Greeley: Bellvue Water Treatment Plant undergoes first major upgrade since 1947

The water treatment process

From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

These days, the historic plant is in the process of changing. Greeley is building a new water treatment plant on the same property to replace water filtration systems, marking the first major change to the facility since 1947. The $25 million project will centralize water filtration processes that currently are spread out between two buildings, and with further expansion one day could give the plant the capability to treat 40 million gallons of water per day. The initial phase of the project is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

During the city’s annual summer water and sewer tour, a group of Greeley residents saw the past and into the future, learning about the extensive filtration, miles of pipeline that bring water from Bellvue to Greeley and the construction that will upgrade the system.

“We’re kind of turning the page on what the treatment plant will look like between yesterday and into the future,” said Burt Knight, Greeley’s water and sewer director.

CENTURY-OLD SYSTEM

For Mohr, the Bellvue plant is fascinating. Between breaking down the technical process associated with treating water at the plant and showing residents decades-old filters during the tour, he stopped a few times to express his awe for the plant, first envisioned by Greeley leaders at the turn of the century, back when the city had a population of 5,000.

In 1905, 97 percent of Greeley’s voters approved a ballot measure to build the plant at the mountain location — just west of Fort Collins — to bring the city water produced by Rocky Mountain snowmelt.

“The one thing I’m overly impressed with is we’ve got over 30 miles of pipeline from this facility to Greeley, and we don’t use pumps to move water from there to there,” Mohr said.

The 36-mile pipeline envisioned by Greeley water pioneer W.D. Farr brings water to the city’s storage facilities by gravity as it flows down from the mountains. Mohr said choosing Bellvue for the plant was a strategic part of the process.

“W.D. Farr over 100 years ago worked together with a number of other very smart people and said, ‘If we’re going to serve water to the residents of Greeley, this is a great place to do it,’ ” he said. “And it is, for a number of reasons.”

For one, Mohr said, Bellvue is still responsible for filtering most of Greeley’s water more than a century later. Though the Boyd Lake Water Treatment Plant in Loveland helps supplement the city’s production in the summer when residents use more water for lawns and plants, it runs only seasonally, leaving most of the work to Bellvue.

And in 2017, water produced at the plant won the American Water Works Association’s award for best tasting water in the nation, beating 33 other regional winners. It also won the competition’s People’s Choice Award, making Greeley the first city to win both awards in the contest’s 13-year history.

But even with the recognition and the plant’s long life, Mohr said Bellvue needs to be upgraded.

Greeley City Manager Roy Otto said for the city, the job is fairly commonplace. It’s important for the water and sewer department to constantly expand and upgrade its facilities, he said, and the Bellvue project is just one of several projects the city is working on to accomplish that goal.

At Bellvue, upgrades will replace equipment that has been in place for decades.

With water filters that have been in operation since the late 1940s and early ’50s, Mohr said, Bellvue’s current buildings are going to be obsolete soon.

“It’s been working very, very hard for a very long time,” he said, “and it’s kind of time for us to think about the future.”

NEXT PHASE

After the city won the American Water Works Association awards, Knight, the water and sewer director, said he called Bellvue’s Water Treatment Manager Andrew Kabot, jokingly, to suggest the city cancel the project because Greeley’s water was right where it needed to be.

“He assured me that was a bad idea,” Knight said during the tour.

The project, which broke ground in October, started after the water and sewer department found it would cost more to rehabilitate Bellvue’s vintage filters, placed there in 1948 and 1953, than it would to start from scratch to build a modern system. Mohr said the new technology will automate the filtration processes. City officials also plan to improve piping at the plant so water can enter the system more quickly.

At the current plant, the city brings water in through the system between two different buildings to complete the water treatment process.

Knight said when the new plant is completed those processes will be under the same roof. The city will maintain the plant’s old buildings, he said, and use them as gathering places for tour groups or meetings.

Before construction started, Knight said, the city decided to award the project to Fort Collins-based Hydro Construction as part of a construction manager risk contract, a form of a design-build contract. That means city officials will make decisions with the company as construction progresses.

“Our choice, predominantly, is investment in water treatment,” Knight said. “So we’ll have an attractive building, but it’s really about the equipment inside the building.”

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