Ward said the debt will be offset in several ways, including a bond retirement of about $60,000. In addition, the new centrifuges are expected to save about $80,000 per year in sludge disposal costs, as they will produce a drier sludge resulting in less sludge tonnage.
About $30,000 will be saved each year in electricity as new units will be more energy efficient, and as much as $75,000 a year will be saved in repair and maintenance, Ward said.
“The current units are costly to maintain and repair,” Ward said.
Possible new revenue sources include large meter replacement, scheduled to start this summer and result in about $180,000 per year in revenue.
Ward said the work would allow the plant to maximize its capacity during wet weather to help reduce combined sewer overflows. He said the new equipment will be large enough to handle future growth in the city.
Councilor Thomas Sullivan said the federal government should play a greater role in helping communities along the Merrimack River pay for these kinds of projects and that Haverhill isn’t alone in this.
City Councilor Robert Scatamacchia said he supported the project and agreed with Sullivan that the federal government should help pay the cost.
He called it “another unfunded mandate by the federal government.”
But, Scatamacchia said it was important to prevent wastewater from entering the river and recalled how it smelled years ago before preventative measures were put in place.
“This past summer I was actually swimming in the river,” Scatamacchia said.
The city previously spent $18.5 million for improvements to the sewer/drainage system that were completed in 2006. Called Phase I, the work included upgrades to the city’s water treatment plant and improvements to combined sewer/storm water pipes in the city’s Bradford section, Ward said.
It could eventually cost $30 million or more to fully correct the problems and bring Haverhill into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, Ward said. Future improvements are likely to force the city to increase sewer rates in two or three years, raising the bills of homeowners and businesses, city officials have said.
Ward said the position of environmental regulators is that Haverhill has plenty of room to raise its sewer rates. He said the average sewer bill for Haverhill users is $290 per year, but that the EPA considers $1,200 to be an affordable yearly bill.