A $13.5 million construction project to improve East Lansing’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is now underway.
On Feb. 17, City Council members approved an ordinance authorizing the city to sell revenue bonds to fund the sewer system improvements.
While the State Revolving Fund is set up to encourage infrastructure improvements in city collection systems, East Lansing Finance Director Mary Haskell said the plant’s renovations require a different method of funding when compared to prior bond sale approvals made by council.
“The bonds are sold to the state and then as construction takes place, we can get withdrawals to reimburse ourselves,” she said.
In this case, Haskell said the State Revolving Fund functions like a construction loan and helps cities finance these developments.
According to City Manager George Lahanas, the city’s wastewater treatment plant has not been renovated for about 45 years.
“At the end of the ‘90s, we automated a number of our processes, but the plant hasn’t had a major upgrade since the 1970s, so it’s due for a full overhaul,” Lahanas said.
The project’s main task is the construction of an ultraviolet disinfection system that will replace the chemical process of treating the water. Engineering Administrator Robert Scheuerman said upgrading this system eliminates any risks associated with the use of chlorine products.
The new system will operate in a separate building that is to be constructed adjacent to the plant, according to Scheuerman.
The plant will also replace its tertiary filters, which are responsible for collecting any particles during the treatment process, in addition to building a new effluent line into the Red Cedar River for all final flow to be discharged.
According to Director of Public Works Scott House, these renovations are essential because many processes in the plant are reaching the end of their life cycles.
“The Wastewater Treatment Plant is charged with ensuring that wastewater and everything that flows through the plant is properly treated to safeguard the waterways of the state that flow within our community,” he said.
“With any type of process like this, you have to invest. Replacing these components, upgrading them and bringing them in line with current technology is just part of life cycle maintenance.”
Although the construction project will begin with essential improvements to the disinfection system, tertiary filters and discharge line, House said the funding will initiate a series of smaller projects to continue over the next decade.
“It’s a continuous cycle,” he said. “Everything has a design life, and the goal is to get in front of it. You want to maximize the existing design capacity of the plant, but you also want to control when things are repaired. You don’t want things to fail on you.”