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City to save big on sewage plant cleaning

– albeit pleasantly – to have bids for a sewage plant digester clean out come in as low as 70 percent below the price they estimated.

The Board of Public Works opened bids Wednesday for the cleanout of sludge and sediment from one of the Water Pollution Control plant’s six digesters. The digesters are huge tanks where bacteria break down the biological material in the sewage and need to be cleaned out every decade or so.

Officials had estimated the work would cost about $280,000; the highest of the five bids was $261,246. The lowest, by Burch Hydro, was $85,078.

“We were pretty surprised by that,” said Matt Wirtz, deputy director of engineering for Fort Wayne City Utilities. He said all the bids will be examined to ensure they meet the city’s criteria and the winning bidder will likely be decided by the board next week.

Burch Hydro, of Fredericktown, Ohio, specializes in recycling biosolids.

Wirtz said officials estimated the cost would be much higher because “we don’t have a real good feel for what’s on the bottom of these tanks.”

Though larger material is screened out, there’s no telling what can slip through in decades of raw sewage.

“Our estimate was that the material would be difficult to get out,” Wirtz said. “And then it has to be screened out and disposed of properly.”