WILLARD -- The Willard-Perry wastewater treatment facility is now complete. However, the $30 million plant still can't treat sewage because it can't get a state permit to operate.
Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality told the city council recently the permit for operation has been appealed by Western Resource Advocates because of new federal standards for the release of phosphorus and nitrates into nearby wetlands.
"If the issue of permit is permitted, it will be appealed and it will go to court," Baker said.
Western Resource Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law and policy organization with offices in seven states, including Utah. Its goal is to reduce air and water pollution in the West.
The new standards affect all treatment plants that release discharge water into free-flowing water in Utah. Currently 75 percent of all wastewater in Utah flows into Great Salt Lake.
"There are wetlands being negatively harmed because of the nutrients. These wetlands are in pristine wildlife wetlands," Baker said.
Willard received $18 million in grant money from DWQ to help build the treatment plant.
Two years ago when the grant was awarded, DWQ did not have a problem with releasing discharge water into the wetlands. The standards have changed since then.
Perry currently has evaporation lagoons next to the wetlands wildlife area.
"The lagoons have been discharging with less-treated water going into the wildlife area for the past 25 years. They were unaware, yet involved with the renewal of application process," Baker said.
The Flying J center near Willard also has evaporation lagoons that flow into wetlands.
Willard City Administrator Jay Aguilar said if the wastewater treatment plant is issued a permit of operation, the water from both Perry and Flying J will flow into the plant and be treated. Before a permit of use is granted to the sewage treatment plant, DWQ will study the plant's impact upon wetlands.
"We are obligated to protect the waters of the state," Baker said.
The new plant does not have a plan for treating the nutrients in the discharge water going out into the wetland wildlife area. If the study finds the discharge will affect the wetlands negatively, DWQ will look at alternatives for disposing of the water.
Willard's bond for the project will come due in April 2011.
"If enhanced treatment is necessary, we will step forward with the financing. We can reduce the bonds, or forestall the payment. Willard will be held harmless," Baker said.
The study by DWQ will be complete in mid-September.
If nutrients are not a problem, the permit will be issued after public notice, and the plant could be fully operational by October.
"If there is a problem, we will look for an answer to the problem for all entities. We are trying to mitigate the problem," Baker said.
"As long as you hold us harmless, we will be patient," Mayor Ryan Tingey said.