After reevaluating an original layout for a new water treatment plant for over a year, Westminster City Council approved general plans for a new plant on Jan 23 – one that will cost $100 million less than originally planned.
“I feel confident we are headed in a way better direction than we were,” said City Councilor Lindsey Emmons.
Councilors approved the plan 6-1, with City Councilor Bruce Baker voting no.
“It’s for a property we do not need and for a price too much,” he said.
According to Stephanie Bleiker, capital projects administrator, the improved plant will use existing infrastructure, can treat wildfire-contaminated water, is flexible for future replacement and has robust infrastructure.
It’s estimated to cost $196 million, plus an additional $15 million for ozonation, though it may cost more with inflation. Ozonation is a process that injects pure oxygen into the water to kill a wide range of biological contaminants and to oxidize metals.
The budget is supported by the current water rate structure, she said.
The cheapest option – one that councilors decided against – saved money in the short run. It wouldn’t have been flexible in the long run to replace in the future, costing more money than the others down the road, she said.
Council has been considering the replacement for the Semper Water Treatment plant for years, but work to replace the facility started in 2015, culminating in the city's Water 2025 project plan. The project identified the best location as a vacant lot along Westminster Boulevard.
Concerns over water affordability stopped the project on Nov. 29, 2021. Over the past year, the plant’s capacity, locations and other supporting infrastructure have all been re-evaluated. That resulted in a call for less water treatment capacity at the new plant, from 60 million gallons of demand per day to 44 million. The location remained on Westminster Boulevard.
Much of that lower demand is due to conservation measures for commercial and residential zones, said Bleiker.
“20 years ago people were taking that initiative, and it didn’t add up to very much. Over time, it added more and more,” she said.
The reduction is happening in many Front Range cities, not just Westminster. Because of that, city staff recommended not moving forward with Water 2025.
Right now, Semper doesn’t have the ability to do ozonation, to handle solids easily, to do deep bed filtration or mechanical flocculation – a water treatment process where solids form larger clusters that are easier to filter out – or to treat emerging contaminants, such as so-called forever chemicals or PFAs.
The new treatment plant would be able to do these things. Treating emerging contaminants comes down to having the space that will be provided with the new plant, she said.
Bleiker mentioned some contaminants are known today, but more will come in the future that are not known. She said it’s the decision of the EPA and CDPHE to decide what’s regulated, and it’s not optional for the city to comply.
“We want enough space for when some reg comes out and says ‘it’s time to treat for this contaminant,’ we have a place to put it without looking for new land to put it on,” she said.