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Chester moving ahead on improvements to water, wastewater plants

By Don Berry
Contributing writer
updated: 3/6/2019 6:18 PM

The Chester City Council moved ahead this week on renovation projects at the city's water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant -- voting to proceed with a loan application with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and starting on the design work.

At the water treatment plant, the city will install a grit removal system for a little over $2.3 million. City Engineer Harold Sheffer, of the J.T. Blankenship firm in Murphysboro, said as the pumps pull water from the Mississippi River to be treated for use by residents and businesses, a lot of grit and sand comes with it.

That sand is currently passed along to the wastewater treatment plant, which filters it out but in so doing takes a toll on the equipment.

Installing a grit removal system at the water treatment plant makes the process more efficient and less costly, Sheffer said.

Meanwhile, the project at the wastewater treatment plant will renovate two pump stations and install a new UV disinfecting system, for a total cost of about $1.6 million.

Sheffer expects that by spring 2020 the city will be taking bids for the work, and closing on the loan. Construction on both projects would probably begin in midsummer 2020, he added.

He added that residents and businesses will not notice any disruption during construction. Whereas the water treatment plant might have to stop treating water for short intervals, the city has plenty of water in storage, he said.

The IEPA has favorable loan terms for municipal projects of this size. The borrowing rate is only 1 percent over 20 years, and the IEPA will forgive 75 percent of a loan for water treatment plants, up to $1.5 million. For wastewater treatment projects, the IEPA will forgive 45 percent.

First, though, a municipality has to be approved.

"They have plenty of money right now," Sheffer said, "but also plenty of applications."

Chester will be responsible for the remaining costs not covered by the loan, which will total about $1.1 million. The city will take out a loan for that, said Mayor Tom Page, but because the repayment schedule will be over 20 years the annual outlay will be minimal.

"The citizens of Chester won't see any increases" in their taxes to pay for the work, Page said.

He said the council already sets aside money in each budget to pay for water and sewer related costs -- now, they'll be putting aside a little more.

Other news

• The Chester City Council agreed to buy the property at 223 Wall St., next to the water plant, for $60,000.

• Chester will make a $1,000 donation to the Historical Marker Program, for a plaque at the St. Nicholas Landmark Building. It is the oldest building left on Chester's riverfront. The council will take the money from the Beautification/Tourism Commission.

• The council approved agreements with J&S Services for mowing at the Cohen Recreational Complex and Cole Memorial Park. The cost for Cohen is $638 twice a month and Cole $400 twice a month.

• Jason and Jennifer King, owners of Muddy River Coffee, were given concession rights at the Cohen Complex.