Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2001

Wastewater plant receives top state honors

June 21, 2001

Sure, it may smell a little funny. It may look a little strange. To the layperson, it's a sewer.

But to Bill Harlow, it's a wastewater treatment plant, and it's a sight to behold.

"It's really beautiful," Harlow said. "It sounds funny, but this is something Eudora should be proud of."

The Kansas Water Environment Association awarded the facility, on west Seventh Street, the best 2000 Wastewater Treatment Plant in its size category.

Ed Hickman of Hickman Environmental Services in Leon said the association looks for uniqueness of operation, staffing, compliance with government standards and efficiency, among other things.

"The appearance of the treatment plant plays a big part, too," he said.

From the plant's gate, on which hangs a sign proclaiming the award, the facility looks like a hodgepodge of cement cylinders and pumps.

Operator Jerry Trober shows that there is more to it than that.

The operation is a complex maze leading from foamy, brown, raw sewage to crystalline water that flows to the Wakarusa River.

A rotating bridge with aerators beneath stirs the mucky soup. Aerators pump oxygen into the water to feed the good bacteria, which eat away waste.

A white, ring-shaped life preserver hangs on the moving bridge. A few yards away lies a net, similar to the kind usually used to skim leaves off of a pool's surface.

But this is no swimming pool. Purifying the water involves skimming off the nasty stuff, including baby wipes?

"You wouldn't believe it," Trober said. "There are a lot of babies in Eudora, Kansas."

After filtration, the water flows underneath ultraviolet lamps that stop bacteria from reproducing. Trober said the two lamps, like super-powered tanning bed bulbs, cost $5,000 each.

"You could dang sure tan, but you wouldn't want to," he said.

Trober can switch flow to different pumps from a computer in the office. Not only does the computer show a plant diagram, but its alarms sound when there is a problem with the plant, even if the printer is out of paper.

The plant has room to grow with Eudora. It can handle a greater capacity than it currently takes in.

Despite the technology that includes a lab to test water quality before it's released into the river, Trober said the personnel make the difference.

"To me, the reason we won that award is because of a team effort," he said.

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