COPPERAS COVE — Renovations to the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant entered the engineering and design phase last week for an estimated $3.6 million project.
The plant is running well within its required permitting by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, meaning that operations are safe to both area residents and the surrounding environment, said Daryl Uptmore, the city’s public works director.
“What we are doing is going from reactionary maintenance into preventive maintenance,” he said.
“We are within our permit, and we want to remain within the permit with a high quality.”
By doing the maintenance now, the city hopes to forgo any future problems that could cause health and environmental risk, he said.
“It is like a car motor,” said Joe Wooten, the chief plant operator and lab director of the facility. “We have a lot of miles on it, but the motor needs work.”
If you want to keep that vehicle running, you continue to change the oil and check the tires, but you also address any engine troubles before they start, Wooten said.
The plant, however, experienced some issues in the past. The facility flooded in March and June 2007 during an extremely wet year. Since then, the plant was never fully rehabilitated, despite continuing to operate within its TCEQ regulations.
Several of its mechanical devices, such as a UV light system that sterilizes bacteria and prevents it from growing, were damaged and mostly replaced at the plant during the flood.
According to city documents, the last time the plant received major rehabilitation work was in 1991 and 2005.
As part of the renovations, the UV light system, which is now an obsolete component, is on a long list of items to be replaced by more modern devices at the facility, Uptmore said.
To update the facility, which was constructed in 1977, more expensive items, such as the UV light system, could cost about $750,000, he said.
Other renovations for the project include moving a lift station out of the flood plain and replacing an air diffuser, he said. The air diffuser feeds healthy bacteria and helps it treat the facility’s biosolids. The controls for the lift station were elevated after 2007 floods but not the station itself.
The Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of three such facilities built within a year of each other in Copperas Cove. It is the largest of the city’s plants and cleans an average of 1.35 million gallons of wastewater a day, city documents stated. The other two plants treat about 500,000 gallons a day.
It operates at roughly 20 percent of its capacity, Wooten said.
“At a peak, you might see 70 to 80 percent on a day with heavy rainfall.” If the plant failed and or stopped meeting TCEQ standards, the city could receive fines, Wooten said.
It also would have ramifications on Cow House Creek and Belton Lake, which supplies the city’s drinking water. Since the City Council on Tuesday approved starting the design phase, Uptmore said construction could be completed by June, if everything stays on schedule.
The council spent several months discussing the project and agreed last month to allocate $3.6 million from a future $9.4 million bond package. The council is expected to issue the bond in January or February. While Uptmore said the cost of renovations is significant, “a project like this would be a fraction of the cost of building a new plant.”