Carbondale may increase tap fees to pay for sewer plant upgrades |

Carbondale may increase tap fees to pay for sewer plant upgrades

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – An increase in tap fees for new development is being proposed to pay for an update of Carbondale’s 14-year-old water and wastewater master plan.

The revised plan would analyze the impact of anticipated future development over the next 20 years and help determine how soon a new sewage treatment plant and water system upgrades will be needed to keep up with growth.

Town trustees, at some point in the near future, will formally consider a proposed increase of $11.41 to the existing tap fee for each new single-family residence, or equivalent, to pay for the study. The estimated cost to update both the water and wastewater models included in the plan is about $23,800.

In the meantime, the town is prepared to spend more than $1.7 million over the next couple of years on upgrades to the existing sewage treatment plant, designed to keep it properly functioning for the remainder of its 9- to 16-year life expectancy.

Included in those upgrades will be a variety of fixes aimed at eliminating an ongoing odor problem that became particularly noticeable on the north end of Carbondale this past winter.

Carbondale utilities director Mark O’Meara explained at a Town Council work session last week that the odor problem originates from the plant’s digester building, where sludge thickens and digests.

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“It is a biological process, and it takes time,” O’Meara said. “We have learned along the way how best to deal with [the odor problem].”

But a variety of improvements to the holding tanks and piping systems that will allow more aeration will ultimately be needed to ensure the problem does not persist.

In 2008, the town was awarded a $500,000 Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant to help pay for the plant improvements. Altogether, the town has about $1.28 million remaining in its budget to pay for the needed upgrades.

Additional money will be budgeted from the town’s wastewater fund for next year to cover the remaining cost.

The town had talked about building a new plant a couple of years ago when the state grant was awarded. The cost estimate at that time was around $12 million for a new plant. That cost would likely increase the longer the town waits, however.

A fairly recent study showed the plant was only slightly above 52 percent of its capacity, serving a population of 6,400 people and the “commensurate commercial” customers, town manager Tom Baker said at the time the odor problems surfaced earlier this year.

State standards indicate no need to begin planning for a new plant until an old one reaches 80 percent of capacity. The town has projected it has at least five years before growth catches up with the plant.

However, a number of new residential development proposals, including the Overlook, Village at Crystal River, Thompson Park and a proposed affordable teacher housing project on the old Carbondale elementary/middle school campus, combined, would add more than 2,000 new residences to the town over the next two decades.

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