The clock is ticking for the City of Geneseo to meet an EPA mandated upgrade to the city's wastewater treatment plant.

About this story: The EPA has give Geneseo three years to install and have operational UV disinfection equipment at the city wastewater treatment plant. The requirement comes after the EPA refused to continue a water discharge exemption for the city.

The clock is ticking for the City of Geneseo to meet an EPA mandated upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Geneseo has 36 months — three years — to install and have operational UV disinfection equipment.

After treatment at the city’s wastewater plant, water is discharged into the Geneseo Creek.

Until recently, Geneseo had been one of only a small handful of Illinois communities receiving disinfection exemptions for the water it discharged.

The exemptions were based on the depth of the Geneseo Creek, which is a shallow waterway.

Rainwater has increased the depth of the Geneseo Creek and, under EPA regulations, the deeper a waterway, the more likely it is to be used for recreational activities.

Any discharge emptied into a waterway used for recreational activities needs to undergo a disinfection process.

“We don’t believe the Geneseo Creek is used as a recreational waterway,” said Geneseo City Administrator Lisa Kotter. However an appeal to re-evaluate the water level was denied. A request to give the city five years instead of three to completed the project also was denied by the EPA.

“It will take two years just to get construction complete and then more months to tweak the system and get it operational,” Kotter told the council. “We’re going to need the full 36 months to get compliant.”

Without any bids or price comparisons, early estimates put the project at $1.2 million, however both Kotter and Chad VanDeWoetyne, the city’s public works director, felt that amount was high.

“We won’t know the exact price until the design is done and we get some hard numbers,” said VanDeWoetyne.

In 2016, city officials approved a $2.5 million bond for water and sewer work. Funds from the bond have paid for water and sewer work on First Street, a new city well and a second river crossing for city water lines.

From the initial $2.5 million bond, $400,000 remains. Aldermen had originally earmarked that money for a Phase II water and sewer improvement project.

However, before that phase can be implemented, officials must see how much of the city’s existing bottleneck problem has been eradicated by the First Street project.

To properly evaluate the success of First Street, heavy rainfall is needed. A dry spring or a summer drought could forestall the evaluation.

And, while the city is on the clock to complete EPA work, city officials also have a limited amount of time

to spend the remaining $400,000 in bond money.

“I know you wanted to use the money for more sewer projects, but, from a legal standpoint, the $400,000 can be used for the UV disinfection project,” Kotter told the city council.