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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • BPW seeking to extend sewage plant’s life

  • It’s not uncommon today for households to try and make old vehicles last a few years longer before biting the financial bullet and investing in something newer. That is essentially what the Hannibal Board of Public Works is doing in regard to its old wastewater treatment plant. However, if the facility were a ca...
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  • It’s not uncommon today for households to try and make old vehicles last a few years longer before biting the financial bullet and investing in something newer. That is essentially what the Hannibal Board of Public Works is doing in regard to its old wastewater treatment plant. However, if the facility were a car it would be leaking oil, guzzling gas, have a rusted out body and might not start the next time its key was put in the ignition.
    During Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the BPW Board at city hall, Bob Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, expressed concern that the city is living on borrowed time in regard to the sewage plant.
    “We’re right on the edge of a catastrophe if we don’t get on this,” he said.
    The city’s wastewater facility, located off of Warren Barrett Drive, was built in 1980 and went into service in 1981. According to a memo from Stevenson to the BPW Board, the “plant today is essentially as it was built in 1980. Plant controls are 1980s technology. Most of the equipment is original.”
    While the plant continues to treat sewage “well in excess of its advertised design limits,” in 2011 there was a dramatic increase in equipment failures and maintenance costs. The problems were attributed to “long-term wear, fatigue, and corrosion due to the atmospheric conditions within the plant buildings.”
    A high concentration of hydrogen sulfide gas taken a toll on copper wiring, structural steel, duct work and vent fans.
    During Wednesday’s meeting, Marty Thomas of Barnes, Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende, Inc., ran down a lengthy list of ills the consulting engineers found at the sewage facility. The price tag is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $4.7 million for renovations that would not increase capacity, but would extend the plant’s life for at least another decade.
    Where does the money for renovations come from?
    Despite an 8 percent sewer rate hike in 2011, which at the time was estimated would generate in $250,000 in “new dollars” for the sewer department, its reserves are essentially non-existent. Consequently, the BPW will have to borrow money to fund the work.
    Potential loaners mentioned Wednesday were the Missouri Public Utility Alliance and the BPW’s electric department. Since revenue from one BPW department cannot be used to support non-revenue generating departments, dollars received from the electric department would have to be in the form of a loan and thus be repaid.
    It is also a safe bet that work at the wastewater treatment plant will push sewer rates even higher.
    Last year Stevenson estimated that a new sewer facility would cost the city around $40 million. The federal government footed 90 percent of the bill when the current plant was built. Stevenson, however, does not anticipate any help from Washington, D.C., when the next plant is built because the BPW’s current rate structure is far lower than is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.