By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman Water Treatment Plant is receiving a long overdue upgrade. Phase I was completed in fall 2010. Now the city is starting on Phase II.
Taste and odor concerns will be addressed, safety will be improved and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality of regulations will be satisfied when the final phase of the upgrade is complete.
Phase I was a $12.5 million project that added a generator and a new clarifier, replaced the filter system, upgraded much of the electrical system and replaced lime slakers.
The city paid for this project using a federal loan administered by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Because of the environmentally friendly components of the project, the city received a $2 million principal forgiveness. That $2 million loan credit came through the American Resource and Recovery Act.
Now Phase II is under way. Carollo Engineers, the consultants designing the project, have completed the pilot study and are entering the design phase.
A key element driving Phase II is the need to meet Oklahoma regulations for improving the disinfection process.
“The DEQ has changed their regulations regarding primary disinfection of the water, and so we have to change to meet the new regulations,” Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. “The chloramine disinfection we have now will still be used throughout the distribution system as a secondary disinfectant, but the state is requiring a stronger, more active primary disinfection process.”
After a cost analysis and a seven-month-long pilot study, Carollo is recommending ozone biofiltration as the most cost-effective treatment for Norman’s needs. This method also provides the best water quality.
Primary treatment is important because that’s where bacteria, protozoa and viruses are killed.
Additionally, the clean water will be treated with ultraviolet light before it is released. These treatment methods will improve the taste and odor of Norman’s drinking water — a primary concern for many residents.
Microcontaminants are not currently regulated under federal or state guidelines but the new treatment process will address emerging contaminants of concern. Those include a number of household products that find their way down the drain and back into city water supplies.
“Almost nobody in the U.S. gets water that hasn’t already been used by somebody upstream,” Water Treatment Supervisor Bryan Hapke said.
For example, Norman’s wastewater is discharged into the Canadian River and eventually becomes Eufaula’s drinking water. While no entities discharge directly into Lake Thunderbird tributaries, the lake gets runoff from urbanized Norman, Moore and Oklahoma City.
While there has been plenty of talk about major contaminants like phosphorous, which accumulates from excess fertilizer and goes into the lake’s watershed via runoff, there are other emerging contaminants that are of growing concern.
These include organic chemicals that wash down America’s drains every day, from birth control pills and other pharmaceuticals and medications people flush to the makeup we wash off our faces and the deodorant that gets washed off in the shower. The new treatment will more effectively eliminate these contaminants.
As a final step, chloramine will be used as a secondary treatment for Norman as the water goes out for distribution. Hapke said the use of chloramine as a secondary treatment provides residual protection, should Norman drinking water get recontaminated in the lines, because chloramine kills bacteria.
Other elements driving Phase II of upgrades are the desire to improve water quality, improve chemical handling safety for the community and the employees, and replace old and obsolete pieces of equipment. The project is expected to cost $30 million.
“That’s a rough estimate,” Komiske said. “The project design is in the preliminary stages.”
Norman still relies on a lot of equipment that is 30 years old. In some cases, replacement parts are no longer available.
“We’re pretty good at figuring out ways to make do,” Hapke said. “That’s not really ideal. Ideal would be to have backup equipment installed and ready to go. These are some of the things this project will address.”
During Phase I, a small generator was replaced. The old generator serviced the hospital from 1964 until it was donated to the city in 1982. It was taken out of service in 2010.
“Now we have a new generator,” Hapke said.
If there was a power outage, the old generator would keep the lights on, but that’s about it. Hapke said the new generator is about 10 times as powerful.
“This is a useful generator,” Hapke said. “It will run the plant.”
Many of the old elements of the machinery do not have backups and could cause serious issues for Norman’s water supply if they went out.
Even some of those that are redundant, such as the chlorine feeders, need to be replaced. The chlorine feeders are 33 years old, well past their 22-year life span.
“We do good maintenance and that keeps things working, but eventually you can’t do anymore,” Hapke said.
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