BLACKFOOT– The Blackfoot Wastewater Treatment Plant is an extremely important part of water treatment in the area. They have been able to start updating the machinery. Through the use of grants and other processes this much-needed update on phase two is beginning. The contractors have come to the plant to scope out the area where they will be putting their equipment as to not get in the way of everyday operations.
The first step at the treatment plant is the headworks. This building filters out all the inorganic material from the sewage, which is then washed, cleaned, and then compacted to be thrown away. For items that the preliminary screener doesn't take out, it gets reticulated and the larger pieces fall to the bottom. It is then sent over to the primary clarification where the bacterial microbes start feeding on the bad things. During phase two, the headworks will be moved to a new location with two screens and a manual backup screener. "The biggest problem, there is no redundancies with this old building, and if it breaks, we have to do it manually," says Eric Hadley, Plant Supervisor. The headworks creates the most "smelly" part of the treatment process. Through the improvements there will be an activated carbon (gas) unit which will have an HVAC unit to create a more hospitable smelling environment for the neighbors. There is only a small well on the property. The city water will be bringing a new water line onto the property.
The second aspect of the cleansing properties is the dual separation tank which cleans the top of the water and the sludge on the bottom. This sludge and cleansing process helps feed the bugs that are an important part of the treatment process. The sludge is mixed with more water, after it is cleaned out of the separation tank, then gets sent to the Aeration Basin. This basin pumps air into the water mixing young and old bugs together. These bugs clean the system out. It lets the bugs feed on the "guck" in the water. There is a foam that is created during aeration (which is a byproduct of all the materials one uses to clean their bodies). It does break up eventually. The diffusers that create the bubbles in the tanks, have never been changed out since they were put in the 80's. The blower tubes which pump the air into the basins are leaking, which is losing its efficiency. Phase two will redo all the air lines, which will be above ground, to allow for easy monitoring and access when it needs fixed. It will also put in more efficient diffusers, which won't use as much power and make the plant more efficient overall.
The original water tanks, which was from the 50s were upgraded during phase one. They fixed the arms and they had to shut down one of them. The two newer tanks, with the upgraded machinery, are working right now, but if there is a boost to the population and businesses, they can bring the third online.
The three digesters onsite create methane gas to help burn and clean the waste. One winter, the gas relief valve froze, the methane gas did not have a way to escape, and it lifted the lid and broke it. It will be fixed during phase two, as well as fixing the gas line to ensure it doesn't happen again. They hope in the future, they will be able to utilize the methane gas and run the plant off of it.
The final process is the solids building which takes the final sludge and puts it through a machine to make it thicker to create a "cake" which is basically a compost. The machinery potentially overflows if it gets plugged up. The mechanics onsite keep the machines running smoothly even with the obsolete pieces. This "cake" is sent to the digesters where it is heated and pasteurized, and it becomes a Class D compost for farmers. It is super healthy for plants and farmers enjoy using it on non-root crops.
The water that has been sent through the process goes to its final area at the UV disinfection. The entire building has no heat, no air conditioning and the equipment is old and obsolete. To take out the UV equipment they have to use a forklift, in which the building is not quite big enough. Phase two will retrofit the new equipment for UV disinfection. Each module of UV has different bulbs which are in the water and kill all the pathogens in the water. They do e-coli tests every week to ensure the water going back into the river is clean.
The electrical systems will be upgraded to meet standards and code. It should take around 18 months to get the new buildings, systems, and equipment upgraded. Each new item will be completed fully before the older equipment is taken offline. This will be to ensure that there will be no lag in screening or treatment processes. Phase two will bring the plant to code and will save money in the long run. This upgrade has been needed for a while and even though they are limping along with obsolete technology, the plant keeps up with the EPA standards and keeps Blackfoot's water safe.