tampabay.com

Wastewater plant upgrades on way

By MINDY RUBENSTEIN
Published May 7, 2007


ZEPHYRHILLS - The city's aging wastewater treatment plant is getting some much-needed upgrades, with help from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The department recently awarded a $19-million low-interest loan to Zephyrhills for wastewater management.

The improvements are needed to help offset the city's growth, which is estimated to be 300 more households a year, or 2-million gallons of water per day. The existing plant, which has undergone two expansions since it was built in 1968, originally served a population of around 4, 000.

While the city's population now numbers 12, 500 residents, a third of the plant's customers are actually outside city limits, so the number served by the facility is significantly higher.

Located on Alston Avenue, the sewer plant will ultimately be able to process 4.5-million gallons of wastewater per day, more than double its current capacity of 2-million gallons.

The city hopes to complete the expansion in about a year.

In the longer term, the city hopes to eliminate the use of drinkable water for irrigation.

The city recently revised its midyear budget, taking the DEP's $19-million from reserves and putting it into actual spending for construction, City Manager Steve Spina said.

"We're at our limit with all the infill, new development and growth, " Spina said.

The actual upgrades will cost the city about $15-million.

Through legislative appropriations and DEP's State Revolving Fund, the department is helping build and upgrade local government systems like the one in Zephyrhills.

DEP established the fund to provide low-interest financing to plan, design and build wastewater and stormwater systems.

Funds can be used for wastewater, stormwater, reuse, estuary protection and other water quality improvement projects.