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Officials tour city's new treatment plant; public gets a look Oct. 22

Tom Crouse, right, an operations and maintenance specialist with Donohue and Associates, demonstrates a test Tuesday for mixed liquor and suspended solids in the laboratory at Willmar's new wastewater treatment plant. Members of the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee, top, toured the facility. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Willmar residents will have a chance to see their new $86.2 million wastewater treatment facility in operation during an open house next month.The target date for final treatment at the old plant in southeast Willmar is Sept. 22, said Rhonda Rae, program manager in Donohue's Willmar office. After that date, all waste will be flowing to the new facility, she said.

The new plant located five miles west of the city will increase treatment capacity from 4 million gallons per day to 7.5 million gallons per day. The treatment process will reduce phosphorus discharge by 90 percent and meet more stringent ammonia requirements to improve water quality.

The open house will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 22. The dedication ceremony will be at 2 p.m.

The date was announced during a meeting of the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee on Tuesday afternoon at the new plant. After the meeting, committee members toured the plant.

In September 2004, the City Council voted to replace the existing 70-year-old plant -- its aging equipment and associated odor problems located in the midst of commercial and residential areas -- with new facilities designed to comply with changing water quality standards. Site work began on Sept. 29, 2008.

After nearly two years of construction, the plant and conveyance system were substantially completed about six months early and and under budget, acc-ording to officials of project consultant Donohue and Associates.

The plant's operating systems completed a seven-day testing period and the facility was declared substantially complete -- and the city took ownership -- on Aug. 23.

Since that time, the transition of rerouting the flow from the existing wastewater treatment facility to the new facility has been underway. Rerouting the flow and treatment of industrial waste from the two Jennie-O Turkey Store plants began first. Municipal waste from residential and commercial areas is being incrementally added.

Donohue staff and city officials complimented the treatment plant staff as they continue running the old plant while learning to operate the new facility.

Rae said all equipment vendors showed the staff how to operate and maintain their pieces of equipment, and staff members have been reading nearly 30 standard operating procedure manuals telling how those pieces of equipment work with the process.

"I have been truly impressed with the city staff,'' said Rae. "They have gone above and beyond. Besides doing the training, at the same time they were operating their old system, plus helping us working through issues on constructing this project. They've been wonderful to work with.''

Tom Crouse, Donohue operations and maintenance specialist, has been training the operators to start and run the plant.

"It's going very well,'' Crouse said during the tour. "It's going as we planned. It's following our computer model, almost to a T.''

In related business, the committee voted to amend the engineering services agreement with Donohue and allow the firm to design a new municipal wastewater interceptor line to serve Willmar's western areas.

The committee also voted to amend the contract for the removal of the design and bidding process of the Ortenblad Addition station in southwest Willmar and removal of the lift station located near Arby's on First Street South.

The western interceptor would serve areas on north County Road 5, College View, Valley Brook, Vos Park and the future industrial park. Municipal sewage that currently flows from those areas to the existing wastewater plant will be rerouted to the new western interceptor and then connect with the interceptor line that flows west to the new plant.

The Arby's lift station will be decommissioned and the Ortenblad lift station will be removed and replaced with a 1,500-foot, 18-inch diameter gravity sewer line. The line will be built from the south end of 21st Street Southwest to 30th Avenue Southwest and connect with the interceptor flowing to the new plant, according to officials.

In other business, the committee:

n Approved the final payment of $71,426 to Voss Plumbing and Heating of Paynesville on its $1,381,037 contract for construction of a portion of the force main and gravity sewer between Benson Avenue and County Ditch 46.

n Voted to reduce the retainage from 5 percent to 2.5 percent on the $49.1 million contract with Graham Construction Services of Eagan for construction of the treatment plant. Donohue officials said Graham demonstrated satisfactory operation and substantial completion of five of the plant's seven systems on Aug. 23. Retainage is a portion of contractor's earned funds that are withheld until the project is complete.