Trying to keep pace with Warren County’s rapid growth, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities has started a project to install a 30,000-foot-long force main pipeline that will improve wastewater treatment service to customers of both BGMU and the Warren County Water District.
The $8.4 million project, highly visible in recent days because of the dozens of 24-inch-diameter sections of pipe either being installed or stacked alongside Veterans Memorial Boulevard, is designed to meet a growing need in the southern end of the county.
A force main is a pressurized sewer pipe that conveys wastewater under pressure. This one will complement an existing gravity-fed line and allow BGMU and the WCWD to better meet the needs of a county that has grown in population from 114,325 in 2010 to an estimated 135,000 today.
“There has been tremendous residential growth and a lot of industrial growth in the southern end of the county,” said Mike Gardner, water/sewer systems manager for BGMU. “This project will give us capacity for the future.”
Much of that part of the county is served by the WCWD, which is picking up the majority of the cost for the force main project.
“BGMU provides sewer treatment for us,” said John Dix, WCWD general manager. “This is all part of the collection system for their wastewater treatment plant.
“We have grown so much in the Rockfield, Rich Pond and Plano areas that we’re needing more capacity.”
The force main project isn’t the only example of how BGMU and the WCWD are expanding to meet the growing county’s needs.
An expansion of BGMU’s wastewater treatment plant near U.S. 31-W By-Pass and Chestnut Street, which has been under way since last year, is a $47 million project that will boost the plant’s daily capacity from 30 million to 45 million gallons.
The two projects, along with other infrastructure improvements, have meant rate hikes for BGMU and the WCWD.
BGMU’s rate increases have come gradually.
“We have a little bit more flexibility in how we implement projects,” BGMU General Manager Mark Iverson said last year. “As we’ve added water treatment capacity, we’ve built up our rates over time. Our rates have had those projects baked into them.”
The Kentucky Public Service Commission, which regulates WCWD rates, approved four increases between 2019 and 2022 to cover the water district’s share of the project cost.
WCWD residential water customers saw last year an average increase of $1.70 on their monthly bills starting July 1. The average residential bill increased from $21.64 to $23.34, and the average commercial bill climbed from $169.21 to $187.71 a month.
Such rate hikes can have an impact on the many county residents already affected by the economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, but Dix said both the force main and wastewater treatment projects should meet the county’s needs for the next 20 years.
“These rate adjustments will provide the infrastructure needed to serve the strong growth our region is experiencing both now and for the future,” Dix said when the rate hikes were announced last year.
Gardner agreed, saying that planning for the projects took into account potential growth over the next 20 to 30 years.
“I feel like we’ll meet our needs for a long time into the future,” he said.
Gardner said the force main project should be completed by June 2021.
Upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, or what Gardner refers to as the water recovery facility, are expected to continue through mid-2022.
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.