Plant Upgrade

keeping costs low


Like over 20 other active wastewater treatment plants near the Cahaba, the North Shelby Plant (as it’s currently built) is simply not capable of meeting the new, lower limits. That is understandable when you consider that it was designed and built by Shelby County long before the new phosphorus limits were contemplated by EPA and ADEM.

As a direct result of the new EPA and ADEM environmental regulations regarding phosphorus, SouthWest Water Company has been required to construct an upgrade to the Plant that will help us treat and remove phosphorus.

As we shared with you last December, this will be a significant, multi-year effort involving the construction of new treatment processes.

We completed the initial design for the project in 2009, broke ground on its first phase in 2010 and have made good progress on the construction throughout 2011.

When finished, the new plant will enable us to meet the new, stricter treatment limits for phosphorus for the next several years, as required by EPA and ADEM.

In fact, we expect the new facility to reduce the amount of phosphorus we discharge to less than 0.2 parts per million. This represents a remarkable reduction of about 95% from current levels.


Construction of the required upgrade to the North Shelby Plant is expected to cost about $9 million. Largely as a result of this cost, your monthly wastewater service fee must increase.

Effective January 1, 2012, your monthly service fee will increase from $57.21 to $69.66 per EDU (equivalent dwelling unit).

Thus, a single family homeowner will pay $69.66 per month. A business would pay either the same amount or a multiple of this amount, based on the size of the business.

Less than 2% of the rate increase is due to inflation as reflected in the current Consumer Price Index.

We have taken a number of aggressive steps to keep this rate increase as low as possible (see Keeping Costs Low for details on cost-savings we’ve implemented as a part of this project).

Although we’ve gone to great lengths to contain the cost of this upgrade, and even though your wastewater bill will be roughly the same as the average bill in our area, we know it’s frustrating.

Yet, we also know that meeting the new requirements from EPA and ADEM is imperative— both to ensure the treatment plant that serves you is in compliance and, moreover, to keep a cleaner Cahaba for all of us and the generations to come.

Please know that we will continue to do our best to provide you with dependable wastewater service at a fair price, while maintaining the quality of our vital waterways.


Photo: USFWS