RUSKIN — An $80 million sewer plant expansion underway along the western edge of Interstate 75 will help to handle anticipated population growth in the area through 2025.
The project is the most expensive utility construction job Hillsborough County has undertaken, and it ultimately will serve about 125,000 people. County officials are negotiating a timetable with the contractor and hope to open the facility in February 2015.
This is the first upgrade at the south county sewer plant since the late 1970s, said Project Manager Lisa Murrin. With the expansion, the sewer plant that now can treat 4.5 million gallons of sewage a day will be able to handle 10 million gallons a day.
It will serve Hillsborough County from north of Big Bend Road to the southern edge of Ruskin, including Sun City Center.
Just how quickly the plant reaches capacity depends on the pace of population growth, Murrin said. If the economy is robust, the 2025 date should hold. If there are slow-downs in development, future plant upgrades could be postponed.
The tricky part of the project is that contractors are building around the existing plant, Murrin said. That has caused some delay, as the crew from Denver-based PCL Construction works to build new parts of the plant and demolish old ones without disrupting service to customers, she said. The plant expansion originally was scheduled to be complete by June 2014.
“We are closely coordinating with the contractor to keep the project moving,” Murrin said. “It’s an intricate endeavor to keep everything functioning while they are tearing down and constructing around the existing plant.”
Although the plant’s capacity will increase dramatically, its effect on the environment will be less because of the addition of a five-stage biological cleansing system and the use of ultraviolet light to disinfect treated sewage, said design engineer Lenore Horton of HDR Engineering.
“It’s a more state-of-the-art system using newer and better technology,” Horton said. “There will be less chemical involvement,” since the county is switching from chlorine to ultraviolet light for disinfection.
The new system also will provide more treated wastewater — “reclaimed water” — for irrigation, at developers’ expense.