Repairs and routine maintenance needed at the Du Quoin wastewater treatment plant could reach as much as $3 million, to keep it in serviceable order for another 10 years, officials said.
Mayor Guy Alongi said he was caught off-guard to hear this week that the work could cost as much as $2 million to $3 million.
The city is also starting to work out a succession plan for two key plant staffers approaching retirement.
The plant is still working fine, Alongi said Thursday, but a report from consultant Robert Risley discussed at Monday's Du Quoin city council meeting indicates that some repairs will have to be done sooner rather than later.
Risley, owner of Water Treat Technology based in Centralia, said the Du Quoin plant's bar screen has gaps and pieces missing, and is probably the most urgent of the needed repairs. A bar screen is a mechanical filter that is essentially the first line of defense at a treatment plant, as it removes large objects from the wastewater flow.
Risley said new bars can cost $200,000 to $300,000.
"Removing all this debris is very important to a plant," Risley added. He said the treatment plant staff are removing sand and grit manually and recommends Du Quoin get an automated grit removal system.
The aerator basins are aging, he added. Ultraviolet light sterilizes fecal matter in wastewater, Risley said, adding that UV costs more than chlorine but is much more effective.
Risley also said that the Du Quoin treatment plant is 16 years old, and that plants usually have a life of about 20 years.
Alongi clarified that on Thursday, saying plants can actually last 70 or 80 years, if the equipment is repaired and replaced continuously over time, to keep the plant up to EPA standards and in sound operational order.
He said that from here on out, the city should develop a calendar for planned repairs and equipment replacement.
The Du Quoin plant operator is Dave Perradotto, a licensed certified Class 1 operator, who Risley said "is one of the most capable operators I have met."
Alongi said Perradotto wants to retire soon, and when he does the plant will no longer have a licensed Class 1 operator in charge, which it must have.
The mayor said his preference would be to hire the next Class 1 operator as a city employee. However, he also said the city needs to also explore the possibility of hiring a contractor to run the plant, and compare the costs, as well as the pros and cons.
"We owe it to our citizens to run that plant as efficiently as we can," Alongi said, "whether that means with employees or by contracting it out."
He said the city is in the process of interviewing applicants who would be city employees. Should they want to investigate a contractor, Risley's firm would be the likely choice, but Du Quoin has not asked Risley for a proposal.
Alongi said people with a Class 1 license are hard to find.