Anticipating plenty of local growth in the next several years, county leaders aim to spend $40 million to expand a major sewage-treatment plant in DeBary.
“It’s a critical project that’s really necessary,” Volusia County Utilities Director Mike Ulrich said.
The county will add a $14.95 million grant under the American Rescue Plan Act to other funds it has received to almost double the daily capacity of the Southwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility.
Funds set aside for the project include about $14 million previously provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The DeBary plant, built in 1993 and expanded in 2018, treats wastewater from DeBary, parts of Deltona, Orange City and unincorporated areas.
And, there’s more of that wastewater to treat all the time.
“This project is absolutely required. We’re growing in population,” County Chair Jeff Brower said.
The next round of construction is scheduled to begin in 2024. When that expansion is completed in 2026, the plant, located west of DeBary Country Club, will be capable of treating as much as 5 million gallons of sewage each day. Currently, the plant receives and treats an average daily volume of 2 million gallons.
As well as providing a five-stage advanced treatment of sewage to remove more nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, the Southwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility — or SWRWRF — will also “upgrade its biosolids management operations,” a report noted.
Biosolids is another word for sludge, the solid residue with water and moisture removed. The biosolids may be used as fertilizer in agriculture, or on golf courses and lawns. In fact, a popular product sold in gardening shops and home-improvement stores is Milorganite, which is actually sludge or biosolids, from the Milwaukee sewer system.
Ulrich said the upgraded biosolids treatment will render “class A fertilizer which can be used by local municipalities and nurseries.”
Expansion of the SWRWRF will also add a 5-million-gallon tank for storing reclaimed water that may be used for lawn sprinkling or golf-course irrigation.
Use of the reclaimed water, according to Ulrich, will enable the county and other municipal utilities to pump less water from the aquifer and lessen the growing area’s impact on the Blue Spring Basin and freshwater groundwater supply.
The County Council in September authorized spending $2.4 million in ARPA funds for the design of the expansion. The council selected CPH, a DeLand engineering-consulting firm, for the design and pre-construction work, such as environmental permitting. The design is already underway.
Then, on Nov. 15, the County Council formally accepted the latest ARPA grant, which was federal money that flowed through the FDEP.
“We take no tax money into our utilities,” County Manager George Recktenwald said.
Recktenwald said Volusia has sought out federal and state aid for infrastructure outlays, such as the SWRWRF.
“The key word is being shovel-ready,” he added. “We’ll go after grants.”
The importance of the capital project, whose construction cost is now estimated at $40 million, is highlighted in an official summary:
“The Southwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility (SWRWRF) serves as the cornerstone facility for advanced treatment and septic-system remediation strategies benefiting Volusia Blue and Gemini Springs,” the paper noted.
The latest ARPA grant requires the county to adhere to stringent conditions on contracting and purchasing materials. One of the requirements is that the county, and any subcontractors, must comply with the Build America, Buy America Act.
“All iron and steel used in the project are produced in the United States — this means all manufacturing processes, from the initial melting stage through the application of coatings, occurred in the United States,” the grant agreement reads.
“All construction materials are manufactured in the United States — this means that all manufacturing processes for the construction material occurred in the United States,” reads a follow-up rule.
The grant agreement also requires the county to make certain the contractor does not appear on the “Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List,” and has not engaged in business activities in Sudan, the Iran Energy Sector, Cuba or Syria.