The city is offering a series of public tours this week and next to show off the new, 1.9-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant located at the old Chatfield Ranch near the municipal operations center on Wulfsohn Road.
The $22.3 million treatment plant, lift station, sewer pipeline and related facilities have been under construction for the past two years and were completed this past summer. The new plant replaces the old facility near the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers on Seventh Street.
Three tours per day will continue on Thursday, and again on Oct. 30 and 31…
During the tour, Tipton describes the wastewater treatment process, from the collection center at the new lift station on Seventh Street, through three miles of pipeline along Midland Avenue to the treatment plant, and into a multi-stage treatment process. In the end, the more than 90 percent pure water is returned to the Colorado River.
In the laboratory near the end of the tour, the city’s longtime wastewater lab technician Lee Jones compares two beakers of water, one containing sewer water coming into the plant and the other containing the treated water that will go out of the plant into the river.
The latter is as clear as drinking water. In fact, recent readings at the plant indicate 99 percent removal of solids from the treated water.
To get to that stage, after being pumped from the lift station, the water first enters the plant’s headworks building. There, a grit sorter removes the larger sand and grit.
“We want to get as much of the grit out as fast as we can,” Tipton said. “Through this process, we will eliminate 80 to 90 percent of the larger material.”
This is also the most volatile stage of the process, as raw sewer water can produce large amounts of methane gas. The headworks building is “explosion proof,” meaning there are no exposed electrical outlets or other potential sources of ignition. Methane gas detectors and other safety devices will also shut the system down if dangerous levels are detected.
The air ionization system that controls the plant odors is also contained in the headworks building.
From there, it’s on to the oxidation ditches, or ponds, where oxygen is added to the partially desolidified wastewater. Large, submerged paddles in the 20-foot-deep pools keep the water churning constantly.
It’s also during this stage that ammonia and nitrogen are removed from the water. The water flow continues into the “secondary clarifier” ponds, where a rubber scraper continues to remove the remaining suspended solids, which are recirculated back through the system…
An operations lab includes a main computer monitoring station, where plant operators can observe the entire process from beginning to end and can remotely open and close valves and check meters.
Before going into the river, the treated water goes through a final ultraviolet disinfection system. Meanwhile, the biosolids are sent to the digester, and the sludge is eventually hauled away.