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New Castle to upgrade water treatment facility

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@citizentelegram.com

New Castle is receiving some much needed upgrades to its water treatment facility, thanks to an $800,000 grant recently awarded to the town by the Department of Local Affairs.

The upgrades, which consist of four components, will increase the total capacity for water treatment, as well as improve testing to keep up with state drinking water standards. For its part, the town is matching the grant to cover the $1.6 million total cost of the project, said Tom Baker, town administrator. That cost includes a built in contingency for any cost overruns.

Upgrades to the treatment facility were first identified as the primary utility improvement by town council in a 2012 strategic plan. Around the same time, the town started saving money to help pay for the improvements, which have since remained the top utility improvement priority.

“I always like to give council credit for having the foresight to plan for these things … and now we’re in a good place to make it happen,” Baker said.

One of the most significant issues occurs in the springtime, when “a perfect storm” takes shape, said John Wenzel, public works director. For several weeks, there is a peak demand from the start of irrigation system at the same time that spring runoff increase the turbidity — the presence of dirt and other particles in the water — in East Elk Creek, effectively slowing the treatment process.

“There’s times of the year where our potable water demand exceeds production capacity and for about one or two weeks a year our water treatment system is hit by the perfect storm when your water demand spikes and that usually coincides with high water runoff flows,” Wenzel said.

The result is the facility has to operate at full capacity during the duration of that time in order to meet the demand. While it is currently capable of doing so, the danger of running at full capacity occurs when a repair might be needed, creating a shortfall in supply.

“We’re running right on the edge … If we did have any kind of a failure in a part of the system we’d have an immediate shortfall and that would put us in the situation where we have to order emergency water restrictions,” Wenzel said.

The improvements would alleviate the potential for that problem. Specifically, two new water treatment units will increase treatment capacity by approximately 1.4 million gallons per day; taking the total capacity to roughly 3.2 million gallons per day — a number that not only helps meet current demands but future ones resulting from population growth.

To help accomplish the increased capacity, a pump will be installed to increase the flow of water into the plant. On the back end, the clear well will be expanded allowing for maximized disinfection times. The plant currently meets state standards, but the improvement is needed to meet the increased capacity, Wenzel said.

Upgrades also include improving the raw water consumption measuring system at the diversion structure on the Elk Creek. The improvement will provide a more accurate measurement of raw water consumption, which the state has requested, Wenzel said.

Construction is expected to start sometime this winter after irrigation season. Water customers will not be impacted during that time, Wenzel said.


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