Printed on: January 26, 2013

Idaho Falls plans $21M wastewater treatment project

By Zach Kyle

Wastewater treatment projects don't come cheap.

The Idaho Falls City Council awarded a $21 million bid Thursday for needed upgrades at its wastewater treatment facility south of town.

The bid went to Salt Lake City-based Alder Construction, which specializes in wastewater facilities.

Councilman Tom Hally said during Thursday's work session that the upgrades will help the city meet rigorous wastewater regulations for years to come.

"The water going into the river will be cleaner than our drinking water," Hally said.

Idaho Falls residents can expect sewer rates to increase 63 cents to $21.66 a month, said Chris Fredericksen, the city's assistant director of Public Works.

The rate increase will help the utility pay off an $18.1 million loan for the project from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Fredericksen said.

The increase also will replenish the city's Capital Improvement Fund, which will cover the rest of the improvements, and reduce the effect of another $7 million wastewater treatment project the city will tackle in coming years, Fredericksen said.

Wastewater entering the plant goes through a primary treatment phase, in which solids and grit are strained out. The wastewater then enters secondary treatment -- the portion of the plant receiving the upgrades, Fredericksen said.

The improvements will replace old equipment and add 7 million gallons of aeration basins where biological processes -- tiny bugs -- purify the wastewater by digesting remaining microscopic matter before the treated wastewater returns to the river.

"This is where the chemistry everybody loved so much in high school gets put to actual work," Fredericksen said.

Construction will begin in March and last two years, he said.

Zach Kyle can be reached at 542-6746. Comment on this story on Post Talk at talk/.