Posted 7/28/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Tioga has been wrestling with how to go about increasing its wastewater treatment capacity since the start of the oil boom -- a task complicated by not knowing how many people will call Tioga home in the coming years.
Last week, the city commission voted to approve a $6.1 million treatment plant, and construction will begin in the next month. While cheaper options were available, the approved option is seen by commissioners as the most cost-efficient way to approach the problem should upgrades be needed if the town reaches the high-end of the projections. That would be a population of about 6,000 over the next several years.
Going with options costing up to $1 million less, the city would need to discard components of the cheaper system if the population in town got too high. That would basically be throwing away about $1 million.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” said Commission Heather Weflen.
The decision on the $6.1 million plant comes at the end of a series of discussions, with cost numbers continuing to balloon as the conversation went on over what would be needed to satisfy the current wastewater needs and those of the next few years. There was also the difficulty of making sure what was built would fit all the technical requirements to be in compliance with state regulations.
What was first a $4 million plant soon became a $7 million plant.
Various technical approaches were considered along the way, including a filtration system. Commissioner John Grubb went to Pennsylvania to tour one such facility to see if it would work for Tioga. It seemed to be a good option until the costs of maintenance and operations for such a plant in Tioga were considered. Grubb described them as “out of this world.”
“That’s why we put the brakes on that project,” Grubb said.
With the building season coming to a close and costs of construction increasing in winter, the commission was pressed to make a decision as to how to proceed.
“Every week we lose is increasing costs at this point,” said AE2S President Charles S. Vein.
The exact costs of the project will be developed over the next few weeks.
Grubb said there’s a chance the price will be less than the $6.1 million, but he’s confident it won’t go over that.
“I’m being assured by all parties that’s the figure,” Grubb said.
Whatever the final cost, the money will come from a variety of sources, including grants the city has already been awarded to upgrade its sewer infrastructure. The city will also be using loans from the state revolving fund. Grubb said other state money may also be used to support the project.