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BUTLER -- The Butler Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant is nearing completion and will be operational in a matter of weeks.
Cody Gerhardt, project manager with K.E. McCartney and Associates, said construction of the new plant is essentially finished and the pipelines are in place. Brand new pump stations have been installed at the sites of the Butler and Bellville village plants, which will be decommissioned once the new plant is online.
All that remains is final testing and tying in the lines to the new system. The firm is currently in the "start-up" process, which involves testing each component individually before turning on the entire system.
Gerhardt said start-up is nearly complete at the Butler pump station and scheduled to begin next week at the Bellville pump station. Start-up at the regional plant will begin the week of March 15.
If everything goes according to plan, the plant will start serving the Clear Fork Valley by the beginning of April.
The new facility will replace four antiquated plants with one new, high-tech operation, said Brian McCartney, president and co-owner of K.E. McCartney and Associates.
The regional plant will serve the villages of Bellville and Butler, the Clear Fork Valley Mobile Home Park and the Clear Fork Middle and High School campus. The Blue Lagoon Campground is set up to be connected to the new plant at a later date.
The new plant is designed to be highly efficient, processing approximately 550,000 gallons of wastewater per day in a facility measuring about 150 by 75 feet.
“The biggest winner in this whole thing is the residents, particularly entities that can have treatment at affordable costs," McCartney said. “Being able to build one plant and combine the resources from those two communities, along with all the funding we were able to get, made it affordable for everyone."
The Butler plant is one of the first regional wastewater treatment plants in the state, but McCartney and representatives from the Ohio EPA have indicated that the Valley is a leader in what will likely become a common practice.
"When we went down to meet with (the Ohio EPA) and they said 'We've been looking for a project to kind of kick off doing this,' " said Matt Witter, water and wastewater utility services manager for K.E. McCartney. "It was just perfect timing."
McCartney had been encouraging local leaders to consider regionalization for more than a decade. When Butler decided to replace its local plant, things fell together quickly. Funding came through from the Ohio EPA and leaders from both villages came to an agreement in just two months.
The project cost approximately $13.3 million total, but Butler received $4 million in principal forgiveness from the Ohio EPA's Water Pollution Control Fund. Butler also received a $500,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission, a $750,000 community development block grant through the Ohio Development Services Agency and a 30-year zero interest note from the Ohio EPA to fund the project.
McCartney said cooperation from local leaders was crucial, including Butler Mayor Joe Stallard, Bellville Mayor Teri Brenkus and both village councils.
In addition to more cost-effective operations, the new plant will bring an end to the stench that lingered near Bellville Elementary School when the old system became overwhelmed. It will also address inadequacies in the villages' current wastewater treatment systems, which allow pollutants to flow into the Clear Fork River.
"The plant will do much better at removing nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the things that are being dumped into Lake Erie that are causing algae blooms," Witter said.