Tracy Council gets updates on wastewater treatment options

TRACY – Officials in the city of Tracy will be facing some big decisions on how to update its wastewater treatment facilities – among the infrastructure problems the city faces are leaking wastewater treatment ponds and a sewer system that lets stormwater into sanitary sewer lines. However, at a public hearing on the subject held Monday night, it became clear that still more information was needed before Tracy City Council members can act to help resolve those problems.

Engineer Chris Larson, of the I&S Group, outlined some of the possible ways the city could update its wastewater infrastructure. Tracy’s current treatment ponds are leaking, as well as being too small to handle peak flows of wastewater. The ponds can’t be repaired or rebuilt where they currently are northeast of town because they’re too close to the Tracy airport, Larson said.

Larson said the city’s three main options included building a new wastewater treatment pond system for about $8.2 million, building an aerated pond system for about $6.7 million, or building a mechanical wastewater treatment system for about $7.8 million. In addition, trying to reduce the amount of stormwater that ends up in the Tracy sanitary sewer would cost an estimated $1.6 million. Updates to water mains and reconstruction of city streets affected by the sewer work would also have an estimated cost of more than $800,000.

Larson said the city is seeking funding through USDA Rural Development grants for the wastewater treatment projects. However, the improvements would also likely mean an increase in wastewater and water rates in Tracy.

No matter what option the city chooses, “Rates would go up,” said Tracy City Administrator Mike Votca.

Larson estimated that a customer who used 5,000 gallons of water a month would see his/her water bill go up about $1.60 per month.

Even with the information Larson presented, council members said there were many other factors they’d have to consider in making a decision about the wastewater infrastructure. Council member Kurt Enderson noted that the operating costs would be different for a mechanical treatment system, as opposed to a pond system. Other questions included what Rural Development funding the projects could secure and what kind of phosphorus and other discharge limits the treatment system would need to meet.

Perhaps the biggest question still to be answered is whether the city can buy land to build a new wastewater treatment system on. Larson said project engineers have put out contacts to landowners within a five-mile radius of Tracy and are waiting to hear back from them. So far, Larson said, some landowners have turned down the proposal.

Larson said I&S will be working on estimates for operating and maintenance costs for the wastewater options, as well as pursuing possible locations for a treatment system and talking to Rural Development about financial assistance before making a project recommendation to the city. Larson and Votca said the city will likely hold future informational meetings for the public, too.