ST. ALBANS CITY — St. Albans City voters will likely be asked to weigh in on another infrastructure project this coming March — a new water tank.
In 2018, state inspectors determined that the city lacks sufficient storage for its water system. Currently, the city has one tank which can hold approximately 1 million gallons of water. The concrete tank was built in the 1950’s and is located on Aldis Hill, engineer Wayne Elliott of Aldrich + Elliott explained to the city council Monday night.
The city hired consultants to examine the state of the current tank. The tank could have another 25 to 30 useful years, but it needs maintenance. “It’s going to need some work to get another 20-plus years out of it,” Elliott said.
The city is supposed to have sufficient storage to cover a full day’s use and provide water for a major fire. Currently, that means 2.2 million gallons. By 2040, Elliott projects the city will need to have 2.4 million gallons.
To meet those requirements, the city initially considered expanding the current tank, but doing so would create too much water pressure in the system, Elliott explained.
After considering multiple locations and tanks, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, Elliott said his firm is recommending a second concrete tank adjacent to the existing tank. The cost of the tank and installation is projected to be $2.3 million, including a 10 percent contingency.
Once the new tank is installed, maintenance would be done on the existing tank including the installation of a mixer. That cost is projected to be $1.2 million.
The good news for the users of the city’s water system is that the state’s revolving loan fund for drinking water projects is offering 75 percent loan forgiveness on the first $1 million borrowed and 25 percent on any amount borrowed over that. However, those funds are available on a first come, first serve basis, Elliott said.
By taking advantage of that program, the city could save $1,075,000, just on the new tank.
To complete the project, the city will need to acquire some land for the second tank, but Elliott said those negotiations are underway.
Having two tanks will allow the city to refill the tanks during non-peak hours.
“With the mechanical mixing in each tank, and drawing down the water levels in the tanks during the day, the detention time in the tanks will be reduced, thereby improving the overall water quality, and odor and taste,” Elliott wrote in his memo to the council.
Asked by Mayor Tim Smith why the city should put funds into this, as opposed to addressing its combined sewer overflow problem, Elliott said, “My concern is that you don’t have redundancy there. A system this size, it’s really important to have backup and redundancy.”
With only one tank, if a problem develops that requires it to be taken offline, the city will be without water storage. In the event of a major fire, the system would not be able to supply water quickly enough without the tank, Elliott explained. In addition, the water pressure created by the tank is needed by users, particularly Northwestern Medical Center. Thus, having it offline would create a risk.
He also said mentioned the work already done to address the combined sewer overflow problem (see accompanying sidebar) and the upgrades recently completed at the wastewater treatment facility, where the city invested roughly $3 million to improve phosphorous removal as part of an $18 million refurbishment. Those improvements have reduced phosphorous from the plant significantly, he said, adding, “that’s ultimately going to help quality of water in the bay.”
“You’ve got a tank up there that was built back in the 50’s,” Elliott said in reference to the city’s current water tank. “Without some reinvestment you’re going to be building two [new] tanks up there.”
The plan is for engineering work and the land purchase to be completed over the winter, with a bond vote in March and construction on the new tank to begin next year.