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Tulsa Ports Authority moves forward with new wastewater treatment plant for Inola

Newt Graham Lock & Dam 18 near the Port of Inola
Newt Graham Lock & Dam 18 near the Port of Inola

The Tulsa Ports Authority has approved a plan to construct a new wastewater treatment facility in Inola that can support both the town and its fledgling river port, according to reporting by The Tulsa World.

Tulsa Ports ordered initial studies for an Inola wastewater treatment plant back in January. At the time, The Tulsa World and other outlets reported the project was expected to cost around $30 million. Now that Tulsa Ports has approved an engineering firm’s plan, it expects the cost to be between $85 million and $118 million.

The new treatment plant will support Inola’s municipal sewer needs and the port’s industrial wastewater requirements, which the Tulsa Port Authority expects to grow as it attracts more businesses to the area. The Authority announced the arrival of a $1 billion solar panel manufacturing facility in May.

But Inola’s current sewers may not be able to handle that growth. Since 2018, the existing wastewater treatment plant has been operating under a consent order from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality — a special agreement that allows the facility to keep its permits despite violations if it takes necessary steps to fix them.

In 2020, the city received a $2.6 million loan from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to improve its wastewater system. But by March of this year, the plant still wasn’t on schedule with its compliance order.

The Oklahoma legislature approved $14 million in American Rescue Plan Act pandemic relief funds to support a new wastewater plant.

The Port Authority is also receiving more than $22 million for the project as part of a federal Build Back Better grant from the U.S. Department of Economic Development. On top of all that, the Cherokee and Muscogee Nations have awarded Inola with $500,000 in grant money.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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