St. George in the midst of wastewater treatment upgrades

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ST. GEORGE — When completed, upgrades to the city of St. George’s wastewater treatment facility will add substantial capacity to handle the recent growth experienced throughout Washington County.

The plant, which treats sewage from St. George, Washington, Ivins and Santa Clara, was built in 1990, upgraded in 1994 and again in 1999. Because of the area’s rapid growth, the plant, which sits west of Bloomington, is again going through a two-phase upgrade.

The current capacity is 17 million gallons per day. Phase one of the expansion replaces the infrastructure that handles sewage coming into the plant as well as the ultraviolet-disinfection process at the end of the treatment facility.

“Phase one replaces what’s coming into the plant and what is leaving, but it doesn’t increase the capacity,” said Scott Taylor, St. George water services director.

At a cost of $28 million, phase one is expected to be completed in about 60 days, with phase two immediately following up at $42 million to begin retrofitting the treatment process and increase capacity to handle 25.5 million gallons of sewage per day.

Phase two is anticipated to be completed by May 2022.

Depending on continuing growth, Taylor said, the expansion should meet the immediate needs of the city.

A graphic showing the nine regions across Utah and their water conversation goals, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources. | Graphic courtesy of the Utah Division of Water Resources, St. George News

“With phase two, we are expecting that will take us out to about 2034,” Taylor said. “In 2034, we expect to add another 8 million gallons of treatment capacity per day.”

Concurrently, the city is constructing a drinking water facility downstream from the Gunlock Reservoir. The majority of the St. George’s potable water comes from a treatment plant at Quail Creek.

This became the main option for the city in 2002 when the United States Environmental Protection Agency changed the allowable limits on naturally occurring arsenic. Overnight, Taylor said, nine out of 11 wells became unusable.

“We mothballed the nine wells but have since decided to start using them again,” Taylor said. “The treatment plant that is under construction will remove the arsenic to the new standards.”

When completed, the new plant will provide 6-8 million gallons per day of drinking water to the greater St. George area.

The cost of more drinking water is $11 million.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike is excited about improvements to infrastructure, especially water.

“It’s all about expanding our capacity, which of course is necessary for our population growth,” Pike said. “We’ve been planning this for years, but put it off a little bit because of the Great Recession. Now we are getting back to it.”

Although the economic downturn hit Southern Utah hard, there was a silver lining as the city is now able to pay for half of the improvements to the wastewater plant in cash.

“This is not only important to the city, but a number of other communities that we treat their wastewater as well,” Pike said.”Water is an important thing in the West.”

To meet the need, the city has engaged in a reuse program to water parks, cemeteries, school fields and golf courses.

“This is a very complex and a highly regulated issue, as it should be,” Pike said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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