The bad odor in the Roger Road and Interstate 10 area has decreased thanks to improvements made to a wastewater treatment facility, which wrapped up early and under budget.

The Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department saved $114 million on a massive project to upgrade the county sewer system.

The originally-projected $720 million project was completed a year ahead of schedule, said Jackson Jenkins, the wastewater department director.

The project included: the construction of a five-mile pipeline to connect the two main wastewater treatment plants; a Water Energy and Sustainability Center; expansion and renovation of the Ina Road Wastewater Reclamation Facility also known as Tres Rios; and a new water treatment facility at Roger Road, called Agua Nueva to replace the 1951 treatment plant there.

“It was a tremendous accomplishment, it was well ahead of schedule,” Jenkins said.

The construction project, called the Regional Optimization Master Plan, was designed to help the wastewater department meet higher water quality standards for the reclaimed water discharged into the Santa Cruz River, Jenkins said.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality mandated these standards and the construction was funded by non-voter approved bonds, which are loans of taxpayer money.

Higher sewer rates were set in Pima County to pay off the debt.

“The unfortunate part of it is that the rates had to go up to help pay for that debt service on that investment that we’ve made into our community’s infrastructure for waste water,” Jenkins said.

There will be no rate increases for the upcoming fiscal year, he said.

Since the wastewater infrastructure upgrade, people who drive by or live near the Roger Road plant have also smelled an improvement in the overall quality of the facilities, Jenkins said.

It no longer smells like sewage when drivers pass Roger Road on I-10, he said.

“It’s a success,” Jenkins said. “We are proud to say that the odors are a thing of the past, and we are looking forward to having happy neighbors.”

The new treatment plants are also producing higher quality reusable water, which Jenkins said is typically used for irrigation and golf courses.