A dedicated and well-equipped staff keeps the Kimmswick Wastewater Treatment Facility running smoothly and looking sharp.
You could easily say the Kimmswick Wastewater Treatment Facility has all the parts in place for award-winning performance.
The eight plant operations and maintenance team members bring experience, high-level certifications and dedication to excellence. And the plant’s equipment maintenance program is built on computerized management and an impressive supply of in-stock replacement parts for critical equipment.
It’s a formula for a plant that runs smoothly and in consistent permit compliance while sustaining an exceptional level of cleanliness that visitors routinely notice. The team is also methodically upgrading a 150-mile collections system and steadily driving down I&I.
These and other accomplishments earned the plant, owned by the Rock Creek Public Sewer District, a 2015 Plant of the Year award in the Small Facility Division from the Missouri Water Environment Association. It was the district’s second such award (the first was in 2009). The district won the 2010 MWEA Biosolids Management Award and the 2015 George W. Burke Safety Award from the Water Environment Federation.
“As a district we try to promote a good morale, and as management we listen to any concerns the team members have,” says Jason Seger, operations manager. “I like to refer to us as one big family. We’ve all been here a lot of years, and we spend more time together than with our own families. We have our up days and down days, but we all care about each other, and we’ve got each other’s backs. You can see that on a day-in, day-out basis.”
The Rock Creek District, about 20 miles south of St. Louis on Interstate 55, was formed in the 1980s. “We were approached by Department of Natural Resources in 1999 to consolidate two privately owned sewer companies,” Seger says. “At that point, we went from 800 customers to 8,000 pretty much overnight.”
Several old package plants were closed, and the flow was rerouted to the Kimmswick plant. In the bargain, the district inherited a large amount of old clay pipe that has been the target of an aggressive CIPP lining program. Today, the district covers 32 square miles, serving the cities of Kimmswick and Imperial, and parts of Arnold and High Ridge. A small pump station is located in Festus.
The treatment plant, built in 2004, replaced 11 older activated sludge package plants, the largest a 1.5 mgd facility. The new plant has a 4.8 mgd design flow and treats 1.9 mgd on average using a continuous-flow sequencing batch reactor (Sanitaire - a Xylem Brand).
Wastewater enters a 50-foot-deep pump station, from which six submersible pumps (Flygt - a Xylem Brand) deliver it to a fine screen (Lakeside Equipment Corporation). The flow then passes through an aerated grit basin (Walker Process Equipment, A Div. of McNish Corp.) before entering a splitter box that delivers it equally to four aeration basins.
“The flow goes into the basins continuously, 24 hours a day,” says Seger. “Our cycle is 4.8 hours. We have an aeration phase and a mixing phase. We have Flygt mixers in each basin for nitrogen and phosphorus removal. Then we go into a settling phase, followed by decant. We have one basin decanting at all times.”
Air is delivered to fine-bubble diffusers by three 100 hp blowers (Gardner Denver), two in operation at any given time and one reserved as backup. SBR effluent discharges to the Mississippi River. In April through October, effluent is pumped up to a TrojanUV3000Plus disinfection system (TrojanUV) before discharge. In other months the effluent is discharged by gravity flow to the river.
“We have some elevation issues being close to the river,” Seger says. “We were built up on 20 feet of dredged river sand to get above the 500-year floodplain. We didn’t have any room to make the UV system work by gravity, so during the disinfection season we have to pump the effluent up to the disinfection building.”
Waste activated sludge is delivered to a holding tank. When the tank is full (about one week), the material is fed at 0.7 to 0.9 percent solids to a gravity belt thickener (Alfa Laval Ashbrook Simon-Hartley). The thickened material, at 2.5 to 3 percent solids, is sent to three aerobic digesters in series, each holding 330,000 gallons.
Digester 3 has a submersible pump that sends the material to the waste activated sludge lift station for feeding back through the thickener, which yields product at 5 percent solids for land application. “We upgraded our solids facility in 2009,” Seger says. “We have a Jetech aeration system with a mixer and blowers. We were spending $110,000 to $115,000 hauling 3 percent solids. By getting up to 5 percent, we’ve cut that back to about $75,000.”
Contractor Midwest Injection hauls the biosolids and applies it on a nearby 90-acre farm that grows corn and soybeans. Annual volume is about 250 dry tons.
Parts on hand
Seger leads a team of three plant operators (Class C license holders Alex Portwood and Scott Sabo, and Class A licensee Jason Nance) and four maintenance specialists (Class A licensees Mike Mudra and Brian Koester, Class D licensee Paul Luther, and Dave Lanter).
The team takes pride in good housekeeping at the plant, and the MWEA awards program evaluator took notice. “He said he had never seen a wastewater treatment plant so clean, so focused on safety, and with everything working correctly,” Seger recalls.
“Our approach is that if you have a plant where everything is a mess, then people who come out — DNR staff or tour groups — will assume that the effluent is a mess, as well. Our philosophy is to maintain good housekeeping. The team members take a lot of pride. Whether it’s cutting the grass, pulling weeds or picking up after themselves, they treat it like their homes. The operators take care of the buildings, hosing them down and keeping everything clean. The maintenance people keep the garage clean. It’s an ‘everybody cares’ atmosphere.”
On the maintenance side, an extensive planned maintenance program is built around a JOB Cal computerized maintenance management system (Hach). “We have everything on the software,” Seger says. “The system generates work orders, and I distribute them. The maintenance team also does an impeccable job seeing or hearing anything suspicious and acting accordingly.” The program includes vibration analysis as part of predictive maintenance on the blowers.
The large spare parts inventory provides insurance against long spells of unplanned downtime.
“A couple of years ago, we looked at every piece of critical equipment,” Seger says. “Take the fine screen for example. The gear reducer is a major component for that screen. If the gear reducer went down, it would take about two months to get a replacement. In that time, somebody would have to be here 24 hours a day with a manual rake.
“We keep a booster pump for our gravity belt thickener because if that would go out and the haulers were here, well, you know the rest. If we knew a part could go out and we couldn’t get that part for a week or two, then we needed to have it here.” The parts inventory also includes fuses for the decanter, impellers for the biosolids pump, motors for the motorized air valves for the SBR, and assorted switches, belts and other routine items.
Upgrading the piping
Effective maintenance isn’t limited to the plant. The team is steadily improving the collections system and some 5,000 manholes. In 2009, the district completed a systemwide manhole inspection and smoke tested the entire collections system.
Manholes were graded on a scale from 1 (best condition) to 5 to establish repair priorities. “For manhole rehabilitation we use a technology called SpectraShield,” says Seger. “We used to do spot repairs like band seals or chemical grouting, but we learned that once the water table rose, we were more or less pushing the defects to different areas of the manhole.
“So we asked: What can we do to rehab these manholes and walk away? SpectraShield is that product. It’s spray-applied in layers to about an inch thick. They line it from top to bottom, and we get a 10-year guarantee. Once that manhole is lined, we’re done with it for a long time.” As for the piping, the district contracts for CIPP lining at a rate of about 1,500 to 2,000 feet per year.
The results have been noticeable. “I can remember when we would reach 14 to 15 mgd at the plant after rain events,” says Seger, who has been with the district for 16 years. “We had a huge rain last August, and again in September, and the plant never saw more than 8 mgd. We never had a permit violation, and we never washed out solids. Even a few years ago, when it wasn’t uncommon to get 8 to 12 mgd in a rain event, the SBR would handle the flow relatively well. It never got to the point where we failed a test. We were still meeting the permit.”
One reason behind the plant’s performance is a supportive administration and district board, Seger says. Don Daniel, MBA, district administrator, is supported by Annette Hastings, office manager, and Denee Welch, accounts receivable.
“I can tell you the board members do whatever they can to give us the resources to stay within our effluent limitations and keep the environment clean,” Seger says. “They give us resources to deploy where they can be most effectively used.”
A well-educated and credentialed staff also supports performance excellence. Seger himself values education. He started his career in 2000 by taking wastewater operator training at the Environmental Resource Training Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He has since earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia College and a master’s in public administration from Lindenwood University.
“We pride ourselves on training and education,” Seger says. “A wastewater treatment plant is not a mom-and-pop shop where you hire your cousin and your brother. We need trained and certified people who can represent the district well.” In line with that, the district encourages team members to earn progressively higher licenses and pays for their training and testing.
As for the recognition from the MWEA, “It means a lot to me personally, and it means a lot to our crew. I could commend the guys on multiple things, but especially their diversity. They can do anything out here as well as anybody. I sit here and hand out work orders, but the crew is what makes this organization work. Management is like the car. The crew here is the engine that drives it.”
Visual inspection is a key part of the Rock Creek Public Sewer District’s collections system rehabilitation program. The district owns a van-based mainline inspection system (Aries Industries) along with two Aries push cameras for inspecting private laterals.
The lateral inspection program is among the first of its kind in Missouri, notes Jason Seger, operations manager for the district. “We enacted an ordinance so that anytime a home transfers ownership, we have the right to go in and TV the private lateral,” Seger says.
“We found, after spending upwards of $4 million on our collections system, that we were still having surcharged manholes. I read in different publications that up to 50 or 60 percent of the I&I can come from the private side.
“So now, anytime a home changes ownership, we work with the title company, and before they can close on that home, we have to inspect the lateral. If the lateral is cracked or loose, if we can see traces of infiltration, or if the sump pump is hooked up to the lateral, the owners have 60 days to get that repaired, at their cost.”
The district’s experience is that when a lateral needs repair, the home buyer and seller have a relatively easy time negotiating the cost into the transaction. “At the end of the day it’s helping them, and it’s helping us as well,” Seger says. “We’re taking care of the whole collections system, private and public.”