MOUNDRIDGE — A $2.3 million activated sludge plant is in the works in Moundridge.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, or KDHE, recently revised regulations for ammonia levels that are released out of wastewater plants in Kansas, which is why the city of Moundridge is updating its system.

Ammonia levels are now limited to 0.4 milligrams per liter.

“Our lagoon system couldn’t meet those requirements, so we needed some type of mechanical plant to bring those ammonia levels down to the new standards,” said Randy Frazer, Moundridge city administrator.

The new addition is expected to be 80 feet long and 20 feet deep. It is expected to be finished in May of 2019.

“This new addition helps us a lot. Before, we took what we got and had no control over it. A pond can treat up to so much. But now we have the ability to add more, we still have limits but not like we had before,” said Mike Strausz, street and wastewater superintendent for the city of Moundridge.

Complying with ammonia-level regulations was a primary reason for the addition — but capacity was another factor.

“We were overloading our system and had outgrown it...it outlived it’s life expectancy,” Strausz said.

The city is paying for the plant with a hike in utility fees.

Fees were $15.35 last year, but this year they are $15.66. Next year they will be $22.63 and by 2021 they will be $23.54 for minimum charges.

Step charges for last year were $3.07 and this year are $3.13 and by 2021 are expected to be $4.71.

“It’s never a popular thing when we have to spend money on these types of things, but it’s really important as a community that we protect the environment and meet standards that the government and state put in place. It’s never fun to be forced to spend money on these types of things, but in the bigger picture it’s better for us all,” Frazer said.

Strausz said that many towns need a new treatment plant, but not all are receiving funds to pay for it.

“Everyone fell under the ammonia ruling. They were going to offer a hardship exemption to some. What that means is the town has to be in bad shape financially, which means its citizens aren’t making enough or are low- to moderate-income. We aren’t going to get that exemption because our citizens are doing well. It’s unfortunate to update our system, but it’s a good sign that we’re not in a position that everybody’s financially hurting,” Strausz said.

Frazer said the new plant should last quite some time. He said Moundridge is able to use its own existing lagoon system instead of upgrading to a whole new mechanical plant.

“This new treatment plant will also provide additional capacity for growth, so we should be in good shape over the next 20 years as far as meeting environmental standards and also by accommodating community growth.”

For more information, call the city at 620-345-8246.

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @MacSentinel.