Engineering for Phippsberg, Milner wastewater plants will cost $125K; repairs will be much more

The wastewater treatment plant in Milner, shown in this newspaper archive photo, is one of two lagoon-style plants in Routt County that need upgrades.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Engineering work to further assess needed upgrades at wastewater treatment plants in Milner and Phippsburg will cost at least $125,000, though where the money will come from hasn’t been decided yet.

The plant in Phippsburg is out of compliance with state regulations for not meeting seepage requirements. The plant in Milner is the same age and design, meaning upgrades are needed there, as well.

“It’s not as if we have a choice here,” said Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Scott Cowman said while Milner isn’t violating any state regulations, the system is nearing and occasionally exceeding biological limits laid out in permits to operate the lagoon.

To remedy this, the lagoon would need to be pumped — maintenance that can add up over time.

“That’s a significant expense,” Cowman said. “There’s probably going to be a lot of funding sources available that the time is right to update that system so it is set up better for the future.”

Cowman said about $50,000 of the engineering work could be covered by technical assistant grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, but the rest would need to be shouldered by the county.

The eventual work would be at a “much higher cost,” Cowman said.

Commissioners have often mentioned these upgrades when musing on how to spend money from the American Rescue Plan Act, but commissioners also said they were not ready to commit money to the projects at this time. The money doesn’t need to be committed until 2024 or spent until 2026.

Routt County Manager Jay Harrington said the county has been reaching out to other infrastructure partners throughout the county to see what other projects some of these ARPA dollars could be used for, as well.

“(The county wants) to kind of see what their needs are and what grants they’re going after and what they may need for matching funds,” Harrington said. “I think we’re being careful not to commit our funds.”

Harrington said the county needs to see the results of the engineering work before making any commitments with the ARPA money.

This work is expected to layout the various options and costs for upgrading these systems. One of the biggest considerations is whether to replace them with a cheaper but less efficient lagoon system or to go with a more expensive mechanical option.

In the long term, County Attorney Erick Knaus suggested a special district may be a better entity to manage the wastewater plants, as opposed to the county, but the upgrades still need to be done first.

“In the short term, we need to get these systems up to modern standards,” Harrington said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.