Most residents may not notice the difference, but the city is currently undergoing $13 million worth of improvements.
Major upgrades are under way at the city’s Water Treatment Facility on Brookside Avenue and are nearly complete at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Quist Road.
The improvements coincide with the completion of the new Hero/Beech-Nut manufacturing plant in Florida, which will put additional stress on both facilities, but work was also necessary at both facilities to bring the nearly 40-year-old processes up to date.
Work on the $10 million expansion to the city’s water treatment plant began in October. Between five and 12 laborers work at the facility each day, installing pipes, building steel frames, pouring concrete and painting.
The expansion is expected to double the size of the plant and bring the facility into the 21st century, according to plant supervisor Michael Ryba.
The city’s water treatment system is consistently in violation of state Department of Health regulations for high levels of haloacetic acids in the drinking water, which is produced from organic matter bonding with chlorine.
Currently the city’s water filtration process at the plant can not get rid of enough of these compounds to meet state standards, Ryba said. The expansion of the plant and the new filtration process that will result will allow that.
Workers have already laid pipes which are covered with 17 feet of fill enclosed in a concrete wall. Atop the fill, 10-foot-high filters are being built.
The city currently operates with five filters, the expansion of the plant will create seven filters that will work in turns with the old filters.
Four concrete filters are already built, a steel frame for the fifth is complete, and workers were creating the steel frame on a sixth Monday.
The $10 million construction project is funded through a $6.1 million no-interest loan from the state’s Drinking Water Revolving Loan program and from federal stimulus money.
The new expanded plant will change the filtration process. Currently, chemicals are added to the water which bond with organic and other harmful matter, and the water is then sent through the filtration process. The addition provides for a holding tank that lets the bonded matter settle before the water is filtered.
The water will also go through more filtration cycles and get treated with ultraviolet rays.
The project is scheduled to be completed this fall and is financially on target, Ryba said.
Iowa-based Siemens Water Technologies designed the new plant and will be working with the city’s crew to bring the new facility on line once it’s finished.
Once the project is complete, the filtration plant will be able to accommodate 13 million gallons of water per day, an increase from the current 12 million gallon limit.
The city and towns that are hooked into the city’s water system use 4.5 million to 5 million gallons per day, Ryba said.
Beech-Nut, which originally had planned to use 1 million gallons of city water per day when its new factory in the town of Florida reaches full production, now expects to use only half that, Ryba said. Currently, the baby-food manufacturer is using about 200,000 gallons per day.
Ryba said he was set to retire this year, but wanted to see the project through to the end. “The more work they do, the more excited I get about this,” he said Monday on the roof of the plant, overlooking the activity below. “I want to see it done before I go.”
While work at the water treatment plant is in full swing, work to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in the city is drawing to a close.
The general contractor on the project only has punch-list items left to complete, supervisor Ken Bray said Monday.
The improvements were necessary to allow the city to effectively dispose of the city’s wastewater, but also to accommodate the additional material from Beech-Nut, Bray said.
The wastewater treatment plant is treating between 70,000 and 90,000 gallons of waste per day from Beech-Nut, Bray said. Once the plant is fully operational officials are predicting between 200,000 and 300,000 gallons per day.
The city’s waste is pumped from three pump stations throughout the city to the wastewater filtration plant on Quist Road. Wastewater comes into a set of large tanks and the solids are settled at the bottom. A machine at the center of the tank slowly spins two arm-like devices that skim the top and bottom of the tank, pushing matter to the center of the tank and collecting what Bray called “floatables,” things like grease, plastics and rags, at the top into holding tanks.
A new system to handle the “floatable” material was designed by McDonald Engineering in Schenectady. The system will allow the plant to dispose of the materials in the winter. Currently the material freezes in the holding tank during the winter months and can’t be disposed of.
“DEC did not appreciate that,” Bray said.
The system is not operational yet, so the material was waiting to be taken away Monday afternoon. Bray said it will stay on the surface of the wastewater and in the full holding tanks until the system gets turned on for the first time Thursday.
After the wastewater enters the first set of tanks it is transferred to the second phase of the system which combines the organic matter in the wastewater with bacteria designed to eat it. The bacteria essentially cleans the water. Oxygen is pumped into the series of tanks that allow the bacteria to grow and eat more organic matter.
New piping was installed in each of the tanks along with a new system that monitors the oxygen level and will automatically adjust the amount of oxygen in the water accordingly.
From there the wastewater is sent to the third and last phase, another set of tanks similar to the first with arms that push solids to the center and skim off floatables from the top. The leftover water is purified enough to be sent to the Mohawk River.
New arm-like devices, which are technically called clarifiers, were installed in both of these tanks.
On a good day, Bray said the city can eliminate about 90 percent of organic and harmful material from the city’s wastewater, but the system struggles in wet weather.
On a dry day, about 7 million gallons of material passes through the treatment plant, but in times of prolonged heavy rain that amount could increase to 17 million or more.
By that time the system is so overwhelmed that untreated waste is dumped into the Mohawk.
According to Bray, the only way to improve the city’s wastewater filtration efforts is to constantly update not only the technology at the plant, but the infrastructure throughout the city, so stormwater — the plant’s enemy — doesn’t mix with wastewater.
“All cities have the same problem,” he said.