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Senate panel OKs sewage-plant bill

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The "back-up plan" to get a sewage-treatment plant built in Riverton is moving forward at the state Legislature.

The Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee on Friday approved SB172, which seeks to remove municipal land-use requirements for qualifying water and wastewater facilities. The bill next will go before the full Senate.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, would restrict municipalities from imposing land-use ordinances, regulations or conditions on plants, pipelines or pump stations owned by a special-service district or another political subdivision of the state, as well as those that provide culinary-water or sewage-treatment services to two or more municipalities or counties.

The bill is the result of an ongoing battle over a proposed sewage-treatment plant to keep up with rapid growth in south Salt Lake County. The South Valley Sewer District has been trying since 2002 to get the facility built in Riverton near the Jordan River at 13500 South.

Residents who live near the proposed plant site contested the city's decision to grant a conditional-use permit to the sewer district, saying proper consideration wasn't given to the impact the facility would have on neighboring homes.

In November 2005, the Riverton Board of Adjustments ruled in favor of the residents and revoked the conditional-use permit — a decision that sparked the legal battle. The sewer district's appeal in 3rd District Court failed in July, as did an October effort to get Judge Stephen Roth to amend his previous ruling. The sewer district has since filed an appeal with the state Court of Appeals.

If SB172 passes, the South Valley Sewer District wouldn't need a conditional-use permit to move forward with the Riverton plant.

The sewer district is a member of the South Valley Water Reclamation Facility in West Jordan, but it has exceeded its dumping limits. Craig White, the sewer district's general manager, said the new facility is needed for development to continue in its service area — roughly the southern third of Salt Lake County.

"The South Valley Sewer District basically has a capacity issue," Killpack said. "If it doesn't get resolved, (the district) will have to place a moratorium on new sewer connections in that area."

White said in an interview Wednesday that SB172 is the "back-up plan" to make sure the district's needs for additional capacity are addressed. The top option, he said, is reaching an agreement with Riverton residents and getting the Court of Appeals to reinstate the conditional-use permit.

A big step toward that goal was taken Wednesday, when the South Valley Sewer District's board of trustees unanimously voted to alter its plans for a traditional staged-aeration sewage-treatment plant in favor of a facility that uses membrane technology.

Representatives of the residents group have said they will support a facility being built in Riverton if it uses membrane technology, which produces a higher-quality effluent that can be used in secondary-water systems. Such a facility also would be close to odor-free and could be built on 12 to 13 acres instead of the 20 acres that the staged-aeration plant would need at build-out.

The big difference is cost: The estimated price tag for a sewage-treatment plant using membrane technology is $126 million, compared with the $89 million cost of a staged-aeration plant.

To offset the funding gap, homes in the district likely will see their sewer bills increase by $3 to $6 per month. A $1,000 increase to impact fees also will be needed, bringing them to $3,900 per connection, although the same increase would have been required for a staged-aeration plant.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com