The Yelm City Council approved a three-phase update plan last year for the water reclamation facility. Now the city is looking for grants to fund the $2 million first phase.
The first phase will update the computer system used to control the facility, Public Works Director Chad Bedlington said. The current system operates off of Windows XP, which was released in 2001. Microsoft quit releasing security updates on the system in 2014, meaning when a flaw in the system is discovered it will go unfixed. Also, if any of the hardware breaks it cannot be fixed without upgrading the entire system.
The Washington State Department of Ecology offered Yelm a low interest loan to help fund the upgrade, he said. The city has yet to accept the loan until the impact on the city’s current debt burden is known.
Grant opportunities for updating sewer facilities are
difficult to find, City Administrator Michael Grayum said. At the federal level there are few and with the changes occurring in Washington, D.C., under the Trump administration those limited funds could be less.
The second and third phases will update the infrastructure of the facility, replace pumps and expand its total capacity. An optional fourth phase would allow the plant to treat its own biomatter instead of contracting out to do it.
The total cost of the project has not been finalized because city staff keep finding ways to reduce costs, Bedlington said. The initial project estimate was about $28 million; this number has been reduced by $11 million to $17 million. The cost is expected to fluctuate until each phase begins.
The current plant came on-line in 2000, former Public Works Director Ryan Johnstone said in July. Some parts of the former, older plant were built in 1994 and remain today.
The flow capacity of the plant is one million gallons of water per day, said plant operator Randy Hatch in July. To meet the required environmental standards, the plant treats about 500,000 gallons of water a day, which is about the maximum the plant can treat to standard.
“We are getting to the point where we need to start making changes to the plant itself,” Hatch said. “The process in making the final result is what we are looking at.”