school_aerial2In the swirl of frightening budget challenges the Lansing Board Of Education got some good news Monday.  Replacing three major septic systems will cost a million dollars less than projected at a school board meeting  in late January.  The project is now estimated at $4 million because existing sand filters will not have to be removed.

"At the last meeting we threw out the figure of $5 million," explained Tetra Tech Architects and Engineers Project Manager Tom Farlow.  "We are looking right now at about a $4 million referendum.  That million dollar reduction has a lot to do with the closure plan.  Tetra Tech was worked with New York State and the County Department of Health to find ways to reduce costs.  The million dollar savings is based on the fact that we can leave the existing sand filters in place."

School officials had hoped that a municipal sewer would be ready before the district's three large septic systems fail.  All three are at the end of their projected useful life, and district employees have struggled to keep them in service.  If the municipal sewer project had gone forward, Farlow says the cost to the schools would have been about $1.1 million to hook up.  As the sewer project developed school officials estimated that replacing the septic systems would have cost just over $2 million.  $5 million was a shock to Board of Education members when they were presented with the number at the end of January.  So the $4 million estimate is good news, sort of.  it is still $2 million more than they hoped, but it's $1 million less than they feared.

It's a big excavation project," said School Board President Glenn Swanson.  "You have four of these filter beds per system.  And each of these fields are like two swimming pools in size, so we're talking about putting in 24 swimming pools worth.  It's a huge dig."

New material amounting to about 500 10-wheel dump trucks full will be brought in while excavated material equalling about 100 2-car garages will be taken out.

School Board member Aziza Benson asked whether it would be more palatable to taxpayers to build the three systems in phases.  But Swanson noted that the economy of scale in doing the project all at once and the threat of one of the current systems failing and needing emergency replacement means a single project makes the most sense for the district, both functionally and fiscally.

"They are all at the end of their life," he said.  "We could do one, but there is some advantage for a contractor to do them all at the same time, because they've got equipment and staff here.  We did talk about bidding it in two packages because it may be too big for one contractor to build three int he course of the summer.  That's how big a project it is.  It's a big dig."

schoolseptic_bedsThis photo, presented by Tetra Tech Monday, shows construction of a double sand-filter bed. Each of the Lansing district's septic systems will need four of these beds, for a total of 12.

Septic systems would have a 9,000 gallon septic tank with double-pass sand-bed filters, set-aside areas with 30 year expected useful life, various sizes/lengths of piping, manholes, and structures, a distribution valve, vault and controls and an Ultra Violet disinfection and pump station, with sod over filter bed.  After the new systems are tied into the school buildings old equipment will be removed and the old fields will be capped left in place.

"Basically you're going to get a brand new system," Farlow told the Board. "When we turn this online you should not have any major issues of concerns for a long time to come."