You can’t say the folks at Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department don’t have a sense of humor.

Last Thursday, Jackson Jenkins, department director, dedicated the completion of a five-mile-long gravity sewer line between the Roger Road and Ina Road Wastewater Reclamation Facilities by flushing a balloon-decorated toilet that stood in front of a 72-inch-wide wastewater pipe section.

“Most people would cut a ribbon,” Jenkins said, “but we thought this would be a more sewer appropriate activity.”

The plant interconnect line, using pipe varying in width from 60 inches to 72 inches, was constructed as the first phase of the Regional Optimization Master Plan (ROMP).

Phase two of the ROMP is already in progress – the upgrade and expansion of the Ina Road facility to be able to treat 50 million gallons a day, up from its current 37.5 million gallons a day capacity. Construction has begun on the west basin expansion, gravity belt thickener, centralized sludge handling facility, and a new east basin facility and secondary clarifiers.

The Ina Road upgrade and expansion, budgeted at $327 million, is projected to be operational by January 2014.

A new Central Compliance Laboratory Complex and Training Center, also part of the ROMP, is being constructed adjacent to the Ina Road Water Reclamation Campus. The $28.8 million project, which will consolidate all laboratory services into one location, is scheduled for completion in December of this year.

The final phase of the ROMP will replace the existing Roger Road plant, which began operating in 1951, with a state-of-the-art Water Campus that will treat 32 million gallons a day. CH2M Hill Engineers Inc., was awarded a design, build and operate contract last December. Estimated completion date for the new Roger Road plant is January 2015.   

Jenkins noted that the ROMP was implemented in response to regulatory requirements handed down by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. He added construction of the interconnect, the Ina Road upgrade and the new Roger Road plant will allow the department to reduce nitrogen and ammonia levels in effluent discharged into the Santa Cruz River from the two facilities.

John Bernal, deputy county administrator of the Public Works Department, said the plant interconnect project finished about $5 million under its budget of $41.1 million. He noted it also completed two weeks ahead of schedule.

Bernal said that county was the beneficiary of federal stimulus funds for the plant interconnect, receiving $2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and $8 million in low-interest loans from the State of Arizona Water Infrastructure Finance Authority.

Approval to operate the plant interconnect was received from ADEQ early in March, Bernal said, adding that the interconnect has been equipped with state-of-the-art odor control features.

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