Ballot bond issue would pay for needed upgrades to dilapidated Miller sewer system, voters to decide

Steve Chapman

Voters in Miller are being asked to pass a $3.3 million bond to pay for upgrades to the city’s aging sewer system. The city’s sewer system is out of compliance with DNR regulations, and the city has until 2020 to bring it into compliance. If Miller voters pass the bond at the April 2 election, upgrades to the sewer system can begin by summer or fall of 2020.
The current sewer system has a two-lagoon cell system. The primary cell is on a three-acre location, and the secondary system occupies an area of a little under an acre. There are 37,429 feet of sewer main pipeline, and the system discharges into a tributary of Stahl Creek.
The system has problems, however. According to a study by engineers with the TREKK Design Group, an engineering firm based in Kansas City, there have been 38 E. Coli violations within the last three years, as well as 29 ammonia violations.
A study of the collection system found that it is deteriorating. TREKK studied the city’s 119 manholes and found six have evidence of overflow, while 74 have contributed to inflow and infiltration of rainwater during storms.
TREKK also inspected 5,387 linear feet of pipe with CCTV. Of all the pipe inspected, TREKK rated 2,816 feet at five, 300 feet at four, and 1,432 feet at three. A five rating means that the pipe needs an immediate intervention because it has already failed or will fail within the next two to five years. A four means the pipe is in poor condition, and three means the pipe is in fair condition.
TREKK smoke tested the entire sewer system and found 622 defects which contribute 622 gallons per minute of additional flow to the waste water treatment plant during storms, or about 22 times the normal flow, causing additional cost to treatment. DNR considers anything above two-and-a-half times normal to be excessive.
TREKK recommended improvements costing a total of $3,068,000. The improvements would include a NitrOx system, which will cost $1,159,000; an ultraviolet disinfection system, which costs $340,000; an interceptor upgrade to the sewer collection system at a cost of $234,000 and collection system rehabilitation, at a cost of $1,335,000. A TREKK engineer noted that the costs will never get cheaper, and the situation will not go away.
TREKK also proposed a number of ways to help the city pay for the costs of repairs. The city is eligible for a rural sewer grant of $406,000, as well as an SRF grant, which is a 50/50 split between DNR and Miller, of up to $1.5 million. The remainder of the cost would be funded with a low interest loan.
The bond issue Miller citizens are being asked to pass would raise water rates. Currently, citizens pay $7.34 per 1,000 gallons of water used. If the bond issue passes, rates would go up to $9.21 per 1,000 gallons in 2020 and $12.30 per 1,000 gallons in 2024.  
TREKK also warned that if the bond doesn’t pass, DNR can refer Miller for enforcement action, which can include a fine of up to $10,000 per day the city is out of compliance, and a court order could be issued forcing the city to get the sewer system in compliance. The city could also risk loss of $1.7 million in funds, and the bond issue would return to voters another day.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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