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Public hearing to address Harvard wastewater plant upgrades

User fees may be increased to cover loan debt from project upgrades

The Harvard Sewage Treatment Plant is shown Wednesday in Harvard. The plant was originally built in 1940, and has been upgraded a handful of times since construction.
The Harvard Sewage Treatment Plant is shown Wednesday in Harvard. The plant was originally built in 1940, and has been upgraded a handful of times since construction.

A public hearing to gain feedback on overdue improvements to Harvard’s wastewater treatment plant, 801 W. Brink St., is scheduled for Monday. The changes could come at a cost to residents.

Harvard utilities superintendent Jim Grant said a handful of updates have been performed on the nearly 80-year-old plant over the years. The last major update was in 2005, which saw the replacement of the plant’s screw pumps and other modifications, Grant said.

However, Grant said, some pieces of equipment – such as the chlorine content tanks and the aerobic digester, which helps break down sewage sludge – are about 70 years old.

“We’ve gotten our time out of it,” Grant said.

Modifications to the plant will include upgrades to the headworks and intermediate pump station, replacement of primary sludge pumps and a new electrical distribution system.

The estimated cost for the project is just less than $20 million, which the city is hoping to partially fund through a loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Pollution Control Loan Program. Current fiscal year loan terms allow the city to qualify for a reduced interest rate and partial principal forgiveness.

To help repay the loan, the city would look to increase user fees. This could raise an average resident’s bi-monthly service bill from $29.85 to $49.79.

A loan application has been submitted to the IEPA which, after reviewing the environmental impacts of the project, determined that it was sound and cost-effective.

Unless new information gained from the public causes a reconsideration, the agency will approve the facilities plan at the close of the public comment period, according to the city’s public hearing notice.

The project also was reviewed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

If everything goes according to plan, the estimated construction start date would be May 2020, according to a letter from the IEPA. Construction is anticipated to wrap up by June 2021.

The public hearing will be at 6 p.m. at Harvard City Hall, 201 W. Diggins St.

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