By KEELEY MOREE
• Leader & Times
It turns out sewer systems aren’t so simple, yet the City of Liberal is still a few steps closer to making updates to the current wastewater treatment plant.
During one of two required public hearings on the issue at Tuesday evening’s Liberal City Commission meeting, City Engineer Pete Earles presented the proposed plan to reorganize the sewer flow, water treatment and discharge of water back into Liberal’s surrounding areas.
The plan’s main focus involves separating National Beef’s water treatment system from the city’s. The biggest problem Liberal’s current wastewater treatment facility faces is reducing the amount of ammonia and phosphorus into the water system. According to Earles, the main reason the treatment center will be split from National Beef is due to the volume and nutrient-packed conditions of water coming in from the plant.
“(National Beef) is part of our treatment plant and after several years of going round and round trying to come up with a plant that would work for both the city and National Beef, we’ve decided to, basically, split those out,” Earles explained. “National Beef is designing their own treatment plant and the city then is looking at theirs.”
On average, the City of Liberal flows 1.7 million gallons of wastewater through the wastewater treatment plant on an average day, while National Beef alone flows 2.5 million gallons of water into the system daily.
Earles laid out a system using AnoxKaldnes MBBR technology which would improve the current facility’s ability to treat water using biological processes. Adding in UV technology and standard chlorine treatment towards the end of the water cycle will result in much more clear water which he hopes the city can be used to pump to local locations for irrigation.
“The hope is that we can use the Grey Water Line to reduce our requirement of pumping fresh water for irrigation of both the golf course and Light Park,” Earles said. “The Grey Water Line already exists from the pump station to the golf course. We stopped irrigation because the condition of the water from National Beef is very high in algae, it’s high in particulates and it was plugging up the irrigation system. With the new water, it will clean that up, and the difference between it will be amazing. That will save us the watering of Light Park and the golf course, and in the future, it gives us other opportunities as well to irrigate other items without using fresh water.”
System improvements for the wastewater treatment plant also involve extending a new bypass sewer line to take the load off a line running through the middle of town.
“The main sewer is on Eleventh Street and that sewer is flowing full. It’s causing backup problems throughout the system,” Earles said. “We’re looking at putting in a new 24-inch bypass and picking it up at the east edge of the Liberal Country Club and running a gravity line all the way out.”
The city is also looking to change the way in which water is discharged through the treatment plant. In addition to sending treated water through a line to water the Willowtree Golf Course and Light Park, Earles has designed a plan which would loop National Beef into the discharge system and send some water out to farmers for irrigation.
“Part of the concern with National Beef is how to discharge, and that’s part of what we’re going through with them right now. What this is looking at is instead of discharging it all out to Arkalon, is being able to put in some type of an irrigation line to use that water for irrigation,” Earles said. “The other option if we do have to discharge all the water like we do currently is to put in a pump station and a 20-inch force main all the way out to Arkalon in order to increase that line. Our hope is that we can do the irrigation and just continue to use the gravity line on a periodic basis when National Beef’s flow cannot discharge out to the irrigation systems.”
In total, upgrades and changes to the wastewater treatment plant and associated sewer and discharge lines could add up to more than 20.9 million dollars, with construction costs climbing every day.
City manager Mark Hall explained that the purpose of the public hearing wasn’t for commissioners to make a decision, but as a formality before taking further steps to obtain a loan through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for the project.
“Tonight is just a process to line up the funding and that’s it. There’s still is an agreement to be reached with National Beef, KDHE and all the parties involved. That will be down the road,” Hall said. “We’re not deciding or agreeing on any contracts or agreement whatsoever, this is just what’s required from the state so we can secure funds for when that agreement with KDHE and National is reached.”
When commissioner Janet Willimon asked how urgent the wastewater treatment plant’s upgrades were, Earles explained that the city had no options but to make necessary upgrades to meet environmental standards.
“As far as rehab work, we really do not have a choice, we will not meet the next permit. We’ve been running on a temporary permit for some time,” Earles said. “KDHE is pushing us to get this application in because it’s important to them because our permit ran out some time ago. They want to know the money’s there so the EPA gets off of their back so they can say ‘the money’s there but they’re waiting for National Beef to get theirs done.’”
Earles said that once everything is said and done, the city’s upgrades will be a great benefit to the overall system and the city’s long-term budget.
“We can actually almost triple our flow after all of this, and our treatment plant will be able to handle it,” Earles said. “Our chemical costs will drop drastically. We’re losing about $500,000 a year because of the water we get from National Beef today because of the high algae content in that water.”
National Beef has sent water through the wastewater treatment plant in Liberal since an agreement in the mid-1990’s was signed for them to use the city’s facility. That agreement comes to an end in 2014. The meat-packing plant has engineers in the process of designing a separate treatment facility just east of Liberal’s wastewater treatment plant. Hall hopes an agreement for the facility upgrades can be reached by the end of 2012.
Citizens interested in learning more and speaking out about the wastewater treatment plant’s proposed changes can attend an additional public hearing at the next Liberal City Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. on June 26 in the City Commission Chambers at 325 N. Washington Ave.