The $59 million project will ensure the waste and drinking water infrastructures meet state standards. This means higher sewer rates for customers but the city says it's necessary.
"Non of us are excited about regulations that require us to invest more money in our system and raise our sewer bills. It all is for good reason for us being good stewardships of our environment," stated Andy Clements, assistant director of public works for St. Joseph.
Part of the state guidelines include changing the amount of ammonia that's in water. Right now, experts say ammonia levels are high which could not only pollute the river but is dangerous for fish .
"It really has detrimental affect of ammonia on those levels do on the small fish when they're really tiny, the fry and the minnows before they grow up it can be really toxic to them and cause them to die off," stated Don Gilpin, superintendent at the city's waste water facility.
The project has been in design for four years. Other upgrades include replacing the grit removal system, upgrading the waste water treatment system and improving the solids dewatering system.
These changes will ensure St. Joseph has a better quality of water in the long run.
"Although today's requirements are focused on ammonia removal, in the not too distant future I think it's more than likely that we'll see significant changes as it relates to total nitrogen removal and possibly phosphorous as well," added Clements.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources awarded low interest loans to Risco, Holland, Belton and St. Joseph. The loan will be distributed from Missouri's Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
The Department of Natural Resources will administer the loan funds. The project is expected to be completed in 2016 which is also the states deadline.