Report says aging New London facility overbuilt
By John Faucher
The New London Board of Public Works Committee learned that the city has an ‘overbuilt,’ under loaded and aging wastewater treatment plant in need of repair.
WWTP Chief Operator Ben Greuel presented a detailed status report to the board on Monday, June 1.
In need of repairs
“The majority of the plant has gone 28 years without any upgrades,” said Greuel. “We have been fortunate to get close to 30 years from most of our equipment, but things are starting to break down and the cost of repairing them is becoming a larger part of our budget.”
He gave an overview and history of the plant.
The first treatment facility was built in 1954 to handle wastes generated by the city’s population and industrial customers. The largest customer at the time was Borden’s, a local producer of cheese products.
“Throughout the years the plant’s upgrades were tailored to the high strength discharge of Borden’s cheese plant,” said Greuel.
In 1967, an aeration basin was added to the treatment process to remove more waste going to the Wolf River. By the early 1980s, it was evident that the plant was not able to handle the increased loadings from Borden’s.
In 1986, an upgrade began to increase the amount of waste that the facility could treat and stay under the permit levels dictated by the Department of Natural Resources.
Since then, Borden’s successors continued to push the discharge limits of the plant with high strength loadings and caustic chemicals.
Greuel said, “In 1999 another aeration basin was installed to double the loading capacity to lure another high-strength waste producing facility to town. However, that did not materialize and the facility was overdesigned for the amount of waste coming into it.”
Other upgrades occurred between 2000 and 2008.
In 2014 the Saputo Cheese plant stopped operations, further reducing the loading to the plant by 60 percent.
“This put our daily loading to the facility roughly at one quarter of the total capacity,” said Greuel. “Right now we’re just so overdesigned. We have half the plant shut down and we’re still under loaded.”
Greuel said the issue of under loading, and the ages of the equipment are causes for concern.
“Due to the age of the equipment parts are sparse, if not totally unavailable, resulting in custom fabrication to keep pumps pumping. Other processes are in a state of deterioration and due to the lack of loadings to the plant will never run again,” said Greuel.
“This brings us to a point where we are in need of a major upgrade and design to better handle the lower loading coming to the plant.”
He said they do not foresee a large volume customer like Saputo coming into the system, because many larger manufacturers today are building their own treatment facilities in order to keep costs down.
“We would expect more mid-sized producers like Wholt Cheese coming into our system in the future,” said Greuel.
They would also factor a 20-year population estimate and add a 50 percent buffer when planning any future designs for the plant.
Greuel said that Donohue and Associates continues looking at improvements for the plant.
In January 2013, the city signed an agreement with Donohue for engineering services. Greuel asked the committee to approve the remaining $25,000 budgeted for their services, which he said would help the city obtain cost estimates for an upgrade.
“We can incorporate this information into the rate study which is scheduled to start in August,” said Greuel.
The board of public works committee also received a 53-page packet on the status of the plant.
In the packet, Greuel went through the plant structures detailing their history and highlighted their condition.
The committee unanimously approved the $25,000 amendment to Donohue’s service agreement for the engineering and cost estimates necessary for the impending rate study.