Fox Metro Water Reclamation District Prepares to Meet Revised Illinois EPA Guidelines

A new plant, located just south of the current location, will help to further improve the wastewater treatment facility.

In response to a mandate from the Illinois EPA (IEPA), the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District (“Fox Metro”) will build a new wastewater treatment plant just south of its current facility. Fox Metro currently provides advanced, high-efficiency wastewater treatment for nearly 300,000 residents of Oswego, Aurora, Montgomery, North Aurora, Sugar Grove, and portions of Batavia and Yorkville.

Though Fox Metro meets and exceeds current wastewater requirements, the IEPA’s recently revised guidelines require Fox Metro to further improve its award-winning wastewater treatment facilities and enhance its ability to process phosphorous. To comply with these unfunded mandates and upgrade aging infrastructure, Fox Metro will build a new South Plant facility on existing District-owned land. After opening the project for public consideration, Fox Metro’s Board of Trustees selected the contractor with the most comprehensive and lowest-cost bid, River City Construction, LLC, to manage the construction of the new South Plant.

The water that Fox Metro discharges into the Fox River is already cleaner than the existing river water, but the EPA has tasked the facility with reducing the level of phosphorous in the river by 2019. Phosphorus enters the watershed system through fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns, and from human waste through wastewater, which Fox Metro then receives and treats. Within four years, the new plant will eliminate 67 percent of phosphorus in Fox Metro’s discharged water. 

Phosphorus is a nutrient that depletes dissolved oxygen in water and may cause offensive conditions, such as algae blooms. The Fox River is part of the Mississippi River watershed, the fourth-largest river system in the world, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. There, impaired water contributes to “Gulf Hypoxia,” or low-oxygen zones. The water in these “dead zones” does not contain enough dissolved oxygen to support marine life. Removing more phosphorus from all Mississippi River tributaries may help alleviate Gulf Hypoxia and improve the ecosystem for aquatic plants, animals and other organisms within the Fox River and the entire Mississippi watershed.

To comply with the IEPA’s revised guidelines, Fox Metro secured a $92 million State of Illinois Revolving Loan at a rate of 1.85 percent. The Board has ensured that this loan will be repaid with user fees, as part of planned, incremental rate increases. This will cost the average family of four about $16.50 per year, or $1.38 per month – less than a cup of coffee.

“Though the Illinois EPA requires us to build this new plant, the Board carefully considered this project to guarantee we can responsibly – both environmentally and fiscally – upgrade aging infrastructure, add natural beauty and greenery to the area and meet new safety and environmental compliance standards,” said Tom Muth, manager of the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District. “The new building project will benefit the Fox River, Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico for generations to come.”  

Fox Metro designed the plant to offer major advantages for minimal cost to each user, as the District improves Fox River water quality for future water consumption by local communities. Construction will begin in early 2016; the South Plant will be operational by late 2018.