Wastewater Facility Improvement
Current Report (January 2020)
Bids for construction of the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant were opened in November of 2019 and construction is now underway. The project was awarded to Swank Construction of Kalispell for a contract amount of $20,370,000. Construction officially begins on February 10, 2020. Work on the new wastewater plant will continue for approximately 18 months with construction completion anticipated by early September of 2021.
- Background Information
- Anticipated Schedule
- Change in Nutrient Standards
- Individual Economic Variance
- Project Documents
In January 2017, the City’s engineering consultants Anderson-Montgomery Consulting Engineers and Robert Peccia and Associates began the design of a major upgrade to the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Portions of the existing plant date back to the late 1970s and the facility is not capable of meeting current or anticipated new regulatory permit requirements.
As a result, the Facilities Planning process completed in 2016 indicated that a new mechanical treatment plant, generally described as a Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR), was the most cost-effective means of upgrading the City’s wastewater treatment facilities. This type of plant will produce a high quality discharge including the removal of much of the ammonia in the effluent, a significant lowering of the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the discharge and a reduced potential for odor generation.
The plant is being designed to meet the standards set in the 2015 wastewater discharge permit issued to the City by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), including limits for total nitrogen and total phosphorous allowed through a general variance process established by the state. Estimated costs for the plant are $17.5 million dollars.
The City is in the final stages of designing the new wastewater treatment plant. The anticipated schedule is as follows:
- July 2019 - Submit final plans and specifications to DEQ
- August 2019 - Project Bidding
- Fall 2019 - Begin Construction
- Spring 2021 - Project Completion
Shortly after design began on the new plant, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) indicated that they were being required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lower the nutrient limits for nitrogen and phosphorous allowed under the general variance process described in DEQ Circular 12B, Nutrient Standards Variances.
The DEQ revised the general variance limits to reflect the "Highest Achievable Condition" (HAC) as suggested by a new Federal Rule, 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 131.14. The proposed treatment facilities under design for the City cannot meet the new HAC limits without substantial modification and addition of a new tertiary unit process.
The additional improvements would add a cost of approximately $9.5 million dollars to the $18.5 million estimated costs for the Sequencing Batch Reactor plant to meet the current (2015) treatment standards.
Recently adopted Montana law allows for the granting of individual nutrient standards variances based on the particular economic and financial situation in a community. The City of Whitefish requested a variance from the more restrictive nutrient standards in the new Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) rules based on a demonstration that the costs to meet the standards would have substantial and widespread adverse economic impacts.
The DEQ and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have approved the City’s request for a nutrient variance and the updated version of DEQ Circular 12B was signed by the Montana DEQ Director Tom Livers on May 29, 2018. The City of Whitefish now has the first nutrient variance adopted by the State of Montana.
Generally when selecting a Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) system, an engineer will bid the equipment initially and design the treatment plant around a specific type of equipment, allowing for a better and more cost-effective design. Upon completion of the bidding process the Aqua-Aerobic AquaNereda (Nereda®) system was selected.
On December 3, 2018 the Whitefish City Council awarded the Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements Project Equipment Procurement to Aqua-Aerobic Systems, Inc. in the amount of $2,365,911.
While cost and energy efficiencies definitely support the selection of the Aqua system, the process that this company is proposing is new to the U.S. and utilizes a type of activated sludge process that has recently evolved as an extremely effective treatment technology.
A public-private research partnership in the Netherlands between led to the development of the first technology applying "Aerobic Granular Sludge, or AGS. Currently, over 30 full-scale Nereda® plants are operational or under design and construction across five continents, of which the oldest are more than 10 years in operation. As of September 2016, Aqua Aerobic Systems, Inc. of Loves Park, IL became the exclusive licensee of the technology in the United States. We have been favorably impressed with the company that stands behind this process and we are excited to move forward with this new technology.
In the Nereda® process, specific environmental conditions are established which cause these microbial biomasses to become relatively large, described as Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS), which has excellent settling properties. In more practical terms, this technology will allow us to build smaller basins which are roughly half the size of more traditional SBR basins, allowing for construction savings, reduced energy consumption, and more effective use of the land at the treatment plant site.
- 10-2016 Wastewater System Improvements Project Final Preliminary Engineering Report (PDF)
- 12-03-2018 City Council Packet - Aqua Aerobic Equipment Award (PDF)
- 12-16-2019 City Council Packet - Swank Enterprises Award (PDF)
- Conceptual Site Plan (PDF)
- Equipment and Power Estimates (PDF)
- Project Schedule (PDF)