Kansas City starts work on three new wastewater treatment plants

Kansas City broke ground Friday for three new facilities to help treat wastewater as part of a massive plan to upgrade the city’s sewer system.

The plants, included in a $48 million project at the Blue River Wastewater Treatment Plant in east Kansas City, are designed to help meet state and federal requirements for wastewater disinfection.

The project was backed by bonds approved by voters in the Aug. 7 election. That cost is part of a price tag totaling $96 million for six wastewater treatment projects. This project is the largest and the Water Service Department’s last in this series of wastewater treatment improvements.

It’s also part of the department’s $2.4 billion initiative to decrease the overflow from Kansas City sewers.

“This may not be the sexiest project,” Mayor Sly James said at a news conference. “Wastewater seldom is. But it does show that we take our responsibilities to our citizens seriously.”

Wastewater disinfection involves cleaning the water with a chemical process to make it usable again. The Blue River plant, built in 1962, handles about 72 million gallons of wastewater each day.

James said the project is expected to involve 900 workers and be completed in the fall of 2013.

“Cities are America’s economic engine, and we are proving that this city is one that’s on the move,” James said. “What you’re witnessing here is your tax dollars at work.”

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice, Kansas City and the Environmental Protection Agency came to an agreement on a 25-year plan to fix the city’s stormwater and sewer problems. That plan was the result of a year’s worth of negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency over allegations that Kansas City had been polluting rivers and streams.