Water infrastructure projects in Helena and East Helena are in the works with money from the first round of state ARPA funds.
The governor’s office announced state American Rescue Plan Act money for water and sewer projects last week. Helena is adjusting its water system improvements to fit the $2 million received in competitive grants, while East Helena is planning wastewater improvements with its ARPA funds.
“The town has grown and we’re just at that point where upgrades are needed,” East Helena Public Works Director Kevin Ore said.
Helena’s project originally requested $13 million in competitive grants for a total budget of $26 million, according to the state infrastructure committee’s summary. Ryan Leland, Helena public works director, said the city would scale back the water system project to one of its five parts: replacing the filters at Ten Mile Water Treatment Plant.
Leland said the plant's three filters are the most urgent need and the city has already had problems with them. He said they still function and meet requirements but are at the end of their lifespan and one is partially collapsed, making it less efficient.
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Leland said the replacement would greatly help treatment capacity, which was tested by drought this summer and required water restrictions. He said the filters would probably be replaced next spring.
In East Helena, Ore said the city received the full $1.7 million requested in competitive grants that, along with other sources, would count toward its $3.6 million wastewater improvements project.
Ore said the system has groundwater leaking into the sewage, which reduces capacity. He said improvements would include fixing the leaks, replacing screens to filter out grit and enlarging the treatment facility trough to accommodate the full pump capacity plus future growth. The current one has overflowed in the building five times since November.
The fixes are partly intended to extend the system’s predicted capacity, based on new subdivisions coming in, Ore said. It is predicted to reach capacity by 2027, which improvements might push back to 2031, according to the application. He said they hope to start construction next summer, though it could be delayed.
Leland said the second priority for Helena would be the cross town connector. The pipe connects the whole water system and has a limited number of valves, some of which have failed. He said the city needs about $1.5 million to install valves so it can shut off sections for repair or prevent a break from draining the whole system.
Leland said the next priority would be about another $1.5 million to reconstruct the head gates, the intake point for water headed to the treatment plant. Other fixes in the initial application included replacing supply lines and transmission lines and a new water tank and pipe for Reeder’s Village.
Helena’s wastewater collection improvements and Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church Housing Wastewater and Water projects did not receive competitive grants.
Leland said the wastewater project would have replaced the sewer facility’s pumped system with a gravity-powered one to increase capacity and save energy and maintenance. Our Redeemer’s project would have extended water and sewers service to planned affordable housing.
Leland said the city would still look for funding sources appropriate for each of the other proposals, including later rounds of ARPA.