Work on a three-year, $58 million upgrade at the City of Omaha's Missouri River treatment plant could begin as soon as March.
The Omaha City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a contract with Hawkins Construction. It's the latest addition to a federally mandated overhaul of the city's sewer system, which is expected to cost more than $2 billion and take two decades to complete.
Public Works Director Bob Stubbe told the council that the upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant are crucial to meeting requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. Workers will replace pumps and filters and update control systems, which will allow the plant to handle more volume from the city's sewers.
“We are increasing our ability for plant capacity in addition to our ability to treat increased wet-weather flow,” Stubbe said.
Officials said a sizable chunk of the project — about $40 million — will be funded with a loan from the state, which is administered by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. That loan is offered at a 2 percent interest rate, which Stubbe said is significantly lower than what the city would pay on a standard revenue bond.
The sewer work has prompted several rate increases in recent years.
Al Herink, the city's comptroller, said more rate increases are likely on the way. The Mayor's Office is reviewing a plan that calls for increases over the next five years. It will likely end up on the council's agenda by spring, Herink said.
“Everybody is on board that a rate increase is necessary to continue funding this process,” he said.