The Superior City Council approved borrowing that will allow the city to take advantage of principal forgiveness through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The Council on Tuesday, Feb. 4 approved selling municipal bonds worth about $3.2 million to the state’s Clean Water Fund Program to pay for upgrades at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on East First Street.

The big plus is the new borrowing won’t mean higher sewage rates for Superior residents.

The Clean Water Fund essentially awards the city a grant that forgives 30% of the loan up to $750,000. The city can cover the rest of the costs for the project through sewer fees without having to raise rates, said Steve Roberts, environmental services director.

“It’s been several years since we had a rate increase,” Roberts said. “We’re trying our best to continue that.”

The upgrades will impact the treatment process and improve the reliability of the plant's electrical system.

The blowers that provide microbes air, “installed decades ago,” will be replaced with more efficient models, Roberts said.

“So we’ll end up saving money on the operations sides,” he said.

The new equipment will improve the settling characteristics of microbes, which will increase capacity and improve treatment quality for phosphorus and ammonia, he said.

The plant will also have its electrical substations reconfigured and upgraded.

“We’ve got four substations on the campus that are recently at the end of their useful life,” Roberts said. “So we’ll be replacing and reconfiguring that infrastructure. As part of the project we will be working with Superior Water, Light and Power to use two different substations so we’ll have better electrical reliability.”

He said if one substation on the grid goes down, officials will be able to switch the Wastewater Treatment Plant over to the other so operations aren’t interrupted.

“If the power’s off, there’s not much the pumps will do,” Roberts said.