South Windsor Water Pollution Control facility offers tours
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
South Windsor - posted Wed., Feb. 12, 2014
Much of its nuts-and-bolts operations are unseen in underground pipes and conduits. Above ground it is located a fair distance from Main Street, largely screened by trees. It is South Windsor’s Water Pollution Control Facility on Vibert Road, and although it is an operation that tends to keep a low profile, the Public Works Department has recently begun offering tours on Thursday afternoons, by appointment, to visit the recently-upgraded facility.
“A complete upgrade of the physical plant was started in 2009 and completed in the spring of 2012,” said Plant Manager Tim Friend. “We replaced a lot of aged equipment, added new and larger tanks and new processes, and added more equipment to do testing to meet our discharge permit requirements.” Friend said the facility is required under their discharge permit to meet an 85-percent treatment efficiency, but they have been running at around 99 percent, a direct result of the upgrade. Additionally, as the treatment of wastewater is energy intensive, the upgrade also includes many energy conservation measures.
In addition to the treatment plant at 1 Vibert Road, the sanitary sewerage system also includes 130 miles of sewer lines, 11 pump stations and 3,000 manholes around town. The facility services 8,100 resident homes and 350 industrial and commercial businesses, treating 3.75 million gallons of wastewater per day.
Fred Shaw, superintendent of pollution control, said a wastewater treatment plant is basically a man-made system that uses the same principles as Mother Nature uses to treat wastewater. “All the processes that go on here [in the plant] are the same as go on in the Connecticut River,” he said. “We just use a lot more technology.”
Shaw said the facility employs 10 operational people, one laboratory technician as well as the plant supervisor, and their various employees must be versed in many different fields including chemistry, biology, physics, mechanics, computers, hydraulics and more. Plant personnel also rely on their computerized Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to remotely monitor and control operations inside the plant and at the 11 pump stations around town.
“The processes are highly technical today,” said Friend. “They let Ed Norton go a long time ago,” he joked, referring to the fictional sewer worker sidekick to Jackie Gleason’s “Ralph Kramden” on the 1950s-era “Honeymooners” television show.
Since they began offering tours, Shaw said they have had a few visits from local residents, an engineering group, and a group of seniors. In each tour, he walks visitors through the various steps and treatments along the way.
While the WPCF may not be something residents immediately see or think of in town, it is a resource that is essential and critical to its residents. It helps to insure the protection of public health through proper collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater and the prevention of groundwater contamination of drinking water. It removes chemicals and bacteria from being reintroduced to local waters, thus promoting those waters for swimming, boating, and fishing, and it also supports economic growth.
“Our biggest challenges are planning for the future and making sure we are able to operate and maintain the system so that there is no interruption of services,” said Shaw. Shaw said they need to employ management strategies that consider both predictable and unpredictable events so that costs remain equitable and fees stable. “Establishing reserve funds are a management tool to help meet those challenges,” he said. “You can’t pay as you go.”
Individuals or groups interested in a tour of the facility are requested to call the South Windsor Public Works Pollution Control Division, Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at 860-289-0185.