Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2007

New wastewater plant operational

March 8, 2007

Although it can be assumed most of De Soto residents were unaware of it, Monday was a milestone day for the city.

With the first day of the week, valves were turned to divert nearly all the city's wastewater to the new sewer plant in the West Bottoms. The old plant near Kill Creek is now limited to treating waste from Valley Springs and Arbor Ridge and that is expected to end late this week.

The new plant is now operational, but it will take time before it is doing the job it is designed to do. It has yet to be seeded with the microbes that will do the real work of feeding on the waste flowing into the plant. Those bugs will be piped from the old plant to start work in their new work place.

The plant is "substantially complete," city engineer Mike Brungardt said. It's functional but its contractor, Walters-Morgan of Manhattan, still has to finish details such as the access road to the plant and seeding there and in the city.

The contractor will also be in charge of running the plant until the end of April when its operations are fully functional and tested, Brungardt said. De Soto will officially take over when the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issues one last operating permit.

Nonetheless, city wastewater supervisor Doug Smith is already setting up his office at the West Bottoms' site. The fact that he has an office, as does plant operator Tracy Foulk, says much about the upgrade in space the department got with the move.

At the Kill Creek site, office space, equipment and the lab were contained in one shed.

"It was little cramped," Smith said.

The new plant affords the department with the two offices, a dedicated lab, a cafeteria/meeting room, and a shop.

Space aside, Brungardt and Smith said the big difference between the old plant built in the 1970s and its replacement is the modern computerized controls and its redundancy.

Key components of the new plant are duplicated. In the guts of the new plant, there are two identical rows of aerobic and anaerobic holding tanks in which microbes do their work. With the city's present wastewater flow of 400,000 gallons a day, only one row is presently needed.

Brungardt said the flow will be periodically switched between the two rows, but it was not yet known how often because of the lag in getting a row to function properly.

Inside, the redundancy is apparent in the three blowers that deliver air to the tanks and provided the compressed air for pneumatic controls. Brungardt said only one was needed but the two backups provided assurance against a breakdown and a head start on any future expansion.

In contrast to the hiccups the city experienced as it prepared the design and financing of the new plant, its actual construction went smoothly.

"With the exception of working with the railroad, it exceeded expectation," Brungardt said of construction of the plant and the forced main and pump stations that will feed it.

Although Brungardt declined to use the phase, the plant came in on time and apparently under budget.

Started one year ago, the total construction cost on the plant was $7.62 million. Acquisition of land and easement and design, engineering, inspections and permit costs pushed the plant's total price tag to $8.56 million.

Brungardt said it appeared as through about $190,000 will be left in the project's contingency fund.

If so, that will be good news for De Soto residents. The unused money will go into paying down the 30-year bond the city floated to pay for the plant.

Three years ago, the De Soto City Council considered enforcing limitations on housing starts because of capacity concerns at the old plant. Those were never necessary.

"We made interim improvements," Brungardt said. "That and Doug's knowledge about how that plant was operated got us by."

With nearly 1 million gallons of unused daily wastewater capacity, the city is now free to grow. But the West Bottoms plant in itself opens up no new areas for development. That will require construction of sewer mains to undeveloped property.

City Councilman Ted Morse has suggested the city take the lead in that effort by bonding the expense of extending a sewer line to the area new Edgerton Road and Kansas Highway 10 the city eyes as its growth

Commenting has been disabled for this item.