Four tower cranes up to 175 feet tall soar above a maze of concrete and rebar at Pierce County’s sewage treatment facility, where a $353 million expansion is in full swing.
The project next to Chambers Bay golf course in University Place will expand sewage capacity to accommodate growth. And it will allow the county to meet anticipated stricter environmental rules.
Workers will take a break before the crowds arrive for the 2015 U.S. Open golf championship.
Until then, expansion of the Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment plant is moving ahead at full speed, said Ryan Dooley, the county’s project manager.
“The concrete work’s going crazy right now,” he said.
Crazy as in 2,100 cubic yards of concrete being poured each week — equivalent to 210 truckloads.
County residents are paying for the project with six straight sewer rate increases, starting in 2010 and ending next year.
By 2015, the monthly sewer rate for single-family residences will have increased 72 percent over six years — from $25.72 to $44.18.
From a distance, the work resembles the foundation for a skyscraper or some other giant building project. But this finished structure will be slightly more than one-story tall, containing the complex infrastructure required to treat sewage.
The massive project is about 20 percent complete. Walls for aeration basins where the wastewater is biologically treated are starting to rise up.
Construction will stop for five weeks for the U.S. Open, about a half-mile away. The shutdown period includes the championship from June 15-21, 2015, which is expected to attract attendance of 235,000.
The yellow tower cranes started going up in January and are used to move bundles of rebar and other building materials. In addition, there are two black mobile cranes.
“Once you set them, you can use them for almost anything,” Dooley said. “It’s all part of the hoisting.”
The tower cranes will start coming down next January. The final one is scheduled to be dismantled in May 2015, Dooley said.
Even if one or more cranes remain up during the golf championship, they won’t affect the event, an official with the United States Golf Association said.
“We aren’t concerned with the cranes,” said Danny Sink, the USGA’s on-site championship director.
The treatment plant expansion started in February 2013 and is slated to be completed in September 2016.
At the peak of construction later this year, 350 workers will be on the job. Mortenson Construction is the contractor.
The treatment plant provides service to approximately 270,000 people in unincorporated Pierce County and in cities served by the county.
Besides unincorporated areas, the sewer utility services Lakewood, University Place, DuPont, Milton and Steilacoom, as well as portions of Tacoma, Fife and Edgewood.
The expansion is being financed by bond sales and a loan, and funded by rate increases.
Capacity at the plant, built in 1984, will increase from
28 million gallons to 43 million gallons daily.
The project also will enable the county to meet anticipated stricter state regulations that require reduced nitrogen levels in the treated liquid discharged into Puget Sound.
Outfall from the plant is piped into Puget Sound about 350 feet off shore at a depth of 125 feet.
Too much nitrogen feeds plant life, which in turn reduces oxygen for sea life.
The treatment plant will be one of the first in the United States to use a cost-effective, cutting-edge process to remove nitrogen from wastewater, Dooley said.
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