The engineering of the Phippsberg wastewater treatment plants, Milner will cost $125,000; repairs will be much more

The Milner Wastewater Treatment Plant, pictured in this newspaper file photo, is one of two lagoon-style plants in Routt County that need upgrading.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot and Today’s Archives

Engineering work to further assess needed upgrades to the Milner and Phippsburg wastewater treatment plants will cost at least $125,000, though where the money will come from has yet to be decided. .

The Phippsburg plant does not comply with state regulations for failing to meet infiltration requirements. The Milner factory is the same age and design, which means upgrades are needed there as well.

“It’s not like we have a choice here,” Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Scott Cowman said that while Milner is not violating any state regulations, the system is approaching and sometimes exceeding biological limits set forth in lagoon operating permits.

To remedy this, the lagoon would have to be pumped, maintenance that can accumulate over time.

“It’s a big expense,” Cowman said. “There will likely be plenty of funding sources available and now is the time to update this system so that it is better set up for the future.”

Cowman said about $50,000 of the engineering work could be covered by technical assistant grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, but the rest would have to be borne by the county.

Any work would be at a “much higher cost,” Cowman said.

Commissioners often mentioned these upgrades when considering how to spend American Rescue Plan Act money, but commissioners also said they weren’t ready to commit money to projects at the moment. The money does not need to be committed until 2024 or spent until 2026.

Routt County Executive Jay Harrington said the county has reached out to other infrastructure partners throughout the county to see what other projects some of those ARPA dollars could also be used for.

“(The county wants to) kind of see what their needs are and what grants they’re looking for and what they might need for matching funds,” Harrington said. “I think we are careful not to commit our funds.”

Harrington said the county needs to see the results of engineering work before making commitments with ARPA money.

This work should establish the various options and costs for upgrading these systems. One of the main considerations is whether to replace them with a cheaper but less efficient lagoon system or opt for a more expensive mechanical option.

In the long run, County Attorney Erick Knaus suggested that a special district might be a better entity to manage sewage treatment plants, as opposed to the county, but upgrades still need to be done first.

“In the short term, we need to bring these systems up to modern standards,” Harrington said.

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