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EPA loan to help cover costs of Johnson County wastewater treatment facility upgrades

Nelson Wastewater Facility JoCo.jpg
Posted at 5:14 AM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2023-11-09 14:25:38-05

MISSION, Kan. — Leaders in Johnson County, Kansas, said securing a low-interest loan from the federal government to help pay for upgrades to a wastewater treatment facility will keep rates low for property owners in the county.

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Johnson County would receive a loan for $281 million through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). Leaders will use the loan to totally reconstruct the Nelson Treatment Facility; the entire project cost will total $574 million. The county will issue bonds to pay for the portion not covered by WIFIA. A chief engineer at the county said the low-interest WIFIA loan will save the county, and rate-payers, $80 million in financing and interest over the course of the loan.

The 75-year-old Nelson Facility serves the northeast part of the county. It is the oldest wastewater treatment facility in the county, and will be completely rebuilt. The majority of construction will take place from 2024 to 2029.

Upon completion, the facility will be more efficient, will take more nutrients out of wastewater, will be more environmentally-friendly and will be able to handle more capacity during peak times.

“Being able to replace and reinvest in our pipes and our facilities, ensures that we have clean, safe and reliable water sources for our residents for generations to come,” explained Aaron Witt, Johnson County Wastewater’s chief engineer.

The bipartisan infrastructure law approved earlier this year kept the WIFIA program alive. U.S. Representative Sharice Davids, who serves Johnson County in Washington, D.C., supported the law from its inception. She said modernizing infrastructure like wastewater treatment facilities benefits a community’s health and economic development opportunities.

“We are getting these things done in a bipartisan way,” she said. “This is wins all around: wins at the local level, wins at the state level and wins at the national level. I’m really glad we were able to get the bipartisan infrastructure bill across the finish line and help make it possible for the Nelson Wastewater Facility to get this WIFIA loan.”

Johnson County runs six wastewater treatment facilities. The county just celebrated the reconstruction and expansion of its Tomahawk Facility in Leawood earlier this month.

Wastewater is any water that goes down a sink or faucet. The county removes solids from the water, disinfects and treats it, then returns it to creeks and rivers where it flows downstream to other communities who use river water as their source for drinking water.