Wastewater treatment plant complete

Wastewater treatment plant complete

Wastewater treatment plant complete

Several members of the Winnemucca City Council and Winnemucca media took the opportunity Wednesday Oct. 4 to tour the largest public works project ever completed in Winnemucca. The new $29 million wastewater treatment plant on Jungo Road is all but completed, with only some paving and adjustments remaining before it will take over the job from the old sewer treatment plant.

Winnemucca and the portions of Humboldt County which are connected to the system, currently produce an average of over 850,000 gallons a day of wastewater. That includes all the water used for washing and cleaning, as well as sewage.

The new wastewater treatment plant will be able to handle twice that capacity and will meet all environmental requirements. The plant has also been designed so that another bio reactor and clarifiers could be added in the future if more capacity is needed.

Wastewater will have to be pumped four miles from existing collection pipes and up the hill to the new treatment plant. The existing lagoon treatment system, used locally for decades, will be closed down and the lagoons cleaned out.

The new plant is called a mechanical treatment plant but many of the the processes used to break down wastewater are natural. The biological treatment process uses microorganisms to digest the wastewater. The mechanical portion of the plant’s operation is what moves the water from one area to another for treatment.

The new plant does not produce odor. Plants like it are located in southwest Reno right next to residential subdivisions.

The new wastewater treatment plant is very large, covering portions of four acres. But those who saw the plant while it was being built know that most of the construction is now buried below the ground level. The bio treatment pool is 30 feet deep from its top wall but most of the concrete containment sides and bottom are underground.

At the beginning of the treatment cycle, the microorganisms are starved for air so they will capture nitrates and ammonia. In the next portion of treatment, huge blades slap air into the pool to raise the oxygenation levels to keep the microorganisms healthy and reproducing. The dissolved oxygen level is continually measured. In fact, electronic equipment measures every step of the process to ensure it is within desired parameters.

After proceeding through all the levels of treatment, the water will be applied to the ground in several rapid infiltration basins, where it will be further purified using the system that’s worked on the planet since the beginning of time. Pending EPA approval, the water will be used to irrigate crops not for human consumption.

“These type of plants have been in use for long enough that they’ve really worked out all the issues,” said former city manager and engineer Steve West, who is still consulting on the project. The majority of the construction and testing was completed while West was still working for the city full-time.

West will continue to consult to complete this and several other critical public works projects. The Sun asked West when he decided this was one project he had to finish before retirement. He answered that when he determined that his retirement was less than five years away, he knew he didn’t want to leave a huge project like construction of a mechanical wastewater treatment plant undone.

West said Winnemucca has hired Ken Mallory, with SPB Utility Services in Reno, who has the required certifications to oversee operation of the mechanical treatment plant. While Public Works Director Roger Sutton and his crew will handle day to day operation, Mallory, will be in Winnemucca at least once a week to oversee the plant.

Mallory also handles several mechanical treatment plants in Reno, the city of Lovelock, the prison in Lovelock, Spring Creek, and Battle Mountain.

Winnemucca’s treatment plant was built by McCarthy Company, experts in mechanical plant design and construction. The type of work on a plant like this requires construction workers who are skilled in specific areas, West said. “McCarthy has access to that type of skilled labor, from all over the country, said Joe Navas, McCarthy’s project manager for the plant.

Expert inspection and testing done during construction found key portions of the plant were constructed very close to perfection, said West. He said the closer to perfect those key measurements are, the more efficiently the plant will operate and the longer it will last.

West said he has been very pleased with the process of working with the McCarthy company, adding that Navas has been an excellent project manager. Navas has considerable experience building treatment plants and is enthusiastic about what he does.

“Starting up the plant is always a lot of fun,” he said during the tour. “You spend a year building it and then bury nearly the whole thing. Then, when you put the sewage through and see it work, it’s fun.”

Navas and West said the treatment plant is designed to take Winnemucca into the future; that it will handle a population of 20,000-25,000 people. The current plant has been treating wastewater for approximately 10,000 people.

The additional capacity might not be needed for population growth right away. However, Navas pointed out that if industry “comes knocking on the door,” Winnemucca will be able to say yes to the opportunity.

Winnemucca city staff and elected officials have been saving money for the plant’s construction for many years. That made it possible to put $9 million cash into the plant’s construction. An additional $2.3 million came in the form of a grant from USDA. The remaining $18 million was financed with a 40-year loan from USDA at 2.25 percent interest.

Mayor Di An Putnam noted she can’t speak for future city councils but said she believes that the city will pay off the plant in half that time. Putnam said there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the plant, open to the public, when the paving is complete.