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Normal Mayor Hopes Water Treatment System Improvements Included In Infrastructure Bill

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The Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District began treating effluent from the Twin Cities in the early 1900s, but new restrictive standards for phosphorus emissions will require substantial investment to meet a 2035 deadline.

The mayor of Normal hopes the massive federal infrastructure bill will include money for water treatment plant upgrades in Bloomington-Normal.

Chris Koos says if members of the community have to pay the $160 million bill, user rates and tap-on fees will rise significantly — and that could hinder economic development.

"Say it's a manufacturing business like Rivian: If they build a new facility, there's a tap-on fee and it can be pretty expensive. To make it more expensive is not a path we should go down unless we absolutely have to," said Koos.

Aging infrastructure managed by the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District (BNWRD) needs to be replaced, and the new facilities will need to comply with stricter federal rules on phosphorus emissions that have been coming for decades.

The district is looking at 10 to 12 years of construction and decades to pay for it if there is no federal help.

"They would have to increase water treatment rates. They would have to increase tap-on rates for new development connecting to the sewer system. it could put a little pressure on development in our community," said Koos.

Koos noted hotels have complex water main connections and substantial water use that could be affected by rate increases to pay for the upgraded treatment system.

BNWRD has worked toward the improvements for years as federal limits on phosphorus emissions come into play by 2035.

Some older reclamation district bonds will expire in 2027. In 2019, BNWRD said that could reduce the amount of any rate hikes, though potential increases would still be substantial.

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