Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the City of Durango need a new wastewater treatment facility?

The existing City of Durango Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) was last updated in the mid-1980s and is aging, difficult to maintain, nearing capacity, and not equipped to meet future regulatory requirements. Over the past four years, the City of Durango has embarked on a process to thoroughly evaluate the plant and design the necessary improvements to address these issues. Upon completion, the new Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility (SRWRF) will ensure compliance with future regulatory requirements, accommodate future growth, and protect the quality of the Animas River.

Why was the Santa Rita location chosen for the facility site? Why wasn't it relocated?

As part of the process of updating the water reclamation facility, City Council evaluated alternative sites as possible options for relocating the plant. Unfortunately, of the more than five sites that were evaluated, the next least expensive alternative was $19 M more than the option to upgrade the plant at the current location adjacent to Santa Rita park. As a result of the substantial costs associated with moving the plant, in addition to several other factors, City Council voted to proceed with upgrading the Santa Rita Wastewater Treatment Plant. Watch a video for more information about the alternative site investigation.

How big is the new facility?

The facility's operational capacity will be expanded from 2.8 million gallons per day (MGD) to 3.4 MGD. The facility will largely fit into the existing footprint of the current plant; however, the former locations of the sand volleyball courts, basketball court and picnic pavilion will be absorbed as part of the expanded project footprint. Below is an approximate rendering.

Aerial Before and After Approx

Is it going to smell better?

Yes! The design for the new SRWRF includes state of the art odor controls, which will drastically improve the odor issues generated by the current plant and address the community's concerns. The sensitivity of this location, co-located adjacent to the Whitewater Park, the Animas River Trail, and Santa Rita Park, made addressing the odors a primary focus of this project. As a result, the City is investing $6 M plus in odor reduction and odor control technology. In most instances, this includes both a primary and secondary treatment for the portions of the plant that generate odor. In areas of the plant which are the most significant odor generators, like the headworks, the air will be captured and treated before it's released. The final step in the odor control process will be to use ultraviolet light to degrade the odor compounds. Taking a two-pronged approach to odor control is expected to minimize offsite odor migration and greatly improve the surrounding environments.

What's happening to the existing facility? When will the new facility be operational?

The facility will remain online throughout the construction process. The updated facility is expected to be fully operational by summer 2019.

What's happening with the Administration Building?

The Administration Building remains an important piece of the SRWRF project. Unfortunately, due to the project bids coming in higher than the engineer's estimate and the need to maintain a sufficient contingency fund in the project budget, the construction of the Administration Building was removed from the project scope of work. The City intends to rebid and construct the Administration Building as a separate phase of this project, as the sewer fund revenue allows.

How can I find out what's going on with construction?

The easiest way to stay up-to-date on construction is to sign up for the City of Durango's monthly newsletter, City Currents, which will include a designated section for SRWRF. Visit Notify Me to sign up. Or, visit Santa Rita WRF for the most recent update and more information.

What do I do if I have a comment, question, or concern about construction?

For general inquiries about the project, please email the City of Durango project team. To report life-threatening emergencies on the construction site, please call 911.

 How much will it cost to construct the new SRWRF?

The total construction project budget is $64.2M. This includes all aspects of the construction phase such as geotechnical testing and the project contingency.

How is the project financed?

In November of 2015, the City electorate approved $68 million in bonding authority allowing the City to make the necessary improvements to the WWTP and other system infrastructure. With this bonding authority, in November of 2016, the City issued $62.2 million in State Revolving Fund loan revenue to finance the improvements to the WWTP. The City has budgeted these funds as part of the Sewer Capital Improvement Program over the next three years. Revenue generated by monthly residential and commercial sewer bills is pledged to pay the loan debt service.

This project is financed by two loans from the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority's State Revolving Fund and a grant for construction from the Department of Local Affairs. The first loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority State Revolving Fund (SRF) is in an amount of $59.7 M with an interest rate of 1.74%, while the second loan is in an amount of $2.5 M from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority SRF Green Project Reserve Loan with a 0% interest rate. The City also received a grant for $2.0 M from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Energy Impact Assistance Fund (EIAF) for Construction.

How was the project designed?

With City Council's policy direction to construct a new WWTP, the City solicited competitive bids for a design and engineering firm to complete the plant design. The contract was awarded to Dewberry Engineers, who began the design process in early 2016. The design process included a robust public engagement process which included a series of design charrettes, public workshops, and public meetings over an eight-month period to solicit feedback from the public on the design and to ensure the plant was in harmony with the adjacent uses. The final design reflects the unique nature of this project with a specific emphasis on the sensitivity of the site due to its location and surrounding uses and odor control as expressed through the community's desires and expectations.

What's happening to Santa Rita Park?

The recently upgraded Santa Rita playground will remain open throughout construction. A portion of the Santa Rita soccer field will be used as a construction staging area throughout the project, while the volleyball courts and basketball courts will be eliminated due to the site constraints. Although losing this park amenity over the two-year term is less than ideal, it presents a great opportunity to re-imagine the future of Santa Rita Park. After the construction of the Water Reclamation Facility is underway, the City will engage the public in a process to identify the amenities they would like to see redevelopment and enhanced at this beloved location. A listing of alternative amenities is available.

How will the new facility help protect the water quality in the Animas River?

Protecting the water quality in the Animas River is a key component of this project. The project was designed to meet Regulation 85, the Nutrients Management Control Regulation, which sets effluent limits for nutrients discharged from Wastewater Treatment Plants.

What's with the new name? I thought we were upgrading the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The plant's name was changed to the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility as part of the process to upgrade the facility. This name better reflects the valuable role the treatment process plays in treating, reclaiming, and preserving water. It's also in accordance with industry best practices.