water, but yet the quality of water down the stream isn't meeting their (new) required limits." According to Dunlap, after the DNR approves the currently drafted permit with tighter requirements, "the clock starts ticking."
For Fulton, cleaner wastewater means a spike in utility fees. The city is currently considering its options for funding the $13 million upgrade. Options include a state revolving fund, revenue bonds, and a pay as you go program. According to Dunlap, a state revolving fund and revenue bonds would raise utilities but not as much as the pay as you go program. "The average bill is around 32 dollars (a month)," said Dunlap. "We would be around 57 dollars (a month) with the pay as you go program."
"I think a lot of money being spent wouldn't have to be if it wasn't for the studies we have to do, for the professional contractors, the engineering process," said Chism. "It all just makes the money, the cost, higher. It's just the evil part of it. It has to be done."
"Every time we go through a permit, it gets tighter," said Dunlap. "It comes down to how clean is clean?"
If the Water Quality Standards Rule is adopted at the Clean Water Commission meeting September 4, it will go into full effect December 30, 2013.