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Where is stimulus money now? Part 2

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- Some extra money from the federal government went a long way to keep an area treatment plant going strong. 
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- Some extra money from the federal government went a long way to keep an area treatment plant going strong. Nearly $240 million has been funneled into Champaign County since President Obama was first elected. That has come in the form of stimulus funds. The money was meant to create jobs, save current jobs and help improve the economy.

The biggest chunk of change in Champaign County went to the University of Illinois. They got a $46 million grant.

"That $46 million is roughly two-thirds of a month's payroll," said Randy Kangas, associate vice president for the University Office for Planning and Budgeting.

The state had just cut funding by that much. So with more than 12,000 people waiting to be paid, it went directly into payroll.

The second largest recipient in Champaign County was the City of Champaign. That $10.3 million award was for the Urbana-Champaign broadband project.

The third biggest award went straight down the toilet. This latest flow of money impacted just about every building of the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District; $10 million in grants and low-interest loans.

"It was a project that was planned for years before the economy hit the tank," said Rick Manner.

Manner is the district's executive director. The treatment process starts at a red building which was completely rebuilt with stimulus money. New filters sift out sewage coming from miles away. Manner said he's not even surprised to see some of the stuff that comes through the pipes.

"Basically anything that can be flushed down a toilet, someone has done to some extent," said Manner.

Another addition is a new tank. It helps deal with extra water that can hit the system.

"We doubled our capacity going from about 10 million gallons a day of excess flow capacity to 23 million gallons," said Manner.

The waste water goes through a lot of other filters before the third big change: a cloth filter that takes out some of the last remaining particles before the process is complete.

"As it's pushed through the filter, it then goes down to about one or zero parts per million of solids," said Manner. "We've gone from grey water sewage to water that is really quite clear."

All this to purify water so it's technically good enough to drink, even though you probably wouldn't want to.

"If you're dying of thirst, and there is no other place to get hydrated, this is better than nothing," said Manner.

After all of that, the water ends up in a creek. About 50 people work at the plant now. Many more got temporary jobs here during construction.

"We did employ tens if not hundreds of people with the construction of this place and the equipment that was constructed within the country," said Manner.

All the changes now help customers by keeping things consistent.

"It saved us a lot of money so we didn't have to raise rates to the same extent that we would have," said Manner.

Manner said these new additions will be cleaning out our systems for a long time to come.

"This treatment plant has now been enhanced and we'll be using that for the next 20 or 30 years," said Manner.

Construction already wrapped up at the plant, but they'll be paying off their loans for a few years. Manner said they're taking their time since the interest rates are so low.

The University of Illinois stimulus funding was a one-time thing, so that's already on the books. The broadband project is ongoing and there's no set date for that to be completed. There is technically no end to the stimulus project so we could still see more progress from that in the future.

Link to Part 1
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