URBANA – Some $39 million in improvements to the local sanitary sewer system are moving ahead.
The state Environmental Protection Agency has given its approval to plans for the improvements at the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District's Northeast Treatment Plant, calling them "technically sound and cost-effective."
After a public comment period in the next 60 days, the state would lend the district $39 million.
It will be repaid by a 3 percent a year fee increase for users that runs for the next nine years, said Michael Little, the district's executive director. That will take the average bill from $17.68 per month now to $22.48 per month by 2017.
Geoffrey Andres, the manager of infrastructure financial assistance at the state's Water Bureau, wrote the letter granting tentative approval.
Much of the facilities at the Northeast Treatment Plant were built in 1923.
Little said some of the original equipment still works, and some of the technology is still applicable.
The project is intended to optimize the facility without major expansion.
Out-of-date filtration systems would be updated and standardized to match the district's new Southwest Treatment Plant's equipment and operations.
It would also reduce excess flows of chlorinated water into the Saline Ditch, otherwise known as the West Branch of the Salt Fork.
One area to be enlarged houses the anaerobic digesters that render waste sludge safe, including food waste from Kraft Foods. This should improve odors, according to Little's proposal.
There will also be new locker rooms for district employees. "Some of those facilities for the employees haven't changed since 1923," Little said.
"We started this planning process back in 2000," Little said. "This is really the final step in the planning."