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Wastewater project marks milestone with 'energized' plant

WILLMAR -- Work on the city's new wastewater treatment plant will reach a milestone today when the structures at the site are energized for the first time with permanent power.

Replacing temporary power with permanent power means construction of the structures and electrical and mechanical systems is substantially complete, says Rhonda Rae, program manager in the Willmar office of wastewater project consultant Donohue and Associates.

Rae said work on the plant, in addition to construction of sewer lines leading to the plant and other associated projects, is on schedule and under budget. Rae says the plant is 92 percent complete.

Also, work on the mechanical system is 82 percent complete and electrical work is 75 percent complete.

Construction is 98 percent on both the interceptor sewer line, which will carry municipal waste, and on the force main, which will carry industrial waste from Jennie-O Turkey Store, to the new plant located 5 miles west of the city. Donohue expects work on both lines will be finished this spring.

Rae attributes the plant's progress since work began Sept. 29, 2008, to contractor efficiency.

"They've been able to enclose enough buildings to be able to work through the winter,'' said Rae. "They've managed their schedule very well. The quality of the work is good. The work is going well.''

Because work is ahead of schedule, tests on the treatment tanks will be conducted earlier -- Aug. 15-30 -- rather than later in September. The tanks will be filled with water to check for leaks and proper operation of equipment and systems before the Oct. 7 start-up.

Rae said public meetings will be held in June and July during which citizens can learn how the new system and new process will work.

Consultants, plant operators and regulators will also meet, beginning March 23, to discuss their roles and responsibilities as the city transitions from the old plant to the new plant, according to Rae. Those attending will represent the city, Donohue, general contractor Graham Construction Services, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"We're going to clearly map out the plan and then map out who is responsible,'' said Rae.

The $86.2 million project is being financed with various state and federal loans and grants and city reserves, and will be repaid through user rates. Rae said current expenses total $64,063,078, with $22,155,634 remaining in the budget. Rae thinks the project will be a couple of million dollars under budget, but the exact figure isn't yet known.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150