The Academy Water and Sanitation District is a special district governed by the State of Colorado, and provides water and sewage services to approximately 300 residences in the Pleasant View neighborhood and the closely surrounding area. The District does not include the Air Force Academy or the Gleneagle area. The staff to oversee the service includes a five member elected Board of Directors, a full-time manager/operator, and a part-time operator with assistance from accounting, engineering, and legal firms as required. Most members of the District have both water and sewage service, although some have an existing septic tank and use water services only.
Current requirements for the treatment of waste water are being revised due to changes to EPA standards and state regulations, which will impact all waste water treatment facilities in the state, including ours. It is very important for residents to be aware of the problems caused by non-biodegradable residue in their sewage. The waste water system does not have an automatic grease-removal system, so please do not dispose of cooking oil or grease down your drain. Small items with non-degradable portions, such as cigarette butts, tampons, and condoms, are difficult to remove from the system, and are discouraged. Kitchen scraps disposed down your garbage disposal should be kept to a minimum, with special care at avoiding non-degradable sewage. Also, please do not dump any toxic chemicals down your household drains as they can have an adverse effect on the District's sewage treatment biological processes.
The Directors on the board own homes in Pleasant View. Elections for the Board of Directors are conducted biennially in May of even numbered years with absences between elections filled by appointment by the Board of Directors. Members serve two- or four-year non-salaried terms. Vacancies are staggered to maintain continuity. The District is in need of future board members. If you are interested in helping out for this crucial activity, please contact a board member! A newsletter is distributed periodically to inform users of District activities.
The Academy Water and Sanitation District (AWSD) initiated operations in 1963 to provide water and wastewater services to constituents of the District. The District was formed around the Pleasant View Subdivision developments and the District’s original boundaries limited to those subdivisions. Since that time the District has included additional properties nearby where wastewater and/or water service has been feasible. The District does not have any significant area for major inclusions or expansions as its capability to serve adjacent areas is limited from a technical standpoint. Surrounding areas are generally fully developed, or near so, with large lot, single-family residential subdivisions with individual sewage disposal systems and individual on-site wells for water supply.
The District’s original wastewater treatment facility consisted of a two cell stabilization pond system. That treatment facility was upgraded and modified in 1977 to a three cell aerated lagoon system utilizing submerged diffused aeration, a settling or polishing pond and disinfection with chlorine. Although the capacity of that facility has been found satisfactory for the District’s build-out conditions, upgrade to the treatment plant was accomplished in 1993-1994 with modifications to permit enhanced solids separation to better attain consistent compliance with effluent limits. That facility constructed in 1993-1994 is in operation today, largely unchanged from that construction condition.
(Partially an excerpt from Plan of Operation for AWSD April 2010, prepared by GMS, INC., Consulting Engineers)
The Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC), part of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, sets requirements for the amount of various nutrients found in the effluent released by each of the state’s 319 wastewater treatment plants. Recent changes in the amount of ammonia allowed in effluent will profoundly impact our District. In the warm months, our effluent contains low amounts of ammonia; but in winter, ammonia won’t transfer to the atmosphere under 4 degrees Celsius, so in those months our levels exceed the new state standards. The District has no choice but to respond to the new regulation.
In addition, the WQCC, as directed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recently changed its requirements for the amount of total nitrogen and phosphorus allowed in the effluent. Regulation 85 impacts only the state’s larger wastewater treatment facilities, but Regulation 31 will affect all of them, including us. So any changes we consider (because of the ammonia level restrictions) must also address these new limits.
Every four years, the District receives a new permit allowing it to continue operations. In that permit are the details of requirements the District must follow. Our current permit arrived in October 2013 and included a schedule for complying with the new numbers for both dechlorination and ammonia in our effluent. In addition, it’s likely that when the next permit is issued in 2018, a schedule for attaining total phosphorus and nitrogen effluent limits will be included in that permit. The District cannot meet any of these new requirements with its current treatment facility.
The District directed GMS Inc., our engineer, to prepare a Preliminary Engineering Report that would present options for moving forward. The report was finalized in August 2012 and presented three possible courses of action: connecting with Donala Water and Sanitation District, connecting with Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), or building a new treatment facility at our current location. Each option costs between $3.5 million and $4 million. The initial cost is not the only consideration. Costs to operate and maintain the new system and the ability/cost of the new system to respond to future changes in requirements are also important factors.
Options for financing the new system are currently being explored, and a new mill levy to cover these steep costs will have to be approved by District electors.
By comparison, in 1994 the District incurred a debt of $1.7 million in order to build a water treatment plant; that bond, which required a 21.2 mill levy (recovered through property taxes), was paid off in 2014, 20 years later.
The board is realistic in their approach to investigate and implement these necessary changes at the least financial impact to our customers and taxpayers.
Regarding the dechlorination numbers in the new permit, the District is required to build a dechlorination facility — initially to be operational by October 1, 2014 — a move that would cost us $35,000. In February 2014 the Board authorized GMS to send a letter to the State asking for a waiver for developing this facility. If built, that facility would become obsolete once any of the options for ammonia treatment are implemented. The State responded with a one-year extension of the deadline; GMS is submitted a third request in March of 2017 to extend that deadline to match our ammonia compliance deadline.
We learned that the AWSD Augmentation Plan must be revised to document the return of water through the Donala waste treatment discharge point. That change had to be approved by the State. GMS Engineering consulted with the District's water attorney in Denver and the Board initiated the process to revise the plan. The goal was to attempt to have all the required steps of the augmentation plan change completed, with the exception of final State approval, prior to start of construction. That revision to the augmentation plan was approved in February of 2016, well ahead of schedule.
The Board examined the advantages of establishing a Water Enterprise and a Wastewater Enterprise within the District for the purpose of funding, implementing and managing the connection to Donala. The Enterprises were created by resolution at the December 2015 Board meeting to enhance the ability of the District to manage the separate water and wastewater operations and to obtain grant funds. TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) places limitations on the amount of revenue the board can collect and spend.
An Intergovernmental Service Agreement has been approved by the Board to document the relationship with Donala. The document specifies the "buy-in" cost for Academy to utilize the Donala waste treatment facility and the initial monthly rate that will be charged by Donala for each household in AWSD; AWSD will collect the monthly fees from its customers and will pay the entire Donala monthly service charge. The additional charge to Academy customers for Donala treatment of waste will be approximately $33/month. Incremental wastewater rate increases should be expected to develop District reserve funds. The first wastewater rate increase of $20 was approved at the February 2016 Board meeting. The schedule to implement the AWSD-Donala connection is attached to this article.
Our latest estimate of cost for complete implementation of the new wastewater treatment plan is $3,158,290. The Board researched obtaining a short term loan to fund 2016 preliminary costs;a subsequent decision was made to use existing reserves for this purpose. The cost of this implementation will be paid through any grants obtained and customer wastewater rate increases, not through taxes.
Some of our customers are connected only to our water delivery system; they should see no increase in rates due to the implementation of the revised waste treatment plan.
The May 2016 election resulted in voter approval to eliminate TABOR restrictions that limited the ability of the District to receive and spend funds (e.g., grants). This decision can potentially allow the District to accept and spend grant funds for construction.
Several years ago BP filed a lawsuit against the State regarding deductions for severance taxes and the Court found in their favor in April of 2016. Subsequently the State of Colorado had to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to reimburse the Oil & Gas Industry for unclaimed severance taxes. This depleted funds that would have been available for potential grants, such as the one we seek. The District is now proceeding with a preliminary loan application for the entire amount of the planned construction; if/when grant funds become available in the future, then that grant money could be applied to either refinance the loan or buy down the principle of the loan - customer rates would be adjusted to match the terms of any revised loan. The District anticipates seeking grant funds from the Energy/Mineral Impact Assistance in December of 2017, if funds are then available.
The new lift station will be located to the South of our current lagoons and water treatment plant (see attached plan). The new line delivering effluent to the Donala wastewater system will be entrenched up the North side of Tari Drive from Spring Valley Drive to the crest of the hill past Pleasant View Drive. Preliminary engineering plans have been provided to the District and are available for review at the District Board Meetings or through coordination with the District Manager. As we near construction more information will be provided through mailings to all customers and to customers affected by the construction.
GMS also provided a financial analysis completed by the State Division of Local Government, Department of Local Affairs. That analysis indicates a project total cost of $3,158,300, a loan interest rate of 2.0% and a 30 year term. The analysis further indicates a monthly wastewater rate of $95.83 per customer will be required to repay the loan and pay the Donala monthly treatment charge per household. Before the loan is closed the new rate must be in place.
A Public Hearing was held on May 31, 2017, to discuss the project and proposed financing. Subsequently the loan application was submitted. GMS also updated the Board with a complete set of plans and specifications for the construction, as well as the documents related to requesting bids for the project..
In late August, 2017, our Engineer received a call from the CO Water Resources (CWR) and Power Development Authority (PDA), indicating everything submitted for the loan was approved. In summary, that means the District can close on the loan right after the first of the year. The District subsequently received an e-mail from them informing the District of the loan approval.
The wastewater construction project has been advertised for bids (late December 2017); bids are due to GMS Engineering 1 February 2018 and a Special meeting of the Board is scheduled to award the contract February 6, 2018. Construction is anticipated to occur April through September of 2018..
The District was awarded a Water Quality Improvement Fund Grant in the amount of $101,825.50 on January 4, 2018. These funds will be applied to the Wastewater Enterprise account for the specific purpose of the Wastewater construction project.
On January 24, 2018, the Board conducted a Special Meeting to review customer billing rates. The Wastewater Service Fee was increased to $100/customer/month; this increase was required to cover the cost of loan repayment, Donala monthly service fee for treatment of our effluent, and routine maintenance and operation of the waste collection and delivery system. It was a requirement of the loan that a rate sufficient to support those costs be in place prior to obtaining the loan.
The District has obtained a $3 million loan through the Colordo Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA). The original loan term was for 20 years, but the State legislature approved Colorado Senate Bill 18-019 which authorized the maximum duration of CWRPDA loans to be expanded from 20 to 30 years. Subsection 2 of Section 4 of the Bill states that the proposed act, when passed during that current legislative session which ended in May, applies to loans made on or after the effective date of the act, which was August 9, 2018.
At a Special Meeting on February 8, 2018, the Board reviewed bids and selected Pate Construction Company as the contractor responsible for completing the wastewater delivery system construction. The cost of the two phases of construction was projected to be $3,682,544, higher than anticipated. The Board did not anticipate having to seek further funding; current and planned reserve revenue was sufficient to cover the increase.
The District also periodically reviews the reserves required for operation, maintenance and repairs to both the wastewater and water delivery systems; adjustments are made to the monthly billing statements accordingly.
On March 1, 2018, Senate Bill 18-019 was signed into law, extending the CWRPDA loan term limit to 30 years. .The Act was effective 8-9-2018. At that time, the District renegotiated the term of the loan to increase it from 20 years to 30 years and re-amortize the payments accordingly. On March 12 the CWRPDA loan for the District was fully executed.
Construction for this project was substantially completed by November, 2018. Removal of biosolids from our two lagoons will be completed in 2019, after the lagoons have dried up.