State

Modesto OKs paying for part of sewer study

There's nothing like dirty water to bring people together. The Modesto City Council advanced a plan Wednesday that could allow Ceres and Modesto to share a waste-water treatment system.

The council voted 7-0 to split with Ceres the cost of a study that will tell local leaders how the two cities could regionalize sewer treatment.

The Ceres City Council will consider the agreement next week. If it approves the plan, the cities would each pay for half of the study, which is projected to cost $100,000.

Modesto would pay its share out of its waste-water reserve fund, not the city's general fund.

The study would analyze, among other questions, whether a shared system would mean higher or lower sewer bills.

If the cities join forces on waste- water treatment, the arrangement would be the first of its kind in Stanislaus County. Sharing a sewer system could save money and make it easier to meet increasingly strict waste-water regulations, said City Manager Greg Nyhoff. Cities that don't comply with those standards face fines.

Modesto is in the middle of a $450 million waste-water treatment plant expansion.

"The city has to build a facility like this anyway to meet standards," Nyhoff said. "It only makes sense to offer it to others."

Regionalizing waste-water treatment can take many forms. It can involve one large sewage treatment plant serving multiple cities, or several smaller plants. In this case, Ceres probably would buy sewer capacity from Modesto's plant, Nyhoff said.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board encourages communities to share waste-water burdens, said Pamela Creedon, board executive officer, at Wednesday's meeting.

Sometimes politics stand in the way, Creedon said. Cities worry that they'll lose control over their plant and customers' rates, Creedon said. That's not the case between Modesto and Ceres, said Creedon.

"It's nice to see you have such a wonderful relationship with Ceres," Creedon told the council. "It's not so pleasant in some of the other communities I visit."

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378.

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