Public officials from Bay County and around the state attended the grand opening of the Bay Area Water Treatment Plant Thursday in Bangor Township. Officials included Bay County Board of Commissioners Chair Ernie Krygier, Bay County Executive Tom Hickner, various township supervisors and State Representative Charles Brunner of Bay City.
Brunner says the debate over Bay County’s water supply had been contentious over the years. However, he says the partnerships that formed to make the plant a reality are tremendous.
“We had 14 governmental entities that got together, made a decision, put this financing together, had to forgive some debt from the city and basically just really did a great job. Today is a day we’re seeing how government should work.”
Brunner cites Flint’s water troubles as what can happen when organizations don’t work together to bring quality water to residents.
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ryan Carley says the Chamber acted as a convener for the dozens of partners working together, calling the collaboration “monumental.” He says the new plant will have a beneficial economic impact in the county.
“From an economic perspective, it really allows businesses that are locating here and the employers an opportunity to know that the water is extremely safe. It also allows the opportunity for local workers, who work on this plant, hone their skills and then continue to grow the Bay area.”
A project described as a long time in the making, the plant began water production Aug. 31, 2015. The facility utilizes state-of-the-art membrane filtration technology to filter up to 17.4 millions of gallons of water per day. The raw water comes from Lake Huron and is purchased through the Saginaw-Midland Municipal Water Supply Corporation. It supplies water to 19 public water supply systems in the greater Bay County area.
Bay County Department of Water and Sewer Director Tom Paige says the filtration system is a “green” technology.
“We really don’t use any chemicals in the initial process. We have, basically, a mini water filtration plant on the recycle side of the water. So when the membranes are backwashed, like your pool filter, you need to backwash these filters once in a while, that backwash water goes through a process to reclaim that so we can recycle that back through the water plant.”
Paige says throughout the entire process, less than .5 percent of the water is wasted. And though there is no initial chemical treatment of the raw water, the filtered water has fluoride, chlorine and a corrosion inhibitor added.
The $59.9 million plant was funded through the Bay County Board of Commissioners. Paige says four bonds were taken out to pay for it.
“Three are Drinking Water Revolving Fund (DWRF) loans at a low interest and then there was a Local Government Loan Program loan. Drinking Water Revolving Fund bonds are 20 year bonds. The Local Government Loan Program is a 30 year bond. So in 30 years, we should have this paid off.”
Paige says the DWRF provided $27 million in loans, with $7.46 million in principal forgiveness, essentially amounting to a grant.