Harvard’s new wastewater plant replaces system built in 1940

$20.83 million project paid for using IEPA loan and grant plus user fees

This 1940 building, seen here on Sept. 6, 2023, was the office for four people including Superintendent of Utilities James Grant until Harvard moved staff into a renovated building next door, purchased as part of its wastewater treatment plant expansion.

When the city of Harvard took one of its two deep wells off the system for repairs two months ago, some residents noticed quickly, Superintendent of Utilities James Grant said.

The city was getting more of its water from the city’s shallow well, which contained more iron. Residents, Grant said, noticed slightly yellow water and called the city.

What residents probably will never notice is that in June, the city switched to its new wastewater treatment plant, Grant said.

Construction began in 2020 on the $20.83 million wastewater treatment plant at 807 Brink St., next door to the plant that had serviced Harvard since 1940. In June, over the course of about 30 minutes, one pipe was turned off, cut and rerouted, sending the city’s waste into the new system, Grant said.

Mainly, it was the IEPA saying, ‘You have to fix this stuff.’ ”

—  Harvard City Administrator Lou Leone

What residents likely have noticed is that over the past three years, the city raised its water sewer rates, just about doubling them over that time to begin paying off the plant’s construction bonds.

As the City Council begins working on its 2024 appropriation budget, it will look at setting those rates for the next three years, City Manager Lou Leone said.

Not all of the total cost for the updated plant falls on user fees, Leone said. Harvard received a $1.9 million grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and a $3 million forgivable loan from the agency. That loan is forgiven as long as the work is completed, he said.

Harvard's $20.83 million upgraded wastewater treatment plant,  seen here on Sept. 6, 2023, came online in June.

The remaining balance is financed by the village – and sewage fees – over the next 30 years.

Harvard had little choice in whether to upgrade the facility.

“Mainly, it was the IEPA saying, ‘You have to fix this stuff,’ ” Leone said.

Harvard used an older system to treat incoming waste, Grant said.

“We were having more issues staying in compliance,” he said.

The plant had been renovated multiple times since it was first built in the ‘40s, Grant said. There were changes and upgrades in 1958, 1968 and 1977, as well as a major upgrade in 2005.

Portions of the original plant still are being used, including one section where one of the final products – clean water – is sent before it is released into a nearby stream.

If the city grows from its current population of 9,000 to somewhere in the 13,000-household range, the new facility can handle the additional waste, Leone said. It also was designed for future expansion, when the city grows past that mark, he said.

Leone said that the city is currently working with developers to bring about 50 new housing units to the city, including 21 duplex units, and it is always looking for builders interested in constructing the 400 residential lots planned before the Great Recession but never built.

The city also expects to put a deep well currently out of service back on line next week, Grant said.

The well, located near the former Motorola plant at 2001 N. Division St., was paid for by the former cellphone manufacturer back when the well was installed in 1994, Grant said.

The well pump was pulled and is being replaced, Grant said.

Eventually, Leone said, Harvard will need to add a third deep well – which likely will replace the remaining shallow well – and more staff at the water plant. Currently, there are four people working there.

“It should be five or six,” Grant said.