Archive for Tuesday, January 19, 1999


January 19, 1999


A $40.5 million expansion and upgrade of the Wastewater Treatment Plant is expected to be the most expensive city project ever.

Engineers will be paid $2.74 million to draw up a set of complex plans to help guide the city's sewer system into the new millennium.

Black & Veatch of Kansas City, Mo., is expected to land a design contract for a $40.5 million expansion and upgrade of the city's Wastewater Treatment Plant, situated on 25 acres at 1400 E. Eighth.

Lawrence city commissioners are scheduled to approve the contract during tonight's meeting, scheduled to start at 6:35 at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts. They also plan to borrow money from the state at below-market interest rates to pay off the debt.

"It's a large project," City Manager Mike Wildgen said. "It's the largest one we've ever done."

Just last week commissioners received a preliminary design report from Black & Veatch, which for years has served as the city's consultant on water and wastewater issues. The report cost $125,000.

As envisioned by Black & Veatch, the plant's expansion would begin in the spring of next year and be ready to start treating sewage in the fall of 2002.

It will be equipped to meet new regulations regarding the amount of ammonia released into the Kansas River, plus replace and upgrade equipment that has outlived its useful life. Plant capacity also will be boosted to handle sewage loads from a growing city through the year 2020.

A full 55 percent of the plant's expansion, or about $22.3 million in costs, can be attributed to needs brought on by growth, the company determined. The more people in town, the more sewage flowing toward the plant.

"The growth issues are a reflection of living in a growing community," said Steve Phillips of Black & Veatch.

Another 30 percent, or $12.1 million, of the project is traceable to new or anticipated environmental regulations from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The project's remaining 15 percent, or $6.1 million, is necessary for maintaining the treatment system's overall reliability.

The plant currently handles more than 3 billion gallons of sewage a year, and can take on as much as 45 million gallons a day flowing through 295 miles of sewer lines all over town. The plant hasn't shut down since it opened in the 1950s.

"It doesn't get a vacation," Phillips said.

To finance the entire project, commissioners plan to float temporary bonds and then pay them off using money borrowed from a "revolving" fund administered by the state of Kansas. Such loans are available at relatively low interest rates, thus softening the financial blow to communities taking on large sewer projects.

In Lawrence, the bills for such projects are paid by water and sewer customers through monthly utility bills. Black & Veatch already is working on a rate study for water and sewer service, to determine how much city officials will have to increase rates to pay off the debt for the plant expansion and other projects during the next five years.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is

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