Wastewater plant expansion moves forward

January 3, 2024

The City Council on Tuesday took actions that will move the years-long Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion Project slightly forward. Water Utilities Director Terry Lauritsen explains the actions and updates us on the status of the project in today’s Director’s Cut.

Remind us of what this project is, please.

This is an expansion of the existing Chickasaw Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is located on Tuxedo Boulevard.

Why are we doing it?

The expansion is required by the Oklahoma Department of Environment Quality.

Why is it being required by ODEQ?

It will increase the capacity of the plant from 7 million gallons per day (mdg) to 8.2 million gallons per day. It is also required for us to implement water reuse, which is ready to launch as soon as the ODEQ permitting process is complete.

How much is it expected to cost, and how will it be funded?

The anticipated cost is approximately $65 million. It will likely be funded though low interest loans, which would be repaid through Wastewater Capital Fee funds. This is a fee that utility customers pay as part of their monthly utility bill.

What has been done and where are we in the project?

In September 2020, the City contracted with Tetra Tech for the first phase of design services, which is to prepare engineering reports for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion and the Limestone to Chickasaw Transport Corridor Improvements. The engineering report evaluates various improvement options, providing a 35 percent level of engineering design as well as the environmental review and estimated construction costs. While the engineering report has been completed for the Limestone to Chickasaw Transport Corridor Improvements, the engineering report for the Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion is going to require additional work to complete.

The concept for the treatment plant expansion is to upgrade equipment and expand treatment units to increase the capacity of the plant from 7.0 million gallons per day to 8.2 million gallons per day. Also included in the expansion project will be the additional treatment needed for water reuse. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) regulations on water reuse have numerous components and requirements, one of which is to conduct a pilot study of the proposed treatment to confirm performance.

While the ODEQ has acknowledged the adequacy of the reuse concept through the City’s previous studies and evaluations, which resulted in permitting the new reuse discharge location as well as the construction of the pipeline and pump station to move reuse water to the new discharge location, a pilot study on the reuse treatment is still required to demonstrate compliance.

In September 2023, the council approved an amendment with Tetra Tech to prepare and submit the pilot study protocol, which outlines the approach, treatment units and testing that will be utilized along with the chemicals, including dosages, that will be evaluated. The City has received approval from the ODEQ of the pilot study protocol and the study is scheduled to begin this month. The study requires assistance from Tetra Tech to coordinate, determine chemicals and dosage rates, gather data and prepare reports for the scenarios that will be tested during the study. The council on Tuesday approved a contract for those services.

What other actions did the council take Tuesday in connection with this project?

In January 2023, the City was awarded a $2 million grant through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), administered by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, for the Chickasaw Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion project. The grant was conditioned that all funds must be spent by December 2026 and required the City to match the grant dollar for dollar. However, the application designated this grant towards the construction of the project, which unfortunately, will not be underway by the deadline.

In light of the ARPA deadline, staff reached out to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board about using the grant on the engineering/pre-construction portion of the project instead of construction. The engineering/pre-construction portion of the project is anticipated to cost around $4.3 million, which will utilize all of the grant. The OWRB responded favorably to moving these funds and requested an official letter regarding the scope change along with a technical memo from the Engineer summarizing the estimated project costs. So the council approved those actions on Tuesday.

When will construction start, and when will the expansion be complete?

Construction is likely to begin in 2026 with completion anticipated in 2028.