City of Saline to Spend $110,000 on Manual for Wastewater Treatment Plant

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Attempting to stay ahead of a state order to improve operations at the wastewater treatment plant, the  City of Saline will spend $110,000 on an operations and maintenance manual for the aging facility.

In 2019, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy notified the city that its wastewater treatment plant violated its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit. In addition, the notice stated the city had not adequately responded to the previous violation notice and that new violations were occurring.

In April of 2020, former water and wastewater Superintendent Steve Wyzgoski told council that city WWTP employees were overwhelmed trying to meet standards and deal with new issues like PFAS while working with a  badly faltering 66-year-old plant. At the time, city council talked about the need for an updated operations and maintenance manual. 

According to a city memo from Tetra Tech, the city's long-time partner on many infrastructure projects, the proposed Administrative Consent Order with EGLE recommends the preparation of such a manual. Tetra Tech estimates it will take six months to prepare the 200-250 page document.

And they'll do it for the City of Saline for $110,000.

City Manager Colleen O'Toole recommended the measure to council, saying the manual hasn't been updated in decades.

"Over time, it's been piecemeal assembled as new processes and projects are incorporated. What we're proposing to do incorporate all existing processes and best practice standards, safety protocols, operational needs, maintenance logs for all existing equipment within the plant, as well as structure it in such a way that it's easy to incorporate future components into the system as we know we will be expanding the system," O'Toole said.

O'Toole recommended using Tetra Tech because of its knowledge of the plant and its relationship with O'Toole and interim wastewater treatment plant superintendent Fechik.

Tetra Tech VP Brian Rubel said EGLE "very much likes" the outline of the manual it provided.

"They are eager to see that through to completion," Rubel said. "It is a large budget. I acknowledge that."

Rubel said it would be his goal to deliver the manual below the $110,000 budget.

The heavy reliance on Tetra Tech has become an issue with some members of council. Councillor Dean Girbach acknowledged that and chose to heap praise on the company and Infrastructure Alternatives for their ability to provide input and oversight.

"There are still things we are finding out from staff, just within the last week, that this operational manual needs to move forward as soon as possible," Girbach said.

The city is searching for a new superintendent of the plant, and Girbach said that employee will need this documentation - especially as the city starts to ramp up plans to rehab and expand the 67-year-old plant.

"We've got to get everything resolved. I don't want to delay this anymore," Girbach said. Girbach serves on the city's ad-hock wastewater treatment plant committee.

Mayor Brian Marl echoed Girbach's comments.

"I think it will improve operations at our wastewater treatment plant. And while the dollar amount is large, I think it is an important and strategic investment into our city," Marl said.

Answering a question from Councillor Jim Dell'Orco, O'Toole said  EGLE is amendable to the six-month timeline for the manual proposed by Tetra Tech.

Dell'Orco said workers at the plant, from Fechik on down, feel they can help with this project and feel frustrated that Tetra Tech hasn't heard their voices. In addition, Dell'Orco said workers feel there has been a lack of information and lack of training about equipment and procedures. Because of that, Dell'Orco said he felt it was important to have a permanent plant superintendent hired before starting to build the manual.

However, because of the timeline and the constraints of the administrative consent order, that likely wasn't possible. Still, Dell'Orco said it was important Tetra Tech use staff's knowledge.

Rubel said he thought that was reasonable and proposed meeting with WWTP staff at least once a month.

Councillor Janet Dillon asked who would own the responsibility of keeping the manual updated. O'Toole said that whoever is the rehab and expansion project engineer or the superintendent would need to update the operations and maintenance manual.

The motion was made by Councillor Girbach and seconded by Councillor Dillon and approved by a 7-0 vote.

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