Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hailey sewer plant bond could reach $3M

Safety and efficiency deemed major concerns

Express Staff Writer

Express file photo Hailey city officials have determined that the city’s wastewater treatment plant in the Woodside neighborhood, above, needs major upgrades.

About 500,000 gallons of sewer waste is gobbled up by microorganisms each day at Hailey’s sewage-treatment plant in Woodside subdivision. The process of wastewater management is increasingly complex, but necessary to maintain the purity of the Big Wood River.

The five workers who manage the facility as well as the 50 miles of sewer pipe in the city are hoping city residents will pass a bond and tax increase to improve the workers’ safety and the plant’s efficiency.

The Hailey City Council could soon propose a bond of up to $3 million to upgrade portions of the plant. The upgrade would replace a 37-year-old fiberglass dome with a new “dewatering” facility. 

HDR Engineers of Boise is working on cost estimates for several upgrade options. Those options will be presented to the Hailey City Council at a public hearing before the council decides whether to go to bond to pay for the upgrades, perhaps this spring.

Hailey Wastewater Superintendent Roger Parker said during a tour of the facility in Woodside on Monday that the upgrade would increase safety and eliminate heating costs by removing the aging and rusted dome, which he said is at risk of collapse.

“This is essentially about safety,” he said. 

He said the upgrade would also greatly reduce the amount of trucking of sewer sludge from Woodside to Ohio Gulch transfer station.

Parker oversees a laboratory where amoebas, flagellates, ciliates and other single-celled organisms are studied after being collected from huge vats of Hailey sewage. Technicians alter the oxygen levels in the process stream to keep the microorganisms happy and productive. After their work is done, the last remaining sewage-eating creatures are eliminated by ultraviolet lights before the treated waste stream is released as clear discharge water into the Big Wood River.

Yet another byproduct of the sewage-treatment process is the 10,000 gallons per week of reduced sewer sludge that is trucked six days per week to drying beds at the Ohio Gulch landfill. The sludge is then aired out for months before being collected as Class B waste (nonpathogenic) and buried in the landfill.

Parker said the proposed upgrade would allow his crews to reduce the trucking schedule to one weekly dump truck load of dried Class B waste. He said that would free up his crews to maintain sewer lines and complete much-needed operations goals at the facility.

Winn Weaver operates at Ohio Gulch a private composting yard where he processes 5,000 pounds of food waste each week. During a City Council discussion about sewer upgrade costs on March 4, Weaver said he could also use the city’s human waste to make manure.

“I could use all of the city’s Class B, and a whole lot more,’ he said in an interview.

Hailey Public Works Director Tom Hellen said delivering the waste to Weaver would be an option.

“We could get him Class B with the new facility pretty easily,” Hellen said.

Tony Evans:

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