Ernie Trakas, St. Louis County Councilman, questions the cost of the two Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Projects. The public entity acknowledges that the projects will cost $900,000,000 but claims they are mandated by the regulators.
MSD has stated that it will replace the Bissell and Lemay wastewater treatment plants, located in North City, South County, and which incinerate solids before they are transported to landfills by 2029. Construction could begin this year. The facility's "environmentally-friendly processes" will be used to improve air quality and create 200 jobs during the construction phase, as well as an unspecified amount of "high tech" jobs after completion.
Trakas, however, said that in a Thursday statement the upgrades would cost residents dearly. "At a time when many families are already struggling," he stated. He said the cost overruns totaled nearly 250%.
Trakas said that the increase in excrement burn will also flood the air of nearby communities with more noxious, offensive odors and possibly carcinogenic particles. The Lemay facility is a threat to businesses, jobs, and tax dollars that are used for vital community services.
Bess McCoy is a MSD spokesperson. She said that MSD ratepayers would be asked in April next year whether they want to use bonds to fund the upgrades. She said that if they choose to use bonds, their rates will increase by 7% over the next 4 years. McCoy stated that if they don't, the rate increase will be 35% over two years, then 20% in a third and finally 5% during a fourth.
Four years ago, the project, mandated by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MO Department of Natural Resources), was estimated to cost $600 millions. She said inflation had hit the construction industry, resulting in the $900m figure. MSD claims that the facilities are using "century-old" technology.
Trakas' district is located in South County. In an interview, Trakas said that regional partners including those in Illinois should be consulted in order to find a solution. This could lead to alternative funding sources such as the federal government.
Trakas, when asked about MSD's claims that air quality has improved, said "the proof is in the pudding."
He said, "I'd like to see proof of it."