Pueblo: Wastewater treatment plant moving to ultraviolet disinfection

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo’s sewer plant, the James R. DiIorio Water Reclamation Facility, was built in 1987, and treats about 11 million gallons per day. It’s already past the end of its design life – 20 years – and parts of the system are being retrofitted to meet new requirements for ammonia removal. The plant has a capacity of 19 million gallons per day and provides treatment for the city of Pueblo, as well as St. Charles Mesa, Blende and Salt Creek sanitation districts. It also accepts water from septic tanks collected throughout Pueblo County. Last week’s discharge of about 250,000 gallons of unchlorinated treated effluent followed a release of nearly 500,000 gallons of overchlorinated sewage in 2007, and both problems would have been alleviated if an ultraviolet treatment system were in place, said Gene Michael, Pueblo wastewater director. “It would reduce the likelihood of those situations,” Michael said.

The problem is finding the money to build the $4 million system. A federal stimulus grant this year will fund the solar array to power the UV system, which is really the city’s final step in a series of upgrades that has been in the works for the past three years. Pueblo ratepayers have seen roughly 25 percent rate increases since 2006 designed to help pay for both upgrades to the sewer plant and to repair aging sewer lines throughout town. The city spent $800,000 in 2008 and $1 million this year in upgrading lines, and plans to spend a similar amount next year, Michael said. Priorities are determined by video inspection of the lines to look for potential breaks. When a line breaks, it can cost the city $100,000 per block and $7,000 per manhole to repair. The city has about 467 miles of mains, two-thirds of which are more than 50 years old.

But the needs are at the sewer plant, where a total of $26.5 million is needed to bring it up to date, Michael said. “We’ve broken it down into five or six pieces,” he said. “We’re not increasing the capacity of the plant at all with that $26.5 million. Actually, what we’re doing is maintaining the current capacity.” The city is planning to go to bid in January on a dewatering system that will lower groundwater levels around the sewer plant, which sits on Stockyard Road near the Arkansas River. At the same time, it will look at improvements at the airport industrial park lift station electrical system, Michael said. The biggest part of the project will be an ammonia removal system, which is needed to meet stricter water quality standards. It will be divided into two steps…

The final part of the project will be the UV system, which could go out to bid in April or May.

More wastewater coverage here.

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