New technology, longer life
By Mark Reaman
The Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District is preparing to do a major upgrade to the Mt. Crested Butte facility that is estimated to cost about $20 million. Board discussions are underway to evaluate the best path forward, and if the plan moves ahead, construction could begin next year. Rates are expected to rise to help pay for the project.
District manager Mike Fabbre explained that the current water treatment plant was built in 1985 “and has reached the end of its useful life. The current plant operates as designed and we have not had any violations or issues, but the time has come to make plans for updating the facilities. The East River Pump Station (ERPS) building was constructed in 1976 and modernized in 1985 during the construction of the water treatment plant (WTP), along with the raw water pipe line connecting the two facilities. The District contracted a “comprehensive performance evaluation” by an engineering firm that identified the need for a new WTP because of the age of the facility, future capacity issues, and the lack of pipeline and power redundancy.”
Fabbre said the plan is in the design phase and a new treatment plant would be an ultrafiltration membrane plant that is an update to modern technology. “The current WTP has an effective operational capacity of one million gallons a day (MGD), and the new WTP will be rated for approximately 1.5 MGD, at initial construction, and will be designed to meet the needs for full build-out of the District.
“The new raw water pipeline and pump station will be sized to accommodate full build out of the District. The additional pipeline will provide redundancy in the event of catastrophic failure of the existing pipeline,” Fabbre explained.
“This project will be a huge benefit to the district, the town of Mt. Crested Butte, our customers, and all users in this end of the valley by providing a new WTP, pump station, and pipeline with an estimated life span of more than 30 years,” Fabbre continued. “This project will help ensure we can provide safe and reliable drinking water to our constituents, and be able to meet the current and future demands of growth in our community. The new WTP will produce a smaller waste stream, have less water loss in producing potable water, have lower chemical usage, provide greater pathogen reduction, allow reduced disinfection byproduct formation, create more automation, and allow a smaller expansion footprint in our limited site area. The entire project will also produce higher levels of efficiency, reliability, productivity, and consistency. It will also reduce the risks involved with relying on an aging infrastructure.”
The $20 million costs might appear expensive at first glance but according to Fabbre, it is an expensive industry and the systems are technically complicated to build and operate. He stated Breckenridge is currently constructing a $53 million dollar water treatment plant and Durango is currently constructing a $64 million dollar wastewater treatment facility.
The proposed funding source for this project is through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority which provide low interest loans to projects like this one to ensure safe drinking water to the public. “Our rates will be rising to fund a project of this magnitude, and we have hired Raftelis Financial Consultants to help evaluate what those rates will be,” Fabbre said. “The current high level of demand for municipal bonds has lowered potential borrowing costs sufficiently that the proposed 2020 rate increase will result in an increase on the average residential bill of only 11 percent (19 percent for water, 4 percent for wastewater).
The staff has been working toward this plan for the last two years but it will be up to the board of directors to give the final okay moving the financing and construction project forward. Fabbre said the district is potentially looking at breaking ground in 2020 with the construction project expected to last two years.
The district will be holding a public meeting Thursday, November 14 at 5 p.m. at 100 Gothic Road for a “Project Needs Assessment” presentation and 60-percent design presentation by JVA engineers. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
The project needs assessment and the proposed 2020 rates are listed on the MCBWSD website (MCBWSD.com). The Board of Directors meetings are held at the District office at 5 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month.
The 2020 budget and rate increases will be discussed at the December 10 Board of Directors meeting that is open and encouraged for the public to attend. Future information and public meetings will be published and posted online as they become available.