The Town of Jerome can currently process and discharge up to 70,000 gallons per day (GPD) of treated domestic wastewater from the Town of Jerome Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) into Bitter Creek, which is an ephemeral tributary of the Verde River. The Town of Jerome WWTP is a publicly owned treatment facility that receives domestic wastewater from residential and commercial sources in Jerome. Dewatered sludge is hauled to an approved landfill for disposal. This system is nearing its operational capacity of 70,000 GPD, but is not near the end of its service life. Installed in 2001, the current wastewater treatment system is still capable of at least another dozen years of service in its life cycle.
70,000 GPD is normal for a community of 250 homes with 2.6 occupants per home–in other words, 650 people. The sewer system in Jerome services far fewer than that number. Pesky tourists using up our water, straining our toilets, that’s the story. A story that is not substantiated by reality, disproved by data supplied by modern technology: the water meter. Commercial users, those folks that service the tourists, use about a third of Jerome’s water ration. The balance is used by the private residents of Jerome. Treating the wastewater from 104 commercial bathrooms around town is a small price to pay for the million dollars the town received in sales tax and fee revenue, as reported in the Town’s 2018 Annual Financial Statement, that was derived from the millions of dollars the visitors spent in Jerome last year.
Cleve Weyenberg started Tex Tech Environmental, Inc. in 1978 and has been dealing with wastewater treatment facilities for small municipalities since the company’s inception. Tex Tech Environmental specializes in the design, manufacture and installation of sewage treatment plants and sewage lift stations. Cleve recently installed a wastewater treatment plant at a mobile home development in Salome, Arizona. He relates that the baseline, ballpark figure for a turnkey 20,000 GPD “plug in and play” wastewater treatment system, a system that would operate in concert with the current 70,000 GPD plant in Jerome, would be $20 per gallon of daily capacity, or $400,000, installed. Case in point, the Town of Jerome could increase its wastewater processing capacity by almost 30 percent for a fraction of the estimated $1.3 million or more to replace the fully functional and capable system that is just now at the midpoint of its service life. The pendulum has swung, in the past thirty-five years. Restoration, renovation and reclamation have become secondary concerns, with private projects being stymied in the permit process, during opaque executive sessions of public committees. Now it is the Sedonification of Jerome that moves forward, despite the protestation of the populous. The reason for the proposed crass corporate commercialization of the streets of Jerome by the town’s government, I am repeatedly told, the strain that tourists have imposed upon the . . . ‘INFRASTRUCTURE’.
In Jerome, the issue of sewage is held up as the ‘cause celeb’ by the Sedonistas. The existing facility must be handling a tad over 100,000 gallons of wastewater a day. Normal for a community of 350 homes with 2.6 occupants per home, in other words, 1,090 people. The sewer system in Jerome services far fewer than that number, with only 500 permanent residents living in the town. Jerome, at an average of 118,000 gallons per day has the highest average per capita water use in Arizona. Pesky tourists, using up our water, straining our toilets . . . that’s the story. A story that is not substantiated by reality, disproved by data supplied by modern technology, the water meter. Commercial users, those folks that service the tourists, use only 14 percent of Jerome’s water ration. That means that 86 percent of the water, and by extension the wastewater, is processed by the permanent residents of Jerome.