An aerial view of the reverse-osmosis water treatment plant construction site on L&R Industrial Boulevard in Tarpon Springs.
TARPON SPRINGS – Construction for Tarpon Springs $45 million reverse-osmosis water treatment plant is likely to still finish within a few weeks of the original deadline.
The plant, located north of the Anclote River at the end of L&R Industrial Boulevard, was originally approved by 72 percent of voters in a March 2006 referendum. Legal issues put the project on hold until the city finally broke ground in March 2013. But despite the delays, plans are just three weeks behind schedule.
“We think there’s still plenty of time to make up that time,” said Bob Robertson, the project manager for design and construction, during a presentation to the Tarpon Springs City Commission on July 15. “They are committed to meeting our schedule.”
Until now, Tarpon Springs has relied on external water supplies to provide for the city but has continuously expressed a desire for independence. With the new reverse-osmosis plant, the city will be able to control water quality and treatment/disinfectant procedures as well as plan for growth and more economical production of water.
The current combination of city-owned fresh groundwater treatment facilities and purchases from Pinellas County provide about 3.2 million gallons of water daily to Tarpon Springs. The reverse-osmosis water treatment plant, which will replace the water purchased from the county, will raise production to about 5 million gallons a day.
Simply, reverse osmosis works by desalinating brackish or seawater to convert it to drinking water. Water pressure pushes brackish water through a semi permeable membrane that only allows the water to pass through, causing dissolved inorganic solids (like salts) to drop through a drain. The treated water is also passed through a sulfide scrubber and chlorination clear well before being distributed.
Of the $45 million budget, nearly half of the funds will come from a $20.1 million grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. As of June, about $6.3 million of the money had already gone back to the city in the form of reimbursements for completed construction and design work.
According to Utilities Superintendent Raymond Page, key operating staff positions will be hired by early fiscal year 2015, which begins Oct. 1, and full staff will be needed in the early months of calendar year 2015.
“All of the pieces are falling into place so that, hopefully, we’ll have a great startup on the facility and start producing water immediately,” Page said.