Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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Winter Springs takes steps forward on water plants

Winter Springs took steps forward on a redesign of its citywide wastewater system and also announced a new way to clean up drinking water Monday night, which should improve the smell and taste of the water.

After months of searching and whittling down nearly 100 options for water treatment plants to replace the city’s aging facilities, the city has arrived at its solution: a biological nutrient removal (BNR) system.

“Really what we’re seeing is this BNR option really is the gold standard of conventional activated sludge,” said engineer Brian Graham, representing Carollo Engineers, which is designing the system. “It’s tried and true. It’s highly implemented throughout Florida and the United States.”

One of the big advantages of the system compared to other options, Graham said, is its similarity to the city’s existing system, minimizing operational training time for staff.

“This is really…as close as you can get to what you already have,” Graham said. “Its real disadvantage is it’s just a little bit bigger. In some communities and some places that’s a deal breaker, if you don’t have land. If you’re the city of Orlando and your plant has to expand and there’s no room, this is very important. In this case we don’t have that restriction.”

The system is also popular statewide and nationwide, which will make it easier to troubleshoot problems with the system, should any occur, Graham said.

“They don’t have to call a treatment facility in Holland because that’s the only one that they can get to,” he added.

Jason Norberg, Winter Springs’ director of public works and utilities, said that after engineers finalize conceptual designs, they will return to talk to the City Commission on April 25.

In the meantime, Norberg said, the city will continue working to fix up its current wastewater system until the new one can be built.

“A bulk of that work is adding reliability and resilience to our current facilities so that we can get to a point where we can get construction underway on new plants,” Norberg said.

Breakthroughs in drinking water

Meanwhile, the potable water system, which operates separately from the wastewater system, has also seen improvements recently.

Norberg said the city will be replacing the pumps on two of the city’s four water wells to improve supply ability.

The city has also been working on reducing its chlorine use to disinfect the city’s water, and on removing the sulfur smell from the water.

Winter Springs City Manager Shawn Boyle said that the city government was trying to find a way to improve water quality without replacing the entire potable water plant, which was estimated to cost $100 million. He and some water engineers began investigating water coming from the city’s four wells, which range in depth from 220 feet to nearly 400 feet and pull water from different parts of the city.

“If you have four wells, the easiest thing to do is start with the best product that you can,” Boyle said. “What we discovered through our analysis is we didn’t start with the best product. Well four is one of the worst products that we have coming out of the ground, yet we were pulling the most water out of it. Riddle me that one.”

“So we went and we did some exploration with some experts and we decided that wells one and two had the best product,” Boyle said.

The idea, he said, was to pull more water from the wells that required less treatment and fewer chemicals to bring the water up to the proper standards.

“So we’re starting with a better product with less sulfur in it and less organics in it and running it through our treatment plant, which we already have built, and we don’t have to rebuild it, and we’re ending up with a much better ending product.”

The end result was a reduction in chlorine needed to disinfect the water.

“We reported I think somewhere around 30 or 40 (percent reduction), but it was way over a 50% reduction in chlorine,” Boyle said.

The city is also working on reducing sulfur smell and taste in the water and reducing the chemical means needed to do so, including using forced aeration to remove sulfur, which he said was a “relatively inexpensive” way to remove sulfur.

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