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Pump station for Lower Meramec Program OK'd by MSD trustees

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Board of Trustees has approved the construction of a pump station as part of the Lower Meramec Program.

The station will pump sewage into the yet-to-be built regional Lower Meramec Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakville that should be operational by the end of 2006.

The estimated cost of the pump station is nearly $31 million. The wastewater treatment plant, which will be adjacent to the current Meramec Lagoons near Rogers Elementary School, will cost $80.5 million.

The overall Lower Meramec Program is expected to cost $217 million, making it the largest single project ever planned by the district.

MSD spokesman Lance LeComb said the work is necessary because the current facilities are too old and don't have the capacity to take care of the expected growth in the area. The district also is receiving pressure from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

"The Meramec plant will be state of the art, and will be able to provide the capacity that the region needs in the short and long term,'' he said.

The new plant will clean wastewater before piping it into the Mississippi River. It eventually will replace the Meramec and Baumgartner lagoons and the Grand Glaize and Fenton treatment plants.

The district is under administrative order from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to eliminate the Baumgartner Lagoon by the end of 2006 or pay up to $10,000 per day in penalties. The Meramec and Baumgartner lagoons will remain operational until the new plant is ready.

A tunnel that will carry wastewater to the pump station already is under construction 200 feet underground. The Fenton and Grand Glaize plants will remain operational until the tunnel is complete.

LeComb said that is expected to take about 10 years.

One treatment plant is more cost effective than having four facilities, LeComb said, noting that though there will be just one plant, it will be large enough that the district likely won't make any layoffs.

The project is part of a large-scale plan to upgrade the metropolitan area's old sewers. LeComb said many of the sewers are 150 years old, and the average is 80 years.

MSD voters last month voted in favor of a bond issue that will help fund $3.7 billion worth of sewer system improvements over the next 18 years.

Phase 1 of improvements will cost $647 million over the next three years. Voters agreed on Feb. 3 to pay $500 million of that through the bond issue. Those funds are exclusively reserved for the first phase of the project.

The other $147 million will be paid through a rate increase that will take effect in July. The average single-family residential rate will jump to $20.58 per month from $16.87.

"It wasn't a matter of if we were going to do the work,'' LeComb said. "It was a matter of how. We had no choice because of the regulatory pressure we're under.''

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