MISSION, Kan. — Funding from a new federal loan will soon support wastewater plant upgrades and bring more jobs to Johnson County. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $281 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to Johnson County to make improvements at the Nelson Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

The Nelson Wastewater Treatment Facility is the oldest treatment facility in the county. A significant portion of the facility is at or near the end of its useful service life. 

“Johnson County is to be commended for successfully earning this WIFIA loan,” EPA Region 7 Administrator Meg McCollister said. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law we will soon be delivering billions of dollars for water infrastructure to more communities, including overburdened communities that have traditionally found it difficult to compete for federal funding.”

The treatment technology currently in place at Nelson is not capable of meeting future water quality standards.  

The first phase of the project will reconfigure the existing system to allow the facility to remain operational during the second phase of construction. Plans to modernize the wastewater treatment plant include adding auxiliary treatment facilities to treat water during peak wet weather flows and implementing biological nutrient removal upgrades. 

This project will help Johnson County reduce nitrogen and phosphorus discharges to comply with standards set by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). 

“We appreciate the opportunity to utilize low interest cost WIFIA financing, a key part of funding optimization, for the Nelson Wastewater Treatment Facility Improvements project,” Johnson County Board of County Commissioners Chair Ed Eilert said. “Community benefits of this important project include replacing aging infrastructure, supporting community growth and redevelopment, improving wet weather management and improving water quality.”

Once the work is completed, the facility will be able to treat 15 million gallons per day during average daily flows and 52 million gallons per day during peak flows. The system will also provide an additional 87 million gallons per day of wet weather auxiliary capacity to allow Johnson County to meet future demand. 

The overall project is expected to cost roughly $574.4 million to complete. The upgraded facility is expected to save the county approximately $80 million and create roughly 1,800 jobs. Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2024, with an anticipated completion date in 2029.