SANTAQUIN -- Despite some pushback from residents, Santaquin's roughly $16 million wastewater treatment plant is rolling briskly forward.

First, the Oct. 1 sewer bill included a new $36.40 per month base rate, which is up $20 per month indefinitely to help fund the city's $2.2 million commitment in the project. The rest is covered by federal grants and loans.

The project has gone out to bid, with a bid opening set for Nov. 23, the bid award in December, and ground-breaking around January, Santaquin City Planner Dennis Marker said. The city also has closed on a purchase contract with GE's ZENON Environmental for the filtration equipment that should be up and running in about 18 months, he said.

The water reclamation facility will replace the city's nearly-full sewer lagoons with a 100-percent-water-reuse system -- the first of its kind in the state. It's called membrane bioreactor technology, which is already in place in a handful of other Utah cities, but this will be the first to turn around 100 percent of the water, said Trevor Lindley, project engineer for JUB Engineers.

The current lagoon system only cleans wastewater enough to make it usable for alfalfa irrigation, Marker said.

"As the city continues to grow, and generate more dirty water, we'd have to acquire additional land -- some 300 acres -- to apply it to," he said, noting that the alternative is to get a permit to feed it into Utah Lake, which is basically donating water on which the city has already spent good money.

The new facility will produce water that can all go straight into the city's pressurized irrigation system. It will be good for gardens, lawns and flower beds; in fact, with the addition of a chlorination process, it would be clean enough to drink, though that's not in the plans yet, Marker said.

"Too many people that are squeamish about drinking any water coming out of a sewer pipe," he said.

The facility will be built on a 10-acre site around 1200 N. Center, and will slowly phase out the lagoons over the course of a few years. Eventually, all wastewater will go to the new plant, but Marker said it will start out with about 60 percent.

He said it's an expensive undertaking to be sure, which caused the bulk of resident complaints, but water is only getting more expensive, and green tech is on the rise -- attested by the plentiful grants Santaquin received. To ease the burden on residents, the city council established a utility help fund, seeded with about $2,600. Those having difficulties making their sewer payments can apply for the fund, which city officials hope will be boosted by future donations.

As for the presence of a new sewer plant, this is as neighbor-friendly as it gets, Lindley said. The entire compound will be enclosed within a barn-like structure: first, the pre-screening facility, followed by aeration tanks, followed the membrane filters, then a UV-ray disinfectant process then finally a water pump for the reclaimed water. A bio-filter air-scrubber system is ready for deployment should odors arise, but it shouldn't be a problem considering residual waste will be dried and removed for off-site dumping, he said.

For more information, visit Santaquin.org and click on "Sewer Rate Increase."

Matt Reichman can be reached at (801) 344-2907 or mreichman@heraldextra.com.