DUNEDIN — When your toilets don’t flush, you are in trouble.

That’s what Mayor Ward Bujalski said in jest — repeating a recent comment from Commissioner Moe Freaney — on the importance of the city having a good wastewater treatment system.

City commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Oct. 13 authorizing the submission of the city’s improvements facilities plans to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The action was necessary for the city to be considered a for a low-interest loan of about $14.8 million based upon preliminary estimates.

The city provides sanitary sewer service to residents through a wastewater treatment facility that was completed in June 1991. The plant and collection system have undergone several upgrades in recent years; many of the critical components have exceeded their design life and must be replaced, a recently prepared city plan pertaining to the system says.

Infrastructure improvements include the need to replace seven force mains that are built of cast iron and are subject to breaking due to corrosion. Force main breaks result in spills, the study says.

The project is expected to diminish potential health hazards to humans and wildlife posed by equipment that has reached the end of its useful life and has had a number of equipment failures as well as sanitary sewer overflows.

The option of doing nothing in the planning process was unacceptable, said Russell Ferlita, a city engineer.

“The equipment has reached end-of-life and maintenance and operation costs will just tend to go up and up, and at some point, the items will be no longer serviceable,” Ferlita said.

Tom Bryant, a city consultant, said the first semi-annual debt payment on the loan is due Aug. 5, 2021, or six months after construction is complete, whichever is latest.

“So that could be two to three or four years from now before you make your first debt payment,” Bryant said.

The proposed construction project cost is about $14.5 million.

“That has yet to be designed and bids procured,” Bryant said. “So that number may move up or down.”

The program is set up in three phases; it is currently in the planning phase and officials are moving to the design phase. Once that is complete and permits acquired, the construction phase will begin.

Commissioners complimented staff on the presentation and obtaining low interest loans.

“Obviously, these are great opportunities to help finance these important projects," Freaney said.

Have strong infrastructure is important, Bujalski said.

“The steps we are taking on this project are going to ensure that our residents have a strong system, a safe system and a system that is environmentally friendly, which is important to us in all of our community, many years moving forward,” she said.

Rate increases are not expected to finance the project, the study says.

The city currently maintains about 140 miles of sanitary sewer mains, 17 miles of force mains, more than 3,100 manholes, about 56 miles of right-of-way service lines to homes, and 42 lift stations. Mains can range in size from 2 to 24 inches with an average daily wastewater treatment of 4.75 million gallons.