Report by interim operator offers three solutions
An asset management plan took a look at Edgewood’s wastewater system and concluded that it would cost what engineer Raymond Dennis described as “a bucketload of money” to keep it operating.
In addition, the plant is past the point that would automatically trigger an expansion according to rules of the state’s environment department.
The sewer system was put into place for businesses initially, as a way to spur economic development in Edgewood. Previous planning by the town was to add residential customers to the mix at some point.
Dennis said “the town of Edgewood has a relatively new multimillion facility that serves 23 commercial customers.
The fact that the system is used exclusively by businesses, many of them restaurants, may be part of the reason that the system is not functioning as it should, Dennis said. For example, the wastewater treatment system includes 600 membranes for filtering solids out. The estimated lifetime of each membrane is six years, but in Edgewood’s system they are lasting about a year, and that’s only because the membranes are being rinsed out with citric acid.
The capacity of the current plant should be around 50,000 to 56,000 gallons a day, but “actual numbers” for the plant are a capacity of about half that, Dennis said.
He added that the groundwater discharge permit Edgewood has from the state environment department “stipulates a trigger point for expansion at about 75 percent of capacity,” Dennis said. Since Denny’s opened, the system is taking in 22,000 gallons a day, up from 19,000. “You’re at the point now where your permit says thou shall expand your plant,” Dennis said.
Water distributed by Epcor—a private company that runs a large water system in and around Edgewood, and which contracted with the town to maintain the wastewater treatment plant—is less alkaline than water when it gets to plant, Dennis said, adding, “That’s what’s causing the problems with the membranes.”
Edgewood Mayor Brad Hill said the system was the result of “incredibly poor decisions made at some point,” adding, “I don’t know how much it’s going to help to vent about that.” He said the wastewater treatment plant was being used to store office furniture when he became mayor.
The three options offered by Epcor and Dennis are to continue operating the plant, “accepting the cost, and that it’s going to cost a bucketful of money to do so,” Dennis said.
The second option would be to modify the existing facility “to eliminate the membranes and come up with a different technology,” and the third is to replace “much or most of the existing facility,” Dennis said.
Councilor Rita Loy Simmons expressed surprise that “the whole plant was planned for commercial only,” despite the fact that she has been involved with town government since its inception.
“My concern here is that we’re at capacity and over the trigger point for expanding the system,” said Councilor John Abrams. He added, “My question, I guess, is since we have another membrane tank we have another parallel system not in service.”
He was told that would double the maintenance on the sewer plant. Abrams asked if adding residences to the system would “help, hinder or hurt.”
Dennis said those questions would be answered by an engineering report, which Epcor is advising the town to do.
Another possibility is requiring water treatment of some sort from the businesses who use the sewer system, if it is determined that the water they are sending to the system is part of the problem.
Councilor Sherry Abraham asked a similar question, about whether the town could expand the system while it looks for other options.
“That’s basically just doubling the problem,” Hill responded.
Councilor Chuck Ring said he would save his questions for subsequent meetings, but he said, “It seems penny-wise and pound foolish … to keep messing around with the plant we have.” He also suggested a “side-by-side” approach “until the point we can operate a second plant.”
“These are not decisions that can be put off very long,” Hill said. “They need to be made quickly.” He also said, “There needs to be some review and study of this, but we don’t have the luxury of a lot of time. It needs to be done right.”
The matter will be added to the agenda for the town’s regular Nov. 4 council meeting.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]