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Salem water plant upgrades could reach $14.5M

SALEM — Required and recommended upgrades to Salem’s aging water treatment plant on Gamble Road carry an estimated price tag of $14.5 million.

That was the bottom line of a report presented Thursday by Jim Rhoades of Alfred Benesch Engineering, who reviewed the project scoping study with members of the Salem Utilities Commission during a special meeting/work session.

Options presented included doing all recommendations in one phase for $14.5 million, which includes the engineering costs and any contingencies that come up, or breaking the work into three phases.

Phase 1A would cover electrical service and generator upgrades for $2.9 million, followed by Phase 1B for process optimization improvements for $3.8 million, then Phase 1C for treatment and organics removal improvements for $7.9 million.

The conclusion of the report said the recommended upgrades will help the plant meet regulatory compliance, modernize outdated processes and equipment, streamline and improve process efficiency and extend the life of the plant by 20-plus years.

Rhoades said their task was to improve plant performance and reduce organics in the water by improving filters and limiting contaminants.

Commission Chair Bob Hodgson said the commission will meet to discuss the report after reviewing it further and will need to decide whether to tell Benesch to go forward and seek funding, possibly by the June meeting.

Rhoades advised now would be the time to start circulating the report to various agencies to seek funding options, noting the commission is already ahead of the game for some of the federal funding that’s coming available now because the report details what’s needed and why it’s needed.

That shows the city is serious about making upgrades and meeting requirements. The city had already increased water rates in recent years and is looking at increasing them again.

He said the timing is decent due to funding coming from the American Rescue Plan and other federal funding.

“Hopefully we can get some suitable funding,” Rhoades said.

The detailed report used value planning methodology, looking at what’s there now, all the considerations at play, including regulatory, how the equipment is functioning, what’s needed to improve and the cost.

The recommendations covered seven areas: reservoir mixing, to reduce organics and address algae issues; pretreatment/clarifier process, to upgrade the existing layout and improve the processes; filtration system, to replace some existing equipment and ultimately have a better quality of water going out of the plant; organics removal process, which would include installation of the GAC contactor system (big ticket item); solids handling process, adding new sludge lagoons and dry beds; electrical service/power, installing one new generator to power all processes; and SCADA/control system, combining everything to run from one spot so the plant can be operated manually or remotely if necessary.

SCADA stands for supervisory control and data acquisition. GAC stands for granular activated carbon, a filtering system that can remove certain chemicals from water, especially organics that can give off an odor or affect the taste of water.

The commission took the report under advisement and will review it.

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