It was nearly a decade in coming and is one of only a few of its kind in the United States. Residents of the City of Rockford and townships of Alpine, Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield have a vested interest in the North Kent Sewer Authority treatment plant at 4775 Coit NE, Grand Rapids. On Friday, June 5 at 5 p.m. come see the facility in action.
The authority, comprised of the municipalities listed above, planned the $50 million plant almost ten years ago as a joint venture when they believed they were facing an unfair contract with their previous treatment provider.
The 40-year contract was set to expire November of 2008, and the City of Rockford and townships were expected to sign a new contract without even any idea of what the costs would be-except that they were going up. When they threatened to join forces and possibly build and run their own treatment plant, they were told it would happen when pigs fly.
That day came October 28, 2008 at 2:39 p.m. when the plant began processing the wastewater for the member communities.
It has it saved over ten million dollars from what the five members’ taxpayers would have been charged with the previous treatment provider. In addition, the new plant has taken 4.3 million gallons a day from a system that was old, leaking, and regularly discharged untreated waste into the Grand River. Now the discharge the plant puts out is cleaner than the waters of the Grand River-all from a natural, Earth-friendly (and odorless) process.
For the first time the public is invited into the normally fenced and locked facility to see the process at work first hand. It is a government success story that shows how leadership in local government can be creative, bold and stand up for taxpayers in seemingly unfair situations.
Visitors to the public open house will be able to visit the four buildings of the plant and see the holding tanks-the equivalent of five Olympic-sized swimming pools.
According to Authority Board Chairman Michael Young, the plant is running incredibly well and came in under budget at $47 million.
The treatment plant uses membrane bio reactor technology that is state-of-the art facility that has had inquiries for tours and information from New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere around the world.
According to Young, the plan was met with scepticism and disregard by the former treatment providers, and also by some of the future members. It seemed like too big a project, too ambitious a plan, for five little governmental entities to pull off. “Everyone said we were crazy and out of control. We probably were a little bit crazy,” he said.
The plant currently treats over four million gallons of wastewater every day and is designed to treat up to eight million before being upgraded. It is estimated that the upgrade will not be required for at least 30 years, and after that the facility can be doubled in capacity on-site. “This plant is built for the future,” Young said.
The open house was originally planned for last fall, but was postponed due to weather. Visitors can get to the plant by crossing the Jupiter Bridge and turning right on Coit Avenue. The facility is on the right hand side of the road past Hunsberger Avenue.