South Platte Renew in Englewood, Colorado's third-largest sewage treatment plant, will receive $22 million in federal loan money to pay for infrastructure upgrades, modernization of technology and facilities as well as new research initiatives.
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The plant, co-owned and operated by the cities of Littleton and Englewood, cleans about 20 million gallons of wastewater per day and services about 300,000 people in Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson counties.
It's also been a crucial front line in the battle against COVID-19, collecting daily samples of sewage that serve as an indicator of how prevalent the virus may be in a given community.
The City of Englewood, as part of its share of the plant's funding, secured the multi-million dollar loan through the federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
“It’s what we need to keep the South Platte River clean and sustain the water supply into the future," said Sarah Stone, Englewood's deputy director for business solutions.
The money will allow the plant to replace outdated electrical and control systems to address aging infrastructure. Upgrades will see improvements to chemical and ultraviolet water treatment.
Some of the funds will also be used to establish a wastewater pilot and research center to test new technologies and treatment equipment to help bolster the system’s resilience to climate change and extreme weather events.
The investments are expected to create 282 new jobs, according to a press release from the Environmental Protection Agency. The announcement generated praise from local and national Colorado leaders.
"Englewood is leading the charge to modernize our water infrastructure," Sen. John Hickenlooper said in a written a statement. "This investment will provide clean water, promote resiliency, and create jobs all while saving taxpayers money."
EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker, in a statement, said the agency's loans are "helping western communities make infrastructure investments that will protect critical water resources in the face of increasing climate challenges."
According to a statement from Englewood Mayor Othoniel Sierra, South Platte Renew is the first in the state to use the federal loan, which was established in 2014, for infrastructure investment.
"Not only does the WIFIA program provide the funds necessary to modernize our aging wastewater infrastructure to be more resilient and protect and improve water quality in the South Platte River, it allows the city to delay repayment, saving citizens money," Sierra said.
The loan allows the city to make a 51% match, meaning it will now have more than $40 million for future projects.
According to Stone, this money will be spent over the next five to seven years, with the ability for the city to delay payments back to the federal government until 2031. Those payments will be made in increments over the next 30 years, Stone said.
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