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State and city officials, as well as residents, seem to agree that the city's current septic tank system stinks, and they want to do something about it.

However, if the city is to replace that system by installing a sewer system, input and reactions from residents during public hearings could be critical to receive substantial federal funding.During a public hearing held earlier this month to discuss the $4.5 million project, officials from the State Division of Water Pollution Control said their support could determine whether the city receives a one-time Environmental Protection Agency grant, which could provide at least one-third of the project's funding.

"We want to put the grant money where people want the projects most," said Nancy Hess, a member of the control board, which distributes the EPA funds. Hess said three Utah cities are vying for those funds, which may never again be offered.

Reported problems with Santaquin's current septic tank system have moved the city to the top third echelon in priorities for Utah cities needing help with water pollution controls.

Last year, the city received a $35,000 EPA grant to create a facility plan for the proposed project, as well as determine some preliminary cost estimates for connection fees and monthly service charges.

Alden Robinson of the Fillmore firm Sunrise Engineering has completed the initial surveys. He determined the city could best be served with an aerated, lagoon-type water and waste-disposal plant. To do so, the city would be required to purchase a site for the lagoon and comply with EPA standards for construction and installation of the plant, as well as standards for its operation.

Hookups to the system would be mandatory. Residents would pay a connection fee and monthly service charge, and could have to pay for running lines from their homes to the sewer lines.

According to city officials, Farmer's Home Administration officials have indicated that low-interest loans could be available to some residents to help offset those line-installation costs, and bonding or funds from Community Block Development Grants could allow residents to pay off connection fees in monthly installments.

Officials from the Utah County Health Department say they have received numerous complaints about the city's septic tank system, including reports that some areas drain too quickly and that some drain too slowly. Also, some businesses and individuals reportedly have been reluctant about settling near the city because of the present system.

The sewer system issue could be put to a vote this November, or even earlier in a bond election, depending on further residential input. The proj-ect could follow on the heels of a $1.5 million water system upgrade that residents approved during a January bond election.

The water system upgrade will require an approximate 35 percent boost in residential water bills to repay no-interest loan from both the Utah Safe Drinking Water Committee and the State Division of Water Resources. Engineering on that project began in February.


(Additional information)

Sewer fees

Estimated fees for Santaquin's proposed sewer system:

- Monthly service charge fees: $26 to $30.

- Connection fees: $350 to $400.

- Line installation charges: $300 to $500.