First phase of Sheridan’s wastewater project nears completion

The first phase of Sheridan’s new wastewater treatment plan is scheduled for completion in November and the second phase should be completed by next July and the project is costing less than officials initially estimated.

The total cost of the project will be about $5 million, said Sheridan Mayor Dean Derryberry. The initial estimates were around $7 million.

Sheridan has been under an order from Montana Department of Environmental Quality to fix their wastewater system since 2007. The order has prevented the town from allowing any new hookups to the current system, which was designed to serve about 500 people, but is currently serving more than 800.

The new facility shouldn’t need to be upgraded for 25 years, he said.

The road to get a new wastewater treatment facility has encountered a slew of potholes. First, the town struggled to find land for the new facility, then state funding for the project was pulled and only reinstated after winning a lawsuit against Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Finally, the end is in sight, Derryberry said.

“It’s a huge project, but you know this time next year it should all be history,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming, and even though we’re not half way through the project, it’s a relief to see it actually happening and know the end is out there some place”

The new wastewater treatment plant will incorporate the existing sewer lagoon as a sludge pond and the liquid waste will be pumped to three other ponds where it will be treated and then pumped to a center pivot sprinkler system and applied to alfalfa crops.

The irrigation is in place and phase one is building the new ponds and pumping system. Phase two will be to rebuild the existing lagoon, Derryberry said.

“Once we’re able to pump to our new lagoons, we’ll shut down the old lagoon and it will be cleaned out and lined and the dikes rebuilt and then put back into service to hold all the sludge,” he said.

In the winter, wastewater will be stored in the new lagoons. During the summer it will be used for irrigation, Derryberry said.

Since the project is coming in under budget, the sewer increase anticipated for Sheridan residents will be less than expected, he said.

Currently the base sewer rate is $40 a month and Derryberry expects that to increase to $47. At one point, officials expected rates to rise to nearly $60 a month.

“By doing things smart we ended up saving rate payers a substantial increase,” Derryberry said.

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