PALMETTO -- City officials gave the go-ahead Monday for the Palmetto Public Works Department to apply for a $4.4 million low-interest loan through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to improve the city water system.
The city recently installed a $4.2 million aquifer recovery and storage well, with the Southwest Florida Water Management District paying for half.
The ARS well uses ultraviolet technology to kill bacteria and stores 2.4 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater the city uses toward its expanded reuse water
system for resident irrigation use.
Public Works Director Allen Tusing said he hopes construction will begin by mid-2016 for a 2 million-gallon equalization basin to essentially eliminate the peaks and lows of operating a wastewater plant.
"That's the primary function," Tusing said.
Daily flow varies
"For example, in the morning around 7 a.m., our flows go from almost nothing to 1.7 million gallons. All day, it goes up and down from 1.2 to 1.7 million until dinner, and then it tapers off until around 10:30 p.m., where it declines to about 100,000. Then at night, it barely has enough water to operate, but we still have to operate the plant 24 hours."
Tusing said the concrete above-ground tank is designed to keep the wastewater system flowing smoothly at all times.
By eliminating the peaks and lows, it reduces strain on the pumps and blowers by allowing them to run with consistency throughout the day instead of running at highs and lows.
"If you can run your plant down to an average of 700,000 to 800,000 gallons over 24 hours, everything runs slower, you use less electricity and the chemicals don't have to overfeed the system," Tusing said. "With an equalization basin, the whole operation runs itself, therefore you don't burn up extra electricity, it smooths the operation, it's less chemicals and you save a ton of money."
Tusing said Palmetto's wastewater plant isn't necessarily behind the times, because "a lot of plants still don't have them, but most of the plants our size and larger would love to have them and the DEP would like to see us get this done."
The draw-down loan, if secured, would make all funding available and the city would only pay interest on the dollars used for the project.
While the city is seeking to secure a loan, it is diverting capital improvement plan dollars to ensure the debt is paid at $200,000 a year, so other projects are being delayed.
"I have other things I'd like to spend money on, but it's better to improve our system now and do these upgrades to bring our system up to where it should be," he said.
About $500,000 of the loan will be used to accelerate the city reuse water system expansion to residents as well as water line replacements. Including the loan, the city is budgeting $8.8 million for CIP projects with most, about $7.1 million, dedicated to utilities.
Tusing said the financial impact would be felt short-term as far as scaling back other projects, but savings from the equalization basin would be pumped back into those projects within 2 to 3 years.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.