Cottonwood is moving ahead with a feasibility study for a water reclamation plant at Cottonwood's Riverfront Park. But some were flying yellow flags to urge the process go slowly and seek public approval.
"A big concern is the protection of the Verde River, and I wonder if this is a chicken or the egg decision. What if we can't get an ADEQ license? They are very picky about wastewater in the river," Mayor Diane Joens said when the issue was proposed for city council approval by the Utilities Director Dan Leuder.
Bob Oliphant, from the audience, said the public should be consulted. "My concern is the amount of the expenditure without knowing how the public feels. The public has a great sensitivity about this site, so close to the river.
"If there is a serious outcry and the council does not approve the project, you may not want to spend this kind of money."
The council was being asked to authorize $55,709 to design the sewer treatment plant that Leuder says would be a state-of-the-art plant with a number of "green" features that would in turn green up Cottonwood's prized Riverfront Park and the neighboring cemetery.
The contract with Coe & Van Loo would evaluate a site location, review flood plain concerns and propose re-use options.
Leuder says the system, a package wastewater plant that would use solar energy for most of its power, would save the Cottonwood system the energy it now uses to pump the lower Cottonwood sewage up the hill to the large treatment plant.
A system at Riverfront Park would also save the irrigation water now used to keep the city's expansive fields alive.
Finally, Leuder says, the system could be an educational feature for the city.
But, the proposed plant would not be intended to discharge into the river during the summer months, but would produce the quality to discharge into the river if necessary.
Leuder says that the State Department of Environmental Quality has embraced the concept in early discussion. But, he admits, there will need to be an educational component in presenting the idea to the local public.
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