Am. Samoa Starts Wastewater Upgrade Project

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Hopeful cheap remedy will lead to waiver of $100 million mandate

By B. Chen

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 20, 2014) – A major wastewater project funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) would provide improvements to the American Samoa Power Authority’s collection and treatment process and hopefully lead to a permanent waiver of a mandated $100 million upgrade looming on the horizon.

ASPA is moving forward with the wastewater improvement project — broken into three parts — in the Utulei and Fogagogo areas, which will allow for its customers to continue to get affordable wastewater services, while also protecting our marine environment and resources.

The first part of the project, according to information from ASPA Executive Director Utu Abe Malae, deals with work that will need to be performed to allow compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding the Utulei and Fogagogo Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements Project. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will advertise the position — consultant.

This part of the project comes with a price tag of $215,000, because it includes work for the modification of the existing diffuser configurations, to increase the initial dilution from both wastewater treatment plants, which "will help improve the initial dilution of the discharges from both wastewater treatment plants," said Utu, adding that this should not only help with operations but "also improve and protect our marine environment and resources."

The ASPA CEO referred to the Administrative Order (AO) for the Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) part of the project and said that as part of the Federal Administrative Orders, the AO for I&I focuses on the improvements and upgrades to the existing collection system.

"These improvements include repairs to the manholes, and repairs and replacement of old leaky sewer pipes."

Utu explained that the AO is issued by the USEPA and requires ASPA Wastewater to closely monitor Total Suspended Solids and BOD5 (Biochemical Oxygen Demand, 5 Days).

"These parameters are measures of the effectiveness of sewage treatment," he said, adding that ASPA reports the results to the EPA quarterly and "If we are able to stay below the allowed readings, then USEPA may award a permanent waiver to ASPA," for upgrade of treatment plants.

Pointing out the cost savings to customers, Utu said, "If we are not granted this waiver, then we must upgrade the treatment plants from Primary to Secondary. The cost is estimated to be $100 million: capital plus operating for the first year. Imagine asking our customers to pay for this cost?"

As for the I&I, Utu said that following a rainstorm, surface water may ‘inflow’ into the sewer manholes and groundwater, including salt water, and may ‘infiltrate’ into the sewer mains through leaks or in between pipe connections. "All this extra liquid" puts pressure on the operation of the pumps and treatment facilities, he noted.

This part of the project costs $917,175 and the 1st phase (manhole rehabilitation) is currently in the research and investigation phase.

He said the work "will contribute to improvements to the whole collection and treatment process both within the sewer collection systems and at the wastewater treatment plants" which he said "will help reduce costs both in operations and maintenance."

The third part of the project, and the most expensive, is the ‘AO Disinfection’, which will include the installation of new UV disinfection equipment at both the Utulei and Fogagogo (aka Tafuna) wastewater treatment plants at a cost of $7.704 million.

According to Utu, this part of the project will improve the sewage discharge through UV disinfection, which in turn "will help protect our marine environment and resources through a much more federally compliant… discharge."

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