MEDINA – Construction delays have pushed back the completion of renovations at the county’s Liverpool water treatment plant by at least a month.

County commissioners approved a change order on the $35.9 million contract that pushes the completion date on the project from Dec. 3 to Jan. 21.

The huge energy efficiency project has been three years in the making and resulted in the construction of an anaerobic digester to remove bacteria from wastewater piped into the facility. The new system to treat wastewater is considered environmentally friendly and has the potential to save the county $1.5 million a year in energy costs.

The new facility was dedicated to the late Ken Hotz in September, but current Sanitary Engineer Amy Lyon-Galvin reports the project has run into a few snags along the way. Two previous change orders on the contract increased the final price tag from $35.2 million to $35.9 million and contributed to the delay.

The first change order on the project was the result of unforeseen ground conditions and the discovery of a pocket of methane gas which increased the cost of the contract by $98,000. A second change order resulted in the addition of a bridge crane in the centrifuge building and other improvements to the original plans that added about $585,000 to the project cost.

Lyon-Galvin told county commissioners that the project’s completion in January will not mean the new facility will be immediately functional. She said the anaerobic digester takes time to cultivate the biology that makes it effective and the facility will take months before it is fully functional and producing the methane gas that will be used to fuel the equipment there.

The methane gas is the byproduct of the digestion process at the facility and its capture accounts for most of the energy savings in the new process since that methane gas will replace some of the electricity and natural gas now used to operate the treatment plant.

The Zimpro process now employed at the wastewater treatment plant requires a lot of gas and electricity to pressurize and heat sludge to levels that kill the pathogens and harmful bacteria it contains.

The new construction at the Liverpool plant features two 800,000-gallon stainless steel tanks that will house the digester. Those tanks are the first of their kind in the United States.

Plant Superintendent Phil Cummings said earlier this year the savings in operating costs should enable the county to pay off the construction cost in 15 years and do so without any increase in rates to customers.

The Ken Hotz Treatment Plant is a regional facility that serves most of Brunswick and Medina and is the biggest of three main wastewater treatment plants operated by the county.

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