Morrison Creek wastewater plant set for replacement

Upgrade should improve water quality discharge into Stagecoach Reservoir

Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District operators Jeff Ericksen, left, and Bill Queen survey the wastewater treatment plant serving the Stagecoach area. The district plans to replace the 50-year-old treatment plant this year as it does not meet the latest safety and environmental standards.
Geovammu Romero/Courtesy photo

The golden anniversary of the wastewater treatment plant serving the Stagecoach area will bring a complete replacement of the aging plant that the manager said no longer meets standards of safety for employees or upcoming increases in environmental regulations.

Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District General Manager Geovanny Romero said the district has spent $365,000, largely via grants, for design and engineering for a new wastewater treatment plant and currently is awaiting state and USDA approvals to break ground this spring. The district will issue a request for construction proposals in late January, and construction should start in April or May, continuing to late 2023.

The preliminary project cost estimate is $8 million. That will be paid for by a commitment from the USDA Rural Development program through a $1.7 million grant and $6.3 million in loans. In order to receive funding for the project, the USDA required an adjustment to customer rates, which increased on Jan. 1 by about $34 per month for combined water and sewer services. The previous monthly base rate was $84.

Romero said COVID-19 pandemic-related supply chain and employment issues, as well as inflation in costs of key supplies, have added challenges to the cost and timeline of the project. He said the district will continue to look for alternate sources of funding for all projects in the water and sanitation district in order to reduce the financial impact to customers. The district currently serves 367 customers in the centralized system, as well as 107 customers who have sewer vaults that are required to be dumped at the district wastewater treatment plant.

“Funding sources require the district to conduct rate studies to ensure we are charging enough. We just underwent a rate study and determined our fees are too low,” Romero said. “We have worked so hard to be able to find grants, but the labor, materials and infrastructure do not get any cheaper.”

The new plant will be located next to the current facility on Uncompahgre Road south of Stagecoach Reservoir. The original plant was built in 1972 by the Woodmoor Corp., the developers of Stagecoach, who later went bankrupt in the early 1970s.

The treated outflow of the plant is released into Stagecoach Reservoir, and the new plant would improve the quality of that discharged effluent, especially with reduced levels of ammonia, Romero said.

Engineer Adam Sommers with AquaWorks in Denver noted in June 2020 that the current facility is in compliance with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulations, but “the existing equipment has reached the end of its design life.”

“A modern system that is more efficient and reliable will help the district to operate safety into the future,” Sommers said. “The equipment is antiquated, and it can be a challenge to find replacement parts. The benefits of an updated system include reducing the energy costs, increasing the flexibility of the system and increasing the removal rates of biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids, phosphorous, ammonia and other constituents.”

The proposed project involves installing a sequencing batch reactor treatment facility and discontinuing use of the existing activated sludge wastewater treatment facility. The engineer noted the sequencing batch reactor design was selected as the preferred processing method because of its lower cost, ability to meet anticipated discharge permit limits, simplicity to operate, no use of consumable filters to replace and low-energy requirements needed to qualify for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Project Reserve program.

Romero said the original developer of Stagecoach installed water and sewer infrastructure to only about 20% of the originally platted 2,000 lots in the development that encompasses 11,500 acres. Within the remaining 80% of lots, home projects located on 5 acres or more in size can install onsite wastewater treatment systems. Housing lots that are less than 5 acres and located outside the central water and sewer coverage must install a water well and sewage vault, Romero explained.

In order to have a vault for wastewater, the lots must be served by a road that meets county standards so that a pumper truck can get to the vault, Romero said, noting that at least one neighborhood, called Morningside, has only six vault permits remaining.

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