Nearly $1 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan will be used to make long-needed upgrades to the Lolo wastewater treatment system – and eliminate the use of leaking “bio-bags.”
Missoula County commissioners last week approved the work order and expect improvements to begin next winter. Lolo is growing in both population and size, and the system is unable to meet today’s standards or demands. Risk of a system failure also is a concern.
“It’s great we get use of the ARPA money to address these sewer and water infrastructure needs for these areas that are kind of deficient,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “This is a major leap forward to the Lolo wastewater system.”
More than a decade ago, an engineering report was completed and recommended a number of improvements that needed to take place at the Lolo wastewater plant to improve both capacity and treatment.
The improvements were never funded, though with ARPA funding now available, the work can finally begin.
“Some work was done, but due to budget shortfalls along the years, not all that work was completed,” said Erik Dickson with county engineering. “When the ARPA grant became available, we applied for that grant and received funding. We continue to see areas that need to be improved.”
Craig Caprara, the water section manager for HDR said the upgrades were planned as long ago as 2008. The recommended improvements cover major equipment, from pumping affluent to improving the process tank.
But Caprara said the bulk of the work includes the design of the de-watering facility. The plant currently uses a dredge provided by the National Park Service to dredge a storage pond, place the material into bio-bags, de-water it and send it to the landfill.
“It’s an extremely labor intensive and inefficient process for the plant staff,” Caprara said. “The bio-bags sit in a polishing pond that’s suspected to leak. It’s just not a very good process.”
Caprara said the work will also include a second force main and an upgraded lift system.
“All of the wastewater in Lolo gravitates to one main lift station that’s a couple thousand feet away from the plant, and it pumps the treatment to the plant,” he said. “That lift station is quite old and in need of replacement. There’s one force main that routes the wastewater to the treatment plant. If that pipe breaks, you’ve got a lot of problems.”