EPA says work must be completed by 2024

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BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield must spend about $11 million to replace its wastewater treatment plant.

“It’s a big project, no question about it,” public works director Jason Thomas said during a City Council meeting Monday. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The city contracted with CH2M last year for a preliminary engineering report. The City Council unanimously approved a preliminary engineering report for the project during its Monday evening meeting. An administrative order issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year requires that the main treatment facility and improvements to the headworks must be completed by December 2024, according to the preliminary engineering report.

The preliminary engineering report recommends replacing the facility with a system known as a sequencing batch reactor. In the system, all the biological and settling reactions take place in the same tank. It would require multiple tanks tanks so that one can fill up while the other is processing the waste.

It also recommends a water reclamation system that will pipe treated water to irrigate landscaping in the median of U.S. Highway 64 and in Vereda del Rio San Juan Park.

More: Bloomfield approves request for capital outlay funds

The $11 million estimate includes $1 million for improvements at the headworks and $2.2 million for the water recycling system that will provide irrigation water to city landscaping on the highway and in the park.

Jill Peterson, project manager for CH2M, said the majority of the odor from the plant comes from the headworks, which make up the initial stage of the treatment process. The improvements will reduce the odor, she said.

“We believe that this proposed project is the absolute least expensive option that the city has,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the system is forgiving, and it will be easy to replace parts. He said another advantage is that the system is redundant.

The plant will have three basins. One basin will fill while another treats the waste. A third basin will help the city treat surges of storm water or spills from the oil fields, Thomas said when reached by phone Tuesday.

More: Bloomfield works to lower total trihalomethanes in water

He said the wastewater treatment plant will occasionally get illicit oil waste discharge that must be isolated and treated. Thomas said those incidents happen about once a year and are random.

In addition to the money the city must spend to replace the wastewater treatment plant, it is still paying off a loan it received to upgrade the plant in 2005. Thomas said the city still has eight years of payments remaining on that loan.

The city has not secured funding for the project. It currently has about $1 million to use for the project, according to Thomas.

 “I know $11 million is a big pill to swallow,” said Jennifer House, the principal for CH2M.

House highlighted six possible funding options. Those include the New Mexico Environment Department Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, capital outlay money, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants, the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART grants, the New Mexico Finance Authority or federal money that President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan calls for spending on rural infrastructure development.

House said she is not sure how the president’s infrastructure plan, which was announced Monday, could be used to help Bloomfield.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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