Plans are taking shape to upgrade Superior’s Wastewater Treatment Plant to better meet the town’s current needs and to be operated at a lower cost.
“Originally built in 1974, the current plant is suffering aging problems that has resulted in more frequent maintenance,” said Superior Town Manager Todd Pryor. “As the plant is single unit, scheduling downtime for maintenance also has become problematic.”
A recent study indicated that the plant may soon not meet inspection standards set by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality nor safety criteria from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, thus causing Superior concern.
“Likewise, when the plant was built, Superior had a larger population and thus a greater flow of wastewater to process. The volume of wastewater is now lower but the plant is built to run only at full capacity,” Pryor said.
In upgrading the plant, plans call for the treatment apparatus to be divided in half, with only one side operating at a time under normal conditions, he noted. Wastewater treatment can be shifted between the two chambers as the other side receives preventive maintenance. And both sides can be operated at once under rare conditions when wastewater volume increases due to weather conditions.
Being able to operate the plant at half capacity much of the time also will decrease the overall cost of operating the plant, Pryor noted.
To pay for the upgrade, Superior applied for a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional funding will come from the town’s enterprise funds and from an increase in wastewater treatment/sewer fees charged to property owners.
At present Superior homeowners are charged for sewer services at $13 per month, which according to Pryor is among the lowest rates in the state. The plan is to raise the sewer rate by $3 to $16 per month in 2018 and raise it an additional $3 each year until it reaches $28 per month in 2022. This would still be less than the current statewide average for wastewater services of $30.98 per month. Residential customers in San Manuel pay $54.43 per month. San Manuel is unincorporated and does not have a sewer district. A private company owns the wastewater treatment plant.
Wastewater services for commercial customers would go to $36 per month next year while industrial rates will continue to be negotiated based on usage.
To begin wastewater services, homeowners will pay a $25 startup fee. Homeowners who discontinue wastewater services while they are away for an extended length of time will likewise be assessed $25 to restart their services on their return.
Superior also plans to tighten up collection of past due wastewater service charges by adding a late fee of $5 per month onto past-due payments. Accounts over 90 days in arrears will be sent to a collection agency. Accounts more than 120 days delinquent will have a lien filed against their property. Accounts more than 12 months in arrears will have sewer services disconnected following 30 days written notice.
Superior will offer a Utility Assistance Program to allow residents to apply for a temporary reduction in rates based on need.
In planning to upgrade the Superior wastewater treatment plant, the town is taking into account that needs will continue change. The town currently expects population growth to be low in the foreseeable future, with much of it occurring midtown along Main Street from Pinal to Magma roads. But local economic changes could speed up or slow down the trend, the making the twin-chamber redesign able to provide optimum treatment at optimum cost no matter which way things go.
The current plant processes an average 500,000 gallons of wastewater daily.