Wastewater plant expansion project scores $20M loan

BENTONVILLE — A state commission this month announced a $20 million loan to help the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority expand its wastewater treatment plant in south Bentonville.

Mike Neil, plant manager, explained the $20 million is an increase in the amount of the authority’s plant expansion loan. Engineers in 2020 forecast $55 million would be needed for the expansion, which will double the plant’s capacity.

The authority asked the state Natural Resources Conservation Commission to increase its loan to $75 million to ensure the plant could be completed as construction costs are skyrocketing, Neil said.

“We wanted to make sure we would have enough money to complete the project at today’s prices,” he said.

The commission offered the entire $75 million loan at 1.5% interest over 30 years. The money will come from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for wastewater treatment plant improvements, a news release from the commission states.

The authority hopes to break ground for the expansion this summer, Neil said.

The authority was created in 2002 and consists of Springdale, Bentonville, Rogers, Lowell, Bethel Heights, Cave Springs, Elm Springs, Highfill, Centerton and Tontitown. The authority’s purpose is to “develop and implement cost-effective regional solutions to the challenges of providing environmentally sound wastewater and biosolids infrastructure and watershed management,” according to the city of Springdale website.

The plant treats wastewater in Bentonville south of Arkansas 102 and a few exceptions north of the highway as well as customers in Tontitown and Elm Springs, and is contracted to treat wastewater from Cave Springs when that city builds a transfer line to the plant.

Bentonville’s population increased from 35,301 to 54,164 — a growth rate of 53% — from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. census.

Cave Springs’ population grew 218% from 1,729 to 5,495 residents during that same period.

The plan is to place the pipeline project out for bids in July with construction to start later this summer. The latest estimate is a projected total project cost of $7.17 million for the transfer line with built in contingencies, Cave Springs Mayor Randall Noblett said.

The project will be approximately 3.5 miles from Cave Springs to the authority’s line just south of Arkansas 264, he said.

“By contracting for traditional sewer treatment and eliminating the higher costs affiliated with operating our own plant, it should prevent the need to increase sewer rates for the foreseeable future,” Noblett said. “With proper operational management and development, it could even lead to future sewer rate reductions.”

According to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission’s news release, the Benton County Water Authority No. 4 received a $4.5 million loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to replace a water main. Authority No. 4 serves 250 households east of Lowell, according to its webpage.

H2Ozarks received a $278,400 grant from the Water Development Fund for its septic tank remediation pilot program, the release continues. The group serves to monitor and protect the Upper White River basin lakes within the Buffalo River Watershed in Newton, Searcy, Marion, Baxter, Boone, Madison, Pope, Stone and Van Buren counties.

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