A month after the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality shut the project down, the Camp Verde Sanitary District has received the OK to continue putting new sewer lines in the ground.
The project was halted in January when ADEQ discovered that the district hadn’t obtained an aquifer protection permit, a measure the state requires before granting permission to build.
There had been a permit in place, but it expired in 2006 and the lapse apparently went unnoticed.
Last week the district board signed a consent order with ADEQ to get the project back up and running.
The order came after the district submitted its plans to ADEQ for review following the shutdown. While the state didn’t have any problems with the design of the new pipes, it was concerned that two lift pumps on Main Street designed to pump water through a new sewer pipe under the White Bridge weren’t powerful enough to meet the state’s sewage velocity requirements, a potential cause of future backups.
By signing the consent order, the district agreed in effect to upgrade the pumps in exchange for permission to keep building sewer lines.
The pumps are only three years old, and they met state requirements when they were installed.
Since then, ADEQ has made its velocity requirements stricter, district board Chairman Rob Witt said.
Early estimates put the cost of upgrading the pumps at around $50,000.
“One of the problems is that they do change the rules a lot and don’t supply the resources for it,” Witt said. “But it’s their job to make sure the water supply is safe, and if things aren’t right, then it’s probably better to fix them now before there’s a problem later.”
Basically, the board decided that it would be better to do what the state wants and get the project moving forward instead of potentially starting a costly fight on the taxpayer’s dime.
“One of the things [ADEQ] has made perfectly clear is that we’re going to do it their way or we’re not going to do it at all,” Witt said.
The district now has 180 days to install the upgraded pumps or face increasing fines from ADEQ.
“The consent order will stabilize the Camp Verde Sanitary District’s wastewater treatment planning and help the district come into, and stay in, compliance with the law,” ADEQ Director Steve Owens wrote in a statement released by his office.
“We are working closely with the district to fix the sewer lines and ensure the wastewater treatment plant is built correctly,” Owens stated. “We recognize the challenges the district faces in trying to put a large commercial area on the sewer, and we intend to help the board members work through those issues.”
The sewer expansion project could legally restart right away, Witt said, but if it started tomorrow it could cost the district as much as $250,000 to remobilize construction crews.
“We’re trying to be as flexible as we can with the contractors,” Witt said. “We want to reduce costs whenever possible.”
Witt said he hopes the machinery will be up and running within 60 days.
If Witt is concerned about keeping costs down, it’s because they keep adding up.
Just addressing the shut-down order alone cost the district more than $75,000 in preparing plans and acquiring the permit.
Money also had to be spent putting together a state-mandated operations manual for the current wastewater treatment plant, money Witt said he originally didn’t want to spend because the plant will become obsolete when the new plant comes on line this summer.
The district has also stopped accepting new sewage from septic tanks, at least until the new system is online.
Things aren’t any cheaper at the new plant. A recent stress test of one of the new aeration basins at the new plant failed when its 18-foot walls started to crack after being filled with water.
The basins are designed to be placed in the ground; the test was done above ground to look for any problems before they are buried.
It’s going to cost the district at least $24,000 to analyze the engineering plans to find out what went wrong. Once the problem is known, it will cost another $26,000 to come up with a plan to fix it, and thousands more to actually implement the repairs.
That money could be recovered by the district, however, once the investigation determines whether the designer or the contractors who built the basin are at fault.
“We’re doing everything we can to get the plant running by the end of June,” said J.R. Pooler, district project manager. “The one [organization] I can’t see who would be to blame is the Camp Verde Sanitary District.”