Wastewater upgrades

 

March 11, 2015

Brad Allen

 

Whitewater Wastewater Plant is poised for $18.7 million in upgrades to its 32-year-old wastewater treatment equipment.

Whitewater City Manager Cameron Clapper says he supports the forthcoming upgrades to the wastewater facility.

“This is a high value investment, but also a very high cost,” Clapper said. “It deserves a lot of attention.”

The current system uses Rotating Biological Contactors (RBC’s), a waste treatment process that removes waste material by using discs mounted on a rotating cylinder to expose and eliminate both pollutants and biological growths in the wastewater.

“The RBC’s are starting to break down and are too expensive to replace,” Clapper said, adding that the current system was installed in 1983. “If we wait any longer, it will just be more expensive to replace. I think we’ve done what we can to extend the life of the equipment [up until now].” 

The facility upgrade is set to begin in early 2016 and will be completed by 2018. The process involves removal of a few buildings, building trenches and installing new equipment, according to Clapper.

The new equipment that will be installed into the facility is Activated Sludge Technology, according to UW-Whitewater student and common council citizen Sarah Bregant.

“Clean water is perhaps the most important service that the city provides, so this investment in better wastewater treatment technology is highly necessary,” Bregant said.

Bregant’s role in the upgrade process is to vote to approve the project and manage how to fund it.

“The older the equipment gets, the higher the chance of the system breaking down,” Bregant said. “Because the system needs to be running 24/7 to clean the water coming into the plant at all hours of the day, even a minor problem that slows things down or stops the process entirely can cause major backups.”

While the plant had minor upgrades in 2009 and 2010 in which some new pumps and motors were installed, the secondary treatment systems are beyond their most useful years, according to Wastewater Superintendent Tim Reel.

The Whitewater Common Council has seen several presentations on the project and has worked closely with the firm responsible for the upgrades, according to Bregant.

“The technology used in the treament plant as the main method of treating our wastewater is outdated and would be difficult to find replacements at a reasonable cost,” said Council President Patrick Singer. “Costs for materials and labor will only increase over time and the need to improve the plant to ensure its future viability is now.”

In the next several months, city staff will educate the community and large rate payers on the cost and benefits of the investments into the treatment plant, according to Singer.

The facility began looking into facility upgrades in May of 2008, and a facility plan was completed in 2010, according to Reel.

“Over time as [the equipment] becomes old, it’s not as reliable,” Reel said. “Inevitably if the equipment gets too old, we won’t meet our permit requirements, and that’s something we certainly don’t want to do.”

The interest rates are low, according to Reel, who said he believes that now is the best time for the upgrades to occur.

Wasterwater Plant has been looking for any feasible grants, according to Reel.

For more information, see www.whitewater-wi.gov/wastewater-utility.

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