SBWRD takes recycling to a new level
July 29, 2011
The Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District pumps an average of three million gallons of water daily through its East Canyon Reclamation Facility during the summer.
Mike Luers, Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District general manager, said the reclamation facility was formed back in 1973 for the sole purpose of collecting and treating wastewater for the Snyderville Basin area.
The reclamation system has come along way since then and Luers said the district now reclaims water from the Snyderville Basin to Montage in upper Deer Valley, while also serving Summit Park and Promontory, which equals more than 110 miles of land.
According to Luers, there are 6,800 manholes and 291 miles of wastewater pipelines underneath Park City and its surrounding area.
Luers said he’s concerned about the trend of slower water flows in East Canyon Creek. He said areas of the creek completely dried up in 2003 and a number of fish species were affected.
Luers explained that this spring’s rain and mountain runoff has helped the water flow, however, the creek continues to have less water each year.
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"It affects our community, the wetlands and Swaner EcoCenter. We don’t want it to get to the point where we can’t maintain the ecosystem," Luers said.
Michael Boyle, SBWRD operations manager, said two-thirds of Park City’s wastewater flows into the East Canyon Water Reclamation Facility and one-third to Silver Creek Water Reclamation Facility.
According to Boyle, the reclamation system hosts living microorganisms that survive on oxygen and food from the wastewater.
"We create the environment so they can live. Most of what we do is replicating nature in a concentrated area," Boyle said.
He said there are about seven steps from when the wastewater enters the facility to its discharge into the creek.
Luers said the first step is filtering non-organic materials out of the influent wastewater using a Headworks Step Screen.
He explained that sand and gravel are then removed from the water before the water flow is equalized and pumped into bioreactor tanks.
"It’s easier to go with a constant flow of fluid and it provides microorganisms with a steady food supply," he said.
Luers said the water turns brown when it reaches the bioreactors because of the millions of concentrated microorganisms that are feeding off the raw sewage.
Boyle said if one drop of wastewater from a bioreactor was examined under a microscope, it would easily contain thousands of microorganisms.
According to Luers, the SBWRD was the first reclamation center in Utah to remove phosphorus from the water because of the creek’s sensitivity.
Luers explained that creating a stressed environment causes microorganisms to release phosphorus, but when re-entering an oxygen-rich environment, the organisms will consume more phosphorus then originally released. He said this process is called luxury uptake.
After luxury uptake, he said the water contains one part phosphorus per one million gallons of water.
Luers said the water then continues to the clarifier, which permits separation between the water and microorganisms, allowing the organisms to sink to the bottom of the tank.
He said the water then flows into the chemical phosphorus building, where phosphorus is chemically removed and the water is pushed through sand filters separating any remaining particles from the water.
According to Luers, at this point the water is treated, but the SBWRD has added a few more steps to complete its reclamation system.
Before the water can be deposited back into the creek, Luers said the reclamation center uses ultra violet light to disrupt any diseases or germs contaminating the water.
Boyle said the reclamation center uses this method instead of chlorine to protect the watersheds.
After the water has been purified with ultra violet light, Luers said the last step is adding oxygen to the effluent water before releasing it into East Canyon Creek.
Along with the district’s high-tech reclaiming efforts, citizens need to do their part, too.
The SBWRD suggests ways homeowners and businesses can help improve our water quality.
Boyle said pouring cooking oils and grease down household drains could cause buildup in the pipes and lead to sewage back-up.
"If it does reach the water reclamation center, that requires more handling and adds to the overall cost of the treatment," Boyle said.
Luers explained that the reclamation system is not designed to separate hormones and pharmaceuticals from the wastewater.
"Whatever goes into the system goes out of the system. We’re just trying to keep every little bit out, and it doesn’t take much to effect the fish in the waterways," Luers said.
Luers also explained that it’s important to update household water softeners.
"The amount of salt that we get in the sewer system, we don’t have the means to remove, so it ends up in the creek. Salt starts to become an issue if we have to much of it," he said.
Boyle said most homeowners are using more than they probably need to. He said he reduced his household salt usage by 75 percent by updating his water softener.
Luers said it’s also important to remember to avoid pouring hazardous waste materials down drainage pipes because the toxins can kill the microorganisms in the reclamation system.
Boyle said the East Canyon Reclamation Center offers year-round educational tours. For more information please visit http://sbwrd.org/default.aspx .