RICHWOOD — Engineers completed a master plan that evaluates the condition of the city’s systems and 25-year growth and makes recommendations for capital improvements, but City Council was not ready to accept it in hopes of a more cost-effective option.

The plan, which Freese and Nichols Engineer Kendall Ryan presented to council during its Monday meeting, recommends the city proceed with a sanitary sewer evaluation study to address its high inflow and infiltration and the building of a new wastewater lift station.

Those projects would cost about $2.7 million, according to the presentation.

Inflow and infiltration rainwater and groundwater enters sewer pipes and manholes, putting a strain on the system that treats wastewater by also forcing it to treat the water that infiltrates the system.

Freese and Nichols found that in four basins throughout Richwood, inflow and infiltration measured by gallons in a certain space come to 6.2, 19.8, 23.9 and 54.3. Below two means low inflow and infiltration and above four means high levels of inflow and infiltration, making these numbers stark.

Often, numbers like this are caused by one major chip or hole that no one has yet seen, which can be easily improved when fixed, Ryan said.

Along with the $136,100 sewer evaluation, Ryan recommended a $2.6 million wastewater project that would build a new lift station and eight-inch force main.

That is because out of the city’s 10 lift stations, which bring wastewater to the Clute treatment plant that Richwood leases 25 percent of, two are undersized for peaks flows the engineers observed, Ryan said. That creates a risk of unauthorized discharge of wastewater, Ryan said.

Lift station 1 is in an especially dangerous place because lift station 2 was built to flow through lift station 1, when lift station 1 was never intended to have that capacity, he said.

These two projects could be funded by a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board, Interim City Manager Lindsay Koskiniemi said.

These funds come out of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which Richwood could apply for a loan out of, Ryan said. He based a calculation on an interest rate of 0.34 percent, showing a $758,239 savings versus a market-rate loan.

This would not be in the current fiscal year, Koskiniemi said.

Councilman Mark Brown questioned if the lift station is needed immediately, especially if they can get the infiltration problem under control.

The projects were determined assuming infiltration is heavily addressed, Ryan said, adding that the lift station project “is made more important by I and I but still needed without it.”

Brown said he questioned whether this project order would be putting the “cart before the horse” and noted that the lift stations function when there is not an infiltration problem.

For the water system, the five-year priorities stem from the city’s water pressure being oft-observed as lower than the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s recommended pressure of 35 psi, Ryan said.

“You’re taking care of business with the north water plant already,” he told the council.

The $4 million water plant with a pump station in Oakwood Shores is under design, and the master plan recommends that to continue, according to the presentation.

Other recommendations in the five-year plan include building a new 12-inch east water line loop for $2.4 million, constructing a 500,000-gallon storage tank at the Brazosport Water Authority intake point for $780,000, phase 2 of a sewer evaluation and another lift station and 10-inch force main for $3.4 million.

Council did not accept the plan Monday night, opting for the engineering firm to present a cheaper option if possible.

Staff recommends the council adopt a capital improvement plan like this one, but if a cheaper option is feasible, it could benefit the city, Koskiniemi said.

“These are things we need to address aggressively because they have not been addressed over the past several decades,” she said.

The engineers estimate $32 million over 25 years is what will bring the city “up to speed,” which is a good plan, Koskiniemi said. But they want to make sure they’re doing their due diligence and address needs on a priority basis, she said.

The plan estimates that Richwood will have a population of more than 15,000 by 2044. That would put the city, which currently has 5,976 residents, at a growth rate of 4.5 percent per year. By that time, Freese and Nichols recommend the city have its own wastewater treatment plant and assumes it will annex and develop a 928-acre tract of land adjacent to the city.

Freese and Nichols is expected to come back with more in-depth research about inflow and infiltration at a future meeting, but it is not yet known when.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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