Construction should be finished next month but the plant is already online.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
COLUMBIANA -- For years, whether Lance Willard could sleep fitfully at night rested on what the weatherman said on the nightly news.
A forecast of heavy rain, or even a heavy winter thaw, could be a harbinger of a sleepless night.
But with renovation of Columbiana's sewage treatment plant nearly completed, Willard can sleep like a baby no matter what the forecast. Nowadays, a heavy rain or winter thaw doesn't mean the plant will be taxed beyond its capacity.
"It's a good feeling," said Willard, Columbiana's wastewater superintendent. "I count my blessings every night."
The $14 million renovation began in January 2004, said city Manager Keith Chamberlin. It was originally scheduled for completion this July, but weather and other factors caused that to be backed up. It should be finished in October, Chamberlin said.
Construction workers and their heavy equipment are still on the job at the treatment plant, which sits behind a residential neighborhood on the city's southwest side, but Chamberlin and Willard said the plant has been up and running for several weeks.
The new facility includes a state-of-the-art testing laboratory, new administrative offices, an oxidation ditch, a sludge press operation, twin 1.1-million gallon equalization tanks and two clarifiers.
"It's a much more efficient operation than what we had before," Willard said.
Willard said construction of the equalization tanks has been a huge help because they equalize the flow of sewage, keeping the flow from exceeding the plant's capacity.
In the past, periods of heavy rain would cause the flow to increase. Storm water could seep into cracks in sewer lines, increasing the amount of sewage going through the plant.
Now, any excess sewage is channeled into the equalization tanks where it is held until the storm passes.
Later, when the plant is not running at capacity, the excess sewage is released from the tanks into the system, where it is treated, sanitized and ultimately released into nearby Mill Creek.
"That in itself has been a huge relief," Willard said.
As an example, he cited a recent rainstorm that poured 3 inches of rain on the village over a 36-hour period.
"We only got 4 feet of water in one of the tanks," Willard said. "We can handle that, no problem."
Reason for new plant
Chamberlin said findings against the city by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, because of too much storm water infiltrating the sewage system, were what led to construction of the new plant in the first place.
Willard said the plant's maximum capacity is 4.7 million gallons of sewage over four hours; it's expected to treat about 2.34 million gallons on an average day. Willard said the plant is designed to handle projected 20-year growth in the city.
Another feature of the plant is that nonpotable water entering the plant is pumped into holding tanks and used for in-house purposes, such as back-washing filters. That water then gets sent to back into the system where it is processed, filtered and discharged.
"That way we're not using clean, treated water" for cleaning filters, Willard said.
Sludge, the byproduct of solids removed from the wastewater, is compressed, loaded into trucks and hauled to three area farmers who have received EPA approval to spread it on their fields.