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Upgrade of Marco WWTP – Free for the Asking?

Updated: Jul 11, 2022

The upgrade of the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) is necessary to eliminate the algal blooms now occurring on Marco Island. An estimate of the cost of leasing the technology used by FDEP at the Piney Point restoration is $10 per pound of nutrients removed (nitrogen and phosphorus). Using the actual Marco nutrient load dumped on the island from the reuse water (purple pipes), we get an estimated annual lease cost for the equipment of $640,000. This equipment consists of three cargo containers, which can easily fit into the space available at the Marco WWTP.

There are operational benefits from the use of this technology.

  • 90% of chlorine used at the WWTP would be eliminated, which amounts to $140,000 per year

  • Deep well injection of 165 million gallons of excess reuse water would save an estimated $50,000 per year – it takes much energy to pump 165 million gallons down 3,000 feet.

  • The now clean reuse water that was deep well injected has to value. Using the current raw water valuation of $1.35 per (000) gallons, this savings would amount to $230,000 per year.

  • Extend the life of the membranes due to less loading, maybe $7,000 per year

  • Less maintenance of operation due to less chlorine

Operational benefits like these might completely offset the lease cost. A thorough financial analysis must be completed to verify this. There might be ZERO added operating costs to the city.

The capital cost of the installation is currently estimated at $3,000,000. Spread over 30 years, this amounts to $100,000 per year. The city sells 800,000,000 gallons of reuse water (purple pipes) each year. What would be the increase in the cost of the reuse water? Twelve cents per thousand gallons! I think we can afford this!

Not only is this project almost cost-neutral to Marco Island, but it also resolves vexing environmental issues:

  • Health effects of algal blooms

  • Swimming is not healthy when water visibility is less than 4 feet

  • Loss of seagrass and impact on the manatee population

  • Loss of fish population

  • The economic impact of the loss of tourism

  • Suppressed property values estimated at 10-15%

The trade-off? The golf courses and condos might have to add fertilizer to their landscaping because the cheap reuse water loaded with nutrients is no longer a source of “cheap fertilizer.” Why do the residents have to irrigate their lawns with potable water, and only the condos and golf courses can use the cheaper reuse water?


Nanette Rivera

Candidate for City Council

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