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.