City seeks loan for wastewater plant project

By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
The proposed construction of a new wastewater plant in Portales is necessary to meet state standards and address the city’s growing population, says Public Works Director John DeSha.
The city will be applying for a $27 million loan with the New Mexico Environment Department for the construction of the plant and a reuse system to replace an outdated system that is struggling to treat Portales’ wastewater, because the strength of the waste in the water is much stronger.
“It was never designed to do the job it’s doing,” DeSha said. “It’s handling residential sewage and industrial sewage.”

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune This aerated pond is one of four at the city’s wastewater plant that treats the city’s used water.

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune
This aerated pond is one of four at the city’s wastewater plant that treats the city’s used water.

The Portales City Council will hold a public hearing July 16 at its bi-weekly meeting regarding the project.
The project’s loan will be repaid through the city’s water and wastewater funds, according to DeSha. He says residential water prices are expected to increase in order to repay the loan but he’s not sure by how much since it’s early in the planning process.
DeSha says the project has been in the works since 2005. Officials saw the need for a new system as the population of Portales began to grow as well as industry in the area. He says the current wastewater plant, which was built in 1972, also does not meet state requirements.
“The proposed plant we’re building will handle a population of 30,000 with industry,” DeSha said. The 2010 Census has Portales’ population listed as 12,723.
He added the proposed plant would be designed to have a useful life until 2085.
The loan will also cover the building of a reuse plant, which includes a storage facility, a reuse pump station, filtering station and piping to furnish treated water to parks and schools.
The city does not reuse water with the current system, but DeSha said he expects 25 percent of the water pumped from the city’s well field to be reused for irrigation of the city’s parks and schools with the proposed plant.
“We’re going to extend the life of the well field. It’s going to save our water,” DeSha said.
DeSha said the wastewater plant alone is $15 million and the reuse portion the project is a little more than $6 million. The other costs of the project includes engineering fees.
DeSha said it’s possible that the project will cost under $25 million and the city will only borrow what it needs to complete the project,  but officials will apply for $27 million to have a financial cushion in the event of a worst case scenario, such as the price of concrete doubling during the duration of the project.
“It’s a zero-percent interest loan with zero administrative fees,” DeSha said. “In addition to that, (the state) gave us a $425,000 grant. We’re going to actively pursue more grants for the project. We’re taking a jump 50 years into the future, we’re going as green as we can. It’s a very exciting project.”

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