SHELBY -- Nineteen months after work began, $8.9 million worth of renovations are complete at the Shelby Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“The decision to invest millions of dollars in this plant was based on environmental stewardship principles, the future health and welfare of our community, raising efficiency standards and the safety and wellbeing of our workforce,” said Shelby Mayor Steve Schag.
According to John Ensman, Shelby’s director of utilities, the upgrade has increased the plant’s maximum operational capacity to seven millions per day, a 40 percent increase. It’s also more energy efficient.
“The electrical upgrades were designed to reduce the overall electric consumption of the treatment facilities operation,” said Ensman. “With the plant just coming out of construction, we are already seeing a 5 to 10 percent reduction in power consumption. The reductions will ultimately help lower the cost of sewer charges to the customer.”
City employees and contractors celebrated together Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Afterwards, plant superintendent Charlton Brown offered tours of the facility.
“I think I’ve talked more about wastewater treatment today than I have my entire life,” he said.
The project’s history stretches back to 2012, when city government first began exploring the possibility of upgrading the plant.
“It’s been a long road,” said Brown. “This is the biggest project that our city’s ever done, so it’s nice to see it completed.”
During the ceremony, Schag thanked the involved parties for keeping the plant operating smoothly during construction.
“It was no easy task to keep this vital plant up and running during the construction process,” he said. “Our hats are off to the North Bay Construction Company, all of the subcontractors, our plant superintendent, Charlton Brown, and our dedicated operators.”
The expansive upgrades include approximately 23 new pumps made by Gorman Rupp, a new deparin screen (filters unwanted solids such as plastic out of the water) the “digestion” tank and heating system (which clean organic matter from the water) and more efficient turbines, which Brown estimates will save the plant between $4,000 and $6,000 a month.
Most of the new systems replace original equipment installed in 1953.
“We got lucky. We utilized the old equipment for quite some time,” said Brown. “All motors, pumps, gear boxes, anything that moves has been replaced new with efficient, modern technology.”
Plant employee Ron Sigmund was enthusiastic. “It’s awesome. It’s so nice to have things work automatically and efficiently," he said.
Over the last 19 months, Sigmund said, plant workers have had to complete some tasks by hand that will now be taken care of by the new system.
Another improvement is the UV tank. This tank is the final step for water purification and replaces the chlorine disinfection system that was in place. According to Brown, the city favored a UV system because it’s safer for workers than a chlorine-based system.
The plant currently treats an average of 2 million gallons of wastewater per day, fed through 70 miles of sewer lines that make up the city’s collection system. Once the water has gone through the treatment plant, it is reintroduced to the Black Fork River.
According to Brown, the treated water is cleaner and better for fish and other aquatic creatures than the streams in the Black Fork, due to a higher pH level and higher dissolved oxygen level.
In fact, Brown was confident enough in the plant’s capabilities than he pulled a jug of the finished product up from its tank and poured the crystal clear water over his hand to demonstrate.
“We introduce a product that is always better than the Black Fork itself, which we’re very proud of,” he said.