EAST PEORIA -- East Peoria Sewer Plant #1 has operated at a low point in a lonely corner of the city since the 1930s.
It sits on land squeezed in between the Illinois River and the sprawling industrial grit of railroad yards, massive Caterpillar, Inc. buildings and concrete wrapped inside chain link, barbed wire and waist-high weeds.
The ratio of flushes to public appreciation is a calculus too high to measure. The place gets noticed only when something goes wrong.
The plant, along with Plant #3 off Access Road #7 at the foot of the Centennial Road hill are being rebuilt for a cost of up to $60 million. Customers in East Peoria have already begun to help pay back the low-interest loans from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in the form of increased sewer bills.
Studied and delayed for 16 years, officials say the upgrade was sorely overdue.
"This is bones," lead engineer Pat Sheridan, of the Farnsworth Group, said Tuesday kicking the dirt and leading a tour of the Plant #1 construction zone. "Bones of a community. If you don’t have this, you don’t have East Peoria. Right now the bones need a marrow transplant."
Compared to the overall cost of the project, a minimal cost overrun of $160,000 brought Sheridan back before the city council in June for the first time since construction began last year. The project is now almost 60% complete and is running ahead of its projected 3-year completion schedule.
According to Cord Crisler, the city’s director of public works, the overrun was the result of a necessary, but unforeseen, tweak to the project. When water was drawn down in one of the large concrete clarifiers in Plant 3, it was decided that the rusty infrastructure inside needed to be replaced, not restored.
"Overall, (Farnsworth and contractors Williams Brothers) have managed to keep cost overages below a remarkable 1 percent," Crisler saidl "Typically a project this size and scope would see overages well above 3 percent and as high as 8 percent."
The council approved the coverage of the cost overrun at its meeting in June and was expected to pass the second reading at Tuesday’s meeting.
"The design life of these facilities is 20 years," Sheridan said. "To be getting 30-40 years and more is to go way beyond the design life."
During normal operations, nine employees are charged with the operation and maintenance of the two secondary-type treatment plants — which treat approximately 5 million gallons per day of sewage — 17 lift stations and approximately 250 miles of collection systems.
Construction plans include new buildings at both sites and new and refurbished stormwater retention ponds and clarifiers, the large round concrete structures that are the most recognizable features to those who know next to nothing about wastewater treatment plants. Even members of that group would recognize the crumbling concrete, rusted metal and general deterioration of structures at both plants that necessitated the project.
"This is construction that will last East Peoria well into the future with new and more efficient facilities," Crisler said. "This is state-of-the-art"
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard.