Summit County starts $1.5M upgrade of Snake River Wastewater Treatment Plant |

Summit County starts $1.5M upgrade of Snake River Wastewater Treatment Plant

Alli Langley

The Snake River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats water from businesses and homes in Keystone and Summit Cove, recently began a roughly $1.5 million upgrade.

Director Chuck Clause said the plant had to wait until Keystone Resort closed and reduced input to the plant before starting the renovation, which he expects to be completed by late September or early October, before next ski season.

Since the plant was constructed in 1974, continued development in its service area has required seven major construction projects to improve or expand treatment facilities. The last project was completed in 2001.

The plant’s current treatment process uses coarse bubble diffusers to feed oxygen to billions of bacteria, which break down organic matter.

“They’re our workers, so we’ve got bazillions of those in the aeration tanks,” Clause said.

This summer the plant will replace its coarse bubble diffusers with fine bubble diffusers, and the new smaller oxygen bubbles will provide more surface area for the treatment process so the plant can use less oxygen.

The blowers that have powered the plant’s aeration system are oversized for the amount of water needing treatment during two-thirds of the year, which means they have been over-aerating the system and wasting electricity. The plant will replace one blower with two smaller ones that will use less electricity.

The plant will also add a denitrification process that will reduce and potentially eliminate the need to add an alkaline chemical, sodium hydroxide, to meet its pH requirements for discharge water. Sodium hydroxide is corrosive and, when handled, can be dangerous for employees.

Besides the efficiency and safety advantages, the upgrade will have environmental benefits because the plant won’t need truckloads of sodium hydroxide and the denitrification process will reduce the amount of nitrate discharged in Dillon Reservoir by up to 70 percent.

“Any time you can remove a nutrient from your effluent you’re helping out the receiving stream,” Clause said.

The plant estimates the upgrade could save $33,000 a year in electricity and $22,000 annually in chemicals. With the addition of a $3,000 annual cost of a new pumping process, the upgrade could save the county $52,000 in yearly operating costs.

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