As part of a two-phase plan, Morgan City officials have agreed to take on a $2.8 million bond to fund the first phase of sewer improvements which include rehab of the existing Island Road lift station, new headworks and administration building which includes a new screening and grit works system, and back-end improvements which includes an updated chlorination and dechlorination system and a re-aeration system.
Phase one bond payments will be paid for with current sewer revenues. However, phase 2 improvements will require a larger bond. This required a five year rate plan increase for Morgan City residents in preparation of the necessary mechanical improvements. Increases began in 2015 and will finish in 2019.
2018 will see a $5.73 increase and 2019 will bring a $6.82 a month increase eventually bringing monthly fees from $47.77 per month to $59.92 per month where City officials hope it will stay for a while.
This raise in the rate schedule is necessary for Morgan City to apply for possible grant monies during Phase 2, which includes the switch over to a full mechanical wastewater treatment facility. In order to be considered for grant money from the Utah State Water Quality Board, Morgan City must be charging close to 1.40 percent of the city’s median income.
The city’s median income is currently calculated at $64,143, necessitating a $74.83 per month sewer charge in order to apply for grant monies. Currently, Morgan City is well below that percentage but Morgan City Senior Wastewater Operator Jamie Grandpre hopes that if rates are at least close to that number, Morgan City will still be considered for assistance without having too many rate increases.
“Phase 1 improvements were necessary even to keep our current sewer lagoon system going and will be compatible with whatever mechanical piece we add in Phase 2. With the new phosphorous regulations that have been placed on us, and the nutrient rules that are upcoming, there has to be a mechanical component added to facilitate that. We will try to find the most cost-effective mechanical option that is out there when we come to Phase 2 in about 5-7 years,” Grandpre said.
“The existing sewer lagoons were added in 1968. They have served us well, but are at the end of their lifespan. Whatever mechanical option we land on should serve the City at least another 50 years, even if there is a lot of growth. The new system will give us four times the capacity that the lagoons allow,” added Grandpre.
Right now the “garbage” portion of the sewer/wastewater, such as flushable wipes, feminine hygiene products, etc., comes into the lagoons without really being screened. Grandpre explained, “It’s fine coming into the lagoons, but it adds to the overall mass and it takes a long time for these items to decompose. All of this adds to the load.”
Phase 1 improvements will eliminate part of this problem as the new screen in the headworks building will intercept the “garbage” items so they can be cleaned and sent to the landfill, where they belong. This should reduce the mass in the lagoons significantly.
Phase 2 improvements should tackle more of the environmental/chemical regulations. Anything that is flushed or goes down a drain, including a garbage disposal, goes into the sewer/wastewater lagoons. This means that all cleaning products end up in the wastewater facility. These products as well as soda, baking soda, fertilizer and many other household items contain phosphorous.
When too much phosphorous makes its way into lakes, rivers and streams, it results in algae blooms. According to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, these blooms are rapid, large overgrowths of cyanobacteria. They often form a visible scum on the surface of the water. During blooms, cyanobacteria may produce toxins that can pose a health risk to people, pets and other animals.
The Weber River doesn’t currently have major issues with algae blooms, but “what we do affects the whole state, and we are trying to be team players for the good of the whole,” said Grandpre.