City plans to meet water demands

Plans for a $52 million water treatment plant are underway.

The city’s current water plant. [Dave Miller]

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Posted November 6, 2022 | By Makayla Gray

Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected. The city council has not yet voted to approve this plan. 

The city is developing plans for a second water treatment plant to ensure it can meet future demand for clean drinking water. However, the plans were pulled from the city council agenda on Oct. 18, to be reconsidered at a later date. 

This item was pulled due to preliminary impacts still being taken into consideration. 

Kimley-Horn, the chosen applicant for the project, has submitted a traffic methodology to the city to analyze the plant’s traffic impact. 

The $52 million plant, will be located about six miles from the enchanting Silver Springs and is expected to be operating by 2030 to help provide drinking water for Ocala’s growing population while easing the load on the city’s one aging water treatment plant. 

The city issued a RFP to 393 vendors and kept the solicitation open for 63 days, 33 days longer than a usual solicitation. Kimley-Horn was the only firm to submit a proposal. 

The Gazette attempted to follow-up with Kimley-Horn via phone call, but they did not respond. 

The City of Ocala will provide 50% of the estimated cost of $52 million, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District each pledging to contribute 25% of the construction costs. 

In email correspondence with the Gazette, City Engineer/Director Sean Lanier explained that an Integrated Water Resources Plan in 2008 discussed the need for a second water treatment plant. 

The new plant, to be built at 3744 South Pine Ave., will include four wells drilled 1,300 feet deep into the Lower Floridan Aquifer, according to the city’s website. The new wells will bring relief to the current plant’s wells, which will lead into the Upper Floridan Aquifer as well Silver Springs. 

The city’s sole water treatment plant provides roughly 12 million gallons of drinking water each day to Ocala’s 60,000 residents, according to the website. The new plant is expected to help the city keep up with demand. 

“We are projected to have the flows double in the next 20 years to approx. 26 millions of gallons a day,’’ Lanier said, adding that the new plant will be designed to be 30 millions of gallons a day. 

Another reason for building a new plant is the age of the current one. 

“WTP#1 was built in 1972 and it has reached its life expectancy and is not expected to meet future regulatory requirements,” Lanier said. 

With the new plant intended to supply all of the customers in the city’s water service area at some point, Lanier said it may take some time for Ocala to recapture it initial capital outlay. 

“After deducting operating expenses, the revenues generated by WTP#2 are expected to reimburse the construction cost within seven to 10 years,” Lanier said. 

According to the preliminary plant layout, there are over eight phases of new development for the treatment plants, that stretches out to 2030. 

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