City residents — especially those in Flowing Wells — and drivers on Interstate 10 will likely breathe a sigh of relief after years of holding their noses because of the odors from a nearby wastewater treatment plant.
Pima County has finished a $605 million series of projects to replace and upgrade its wastewater treatment plants, improve technology at the facilities and make other improvements.
The Regional Optimization Master Plan includes construction of the new Agua Nueva Water Reclamation Facility to replace the old Roger Road plant, which drew the ire of nearby residents and I-10 travelers for the putrid odor emitted from the facility.
The Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department also upgraded and expanded the newly renamed Tres Rios facility at Ina Road, installed a sewer pipeline to connect the two treatment plants and built the Water Energy and Sustainability Center, a laboratory and training center for department workers.
Planning for the work started more than seven years ago, and construction on the first pipeline got underway in 2009.
Both new facilities and the pipeline feature odor-control systems that should make the foul smells disappear for good.
Most of the projects were completed ahead of schedule, and the total package came in about $115 million under budget, said county wastewater Director Jackson Jenkins.
The entire project was originally estimated to cost about $720 million, Jenkins said.
County officials are still working on other parts of the master plan, such as taking biogas generated from the Tres Rios facility and converting it to renewable energy the county can sell for a percentage of the profits.
Biogas is a mixture of gases, composed mostly of methane and carbon dioxide.
The treatment plants have increased capacity to handle more gallons of wastewater, as well as new automation and process control systems.
In addition, the quality of the reclaimed water at the sites has improved, allowing for more ways to reuse the water, which is significant during the region’s ongoing drought, Jenkins said.
“You can use it to water parks, ballparks and golf courses and not have to worry about human contact. You don’t have to put the signs out to warn people.”