MSD board gives initial OK to measure increasing cost of Lower Meramec plant

Staff Report

The cost of the new Lower Meramec Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakville is about to increase by about $3.46 million.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dis-trict Board of Trustees last week unanimously approved moving a measure to second reading that would add a supplemental appropriation of $17.76 million for construction of the Baumgartner Tunnel.

The four-mile underground tunnel being constructed roughly 200 feet underground will carry wastewater to the new treatment plant from the Baumgartner Lagoon, which is to be shut down by December 2006.

The Board of Trustees will consider final approval of the matter Thursday, March 10. Trustees approved last week’s motion with-out discussion.

The new treatment plant near Rogers Elementary School is estimated at $217 million and part of that is $51 million for the tunnel, including design and construction. In fiscal 2004, the MSD board appropriated $33.7 million for construction of the tunnel, but the cost is climbing.

District staff had anticipated seeking a $14.3 million supplemental appropriation this year for the tunnel, but unexpected flooding problems boosted the request to $17.76 million, according to Brian Hoelscher, MSD director of engineering.

The Lower Meramec Wastewater Treat-ment Plant will clean wastewater before discharging it into the Mississippi River. It will replace both the Meramec and Baum-gartner lagoons and eventually the Grand Glaize and Fenton treatment plants.

The Missouri Department of Natural Re-sources placed an administrative order on the MSD to scrap the Baumgartner Lagoon by December 2006 or be fined $10,000 per day.

The cost to contain the unanticipated flooding along with some additional work is estimated at roughly $5.74 million, but about $2.28 million will come from the tunnel project’s original contingency, leaving $3.46 million more needed to be in-cluded in this year’s supplemental appropriation request.

The cost to address the flooding problem and the additional work includes:

• $2.5 million for a tunnel grouting program to eliminate flooding of the underground tunnel.

• $1.75 million for additional shaft work allowing the city of Arnold to pump wastewater to the tunnel and treatment plant. The MSD will cover construction costs and bill Arnold over a 20-year period. The repayments will include interest, Hoelscher said at last week’s meeting.

• $1 million for an additional contingency.

• $495,000 to eliminate flooding at the bar screen shaft and the lift station shaft. The contractor for the tunnel project is Baumgartner Joint Venture, which is comprised of Frontier-Kemper of Evansville, Ind., and Gunther-Nash of Creve Coeur, a subsidiary of Alberici Constructors Inc. Un-der the terms of the contract with Baum-gartner Joint Venture, the contractor paid an additional $225,000 to eliminate the flooding, Hoelscher previously said, noting that no other shafts are affected by the flooding.

MSD voters last year approved a bond issue that will help fund $3.7 billion in sewer system improvements during the next 18 years.

The first phase of improvements will cost $647 million over three years. Voters agreed in February 2004 to pay $500 million of that through the bond issue. Those funds are exclusively reserved for the first phase of the project. The additional $147 million will be paid through a rate increase that was effective last year.

In a recent interview with the Call, Hoel-scher said, “As far as the effect on the balance of the program, an extra $3.4 million is a lot of money for this particular project. But for the program as a whole for that first $647 million that we had over the three years, it can be absorbed into the variances of bid prices and unused contingencies that are in that program. So the extra money that we’re using to keep this part of the program going won’t delay any other parts of our program.”