News Feature | March 26, 2014

Illinois City May Spend Millions Closing Wastewater Plant

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


An Illinois city may shutter its main wastewater plant in a major plan to upgrade infrastructure, but the decision would come with a huge price tag.

"Users of the wastewater system [would] be paying for the project, which is expected to cost an estimated $21 million, for the next 20 years in increased rates," the Northwest Herald reported

Final approval of the project requires a council vote, the report said. 

If the McHenry, IL, council green lights the project, "the improvements could cost the average wastewater user $150 a year over the next two decades, assuming no new system users," according to a separate Herald piece.

The wastewater plant in McHenry is aging, making compliance with environmental codes increasingly difficult. The city council has to come to a decision on whether to shut down the operation. 

Back in 2005, environmental regulators dinged McHenry for releasing too much waste into the Fox River, according to the Herald

"Repairs were made in 2006 to bring the plant back into compliance. But to address the underlying issues at the plant – which dates back in parts to the 1950s – the city proposed consolidating its two plants over the next 10 years," the report said. 

The future of the plant came into question after the recession hit. "When the economy collapsed in 2007, plans to consolidate and expand the southern treatment plant were shelved, though the city did begin the consolidation process, diverting 30 percent of wastewater to the southern plant and 100 percent of solids for final treatment," the report said. 

The new plan is pricy.  About $2.02 million to $2.68 million would go to engineering costs, along with $15.5 million to $18.6 million in construction and demolition costs, according to the report. HR Green, an engineering consulting firm, drew up the proposal for the future of the city's sewage. 

"These costs would need to be taken on by the city regardless of whether it moves ahead with the project now, [an HR Green official said], adding that if the project is put off, the city would also have to pay for continuing maintenance on the central treatment plant, plus any improvements required when the city renegotiates its 10-year plan with [state regulators]," the report said. 

In McHenry, the city operates two wastewater plants, according to the local government. It also operates 19 wastewater lift stations. 

The wastewater sector will require $298 billion in infrastructure spending over the next twenty years, according to a report card created by the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

For more, check out Water Online's Wastewater Treatment Solution Center

Image credit: "Money," © 2012 Tax Credits, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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