WEBB CITY, Mo. — The Center Creek 201 Wastewater Treatment Board has been working for years to eliminate the heavy metals in its sewage treatment system and can now fund the upgrades to do so with the recent approval of a $2.75 million loan by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

The board — made up of representatives from Webb City, Oronogo and Carterville — applied for financial assistance to help fund infrastructure improvements for its wastewater treatment plant. The low-interest loan is expected to save an estimated $1 million in interest over its 20-year term.

The money will fund a $3.2 million wastewater infrastructure project aimed at reducing the amount of heavy metals in the system left over from past lead and zinc mining operations. The loan is provided through the DNR’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, a federal-state collaboration that gives communities low-cost financing options for water quality infrastructure projects.

Carl Francis, city administrator at Webb City, said the interest rate is less than 2 percent and will be paid off over two decades. The remaining cost of the project will be funded through the Center Creek 201 Wastewater Treatment Board’s account and from money received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Background

The three municipalities that make up the board share the wastewater plant in Webb City. The sewer system discharges into Center Creek. Heavy metals have leached into the system, creating problems such as thick sludge.

The Cardinal Valley Habitat Restoration Project aims to combat mining pollution through such means as composting, wetland areas and other plant upgrades. The loan will help fund the infrastructure improvements that will reduce the costs of removing the zinc-contaminated sludge from the lagoons.

“The $2.75 million (bond issue) was approved by all three cities back on the 2015 ballot, but it’s just been this long in getting all of our permits approved for everything involved,” Francis said.

Each of the cities will see an increase in its wastewater operating costs in 2020 to pay back the loan.

“That increase in the operating costs is dramatically lower than what was normally in the past spent on sludge removal,” Francis said. “Over time, it will be a savings. At first, there will be a payment that will be made on the loan, but it’s less than what we used to spend on sludge removal.”

Francis estimated that the cities were spending roughly $250,000 annually to remove the zinc sludge buildup from the wastewater system.

“The Center Creek 201 Wastewater Board has historically paid a thousand dollars a dry ton to transport sludge from the plant to a hazardous waste landfill,” Francis said. “This eliminates that cost.”

The loan also will fund upgrades to the wastewater plant, such as new bar screens, which will remove obstructions such as rags from the system. Construction of the plant upgrades is estimated to be completed in 2020. All required permits for the project have been approved.

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.