A Florida plant and its team members earn accolades for proactive biosolids management and high-quality reclaimed water.


The Wellington Water Reclamation Facility has won numerous awards. Its compliance history, operation and maintenance practices, customer relations, and safety record are all outstanding. But what makes the plant’s operators most proud is the biosolids program.

“For years, we land-applied our Class B lime-stabilized solids,” says explains Bryan Gayoso, superintendent of the facility in Wellington, Florida. “Then, after a 2012 plant expansion, we were able to produce a Class AA product, which we sell to a hauler who markets it.” The switch to Class AA came after land application sites grew scarce and difficult to permit.

The plant team installed an automatic batch solids drying system in 2012, and has operated it for the past five years with no downtime, thanks to excellent preventive maintenance and an inventory of spare parts. The biosolids program earned a Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA) Biosolids/Residuals Program Excellence Award in 2014 and 2015.

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The Wellington facility is innovative in other ways. The team achieved high-quality reclaimed water, of which 10 percent is distributed to reuse sites and used to water village parks and median strips. The rest is pumped into a deep well. Effluent contains monthly averages of 2.9 mg/L BOD and 1 mg/L TSS.

Innovative plant

The Wellington Water Reclamation Facility was built in 1981 with 1.5 design mgd capacity. The water reuse system with deep-bed filter was added in 2005. A $22 million upgrade in 2012 enlarged the reuse system and added new reuse pumps, an aerator, a clarifier, aerobic digesters, blowers, a belt filter press, a biosolids dryer, and new deep-well piping/pumps.
Says Gayoso, “The upgrade took almost three years, so there was disruption, or what we call organized chaos, to the operators during that time.” The new dryer posed training challenges: No one had run similar equipment, and the staff had to learn the operating modes and how to maintain the system.

Today, plant design capacity is 6.5 mgd. The influent is pumped to two Aqua Guard bar screens (Parkson), then to a PISTA Grit separator and classifier (Smith & Loveless). From there it flows to three Eimco carousel process aerators (Ovivo), followed by four clarifiers (Walker Process Equipment, A Div. of McNish Corp.; WesTech; Ovivo).

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Biosolids are dewatered on two belt filter presses and dried with a Fenton Fenix indirect dryer (RDP Technologies). The effluent is treated to reuse quality with DynaSand bottom feed filters (three cells with six modules each) from Parkson. Odor is controlled by three Jacobs Air Water Systems scrubbers.

Innovative drying

The digesters hold and aerate an average of 140,000 gallons of waste activated sludge for five days. The material is then pumped to the belt filter presses, which dewater it to 15 to 16 percent solids. A pump (SEEPEX) then sends the material to the dryer.

The batch process dryer automatically fills with biosolids cake and discharges material at 93 to 99 percent solids, based on preset parameters. A typical batch takes four hours from fill to discharge, when the product reaches 330 degrees F. The system operates four or five days a week and typically produces 2 to 4 tons of Class AA product daily.

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“This indirect dryer is unique in that there are few like it in existence,” says Gayoso. “The flame or gas never comes in contact with the product, eliminating the possibility of an explosion.” The staff is happy with the dryer. With the Class B product, the plant produced one 45-cubic-yard trailer load per day. Now, it produces a trailer load every 10 to 12 days.

The new process also limits odor. “We’re next to a park, so odor was a factor,” Gayoso says.

Deserved recognition

The staff is proud of the awards the facility has won for excellence in operations and maintenance and biosolids management:

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  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection Domestic Wastewater Plant Operations Excellence Award, 2004-’06, 2014, 2015
  • U.S. EPA Operation and Maintenance Excellence Award, 2005
  • FWEA Biosolids/Residuals Program Excellence Award for Technology Innovation, 2014
  • FWEA Biosolids/Residuals Program Excellence Award for Small Operations, 2015

Says Gayoso, “The DEP award is for the entire plant. They ask about everything, and you have to write a narrative. I look at it as an accomplishment. We’ve run the plant properly and have met compliance. Winning the award is also good PR for the village of Wellington, and the village council promotes this.”

Highly experienced

  • Gayoso (Level A wastewater certification, 14 years at the plant) credits the staff for the plant’s success. Reporting to him are:
  • Chief operator David Cipriani (Level A, 12 years)
  • Operator III (Level A) Greg Lee (seven years), Mark Simkowitz (12 years)
  • Operator II (Level B) Roger Black (three years), Glenn Burr (five years)
  • Operator I (Level C) Keith Aiken (six years)
  • Mechanics Michael Frank (three years), Nathan Slack (three years)

“People make a plant successful,” Gayoso says. “Our staff members all get along, and their personalities mesh. They’re highly experienced. David Cipriani has over 40 years’ experience in the industry and Michael Frank has more than 30.” All operators are certified and well trained. They receive safety refreshers monthly and utility-wide training once a year.

The operators take samples for plant TSS, influent and effluent CBOD, reuse TSS, and fecal coliform. They operate and monitor the aeration, digester and dryer systems, and the deep well and pumping system. They also monitor the reuse sites: four parks, a wetland and three street median strips. The mechanics handle all maintenance. The staff’s greatest achievement? “Keeping the system operating efficiently,” says Gayoso. “We don’t have any issues with this, really. We maintain it, we purchase new equipment when we need to, and we keep spare parts on hand.”

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The staff members also use their ingenuity. Mechanics Frank and Slack helped develop a plan to refurbish the older aerators. As master welders, they rebuilt the aerator paddle blades up to original specifications. The project took several months, since the aerators had to be isolated hydraulically and taken out of service.

Says Gayoso, “We immediately saw a change in the treatment process. The amperage draws on the motors increased, therefore adding a more efficient mixing of the aerator contents.” The plant also saved thousands of dollars by not having to replace mechanical aeration paddles.

Looking forward

Although the plant is running well, Gayoso has his eye on the future: “I spend a lot of time evaluating our equipment needs and planning for upgrades.” Projects planned for completion in mid-2019 include a headworks and clarifier upgrade, an additional solids-handling pump, additional digesters and blowers, a new odor-control scrubber and a new control room. The team has started replacing failed lighting fixtures with LEDs.

The plant staff would like to develop a customer base for reuse water. “Right now, our only customer is the village, so we have to get out there and see what the needs are,” Gayoso says. “When there’s a drought, people need the water. Then it rains and no one is interested anymore. So, the interest level has to be maintained.”

Another concern is finding staff as people retire: “There are limited resources out there, but our reputation carries — people know the village and the plant as good places to work. There is a lot of variety at the plant, and the staff gets a taste of almost everything. It’s a perfect place to learn wastewater.”

Gayoso adds, with a laugh, “I’ve had employees move out of state and say it would be great if they could just move the plant there!”


Peaceful Waters Sanctuary

Bryan Gayoso, Wellington Water Reclamation Facility superintendent, loves nature photography. While taking photos at a wetland in Palm Beach County, he learned it had been converted from treatment plant percolation ponds.

“I presented this same idea to my director of utilities, and after a few years, the Peaceful Waters Sanctuary was created from our percolation ponds at the Wellington facility.”

The ponds sat on a 20-acre site that had been closed off to the public and required frequent mowing. “It seemed like a waste of usable land,” says Gayoso. The Wellington Village Council liked the idea of greenspace. They approved the wetlands construction and provided $1.4 million to fund the project. The area is now filled with plants, trees and a boardwalk, maintained by the village.

“There are lots of aquatic plants and birds,” says Gayoso. “Photographers, birders and families can enjoy the wildlife and 20-foot-tall cypress trees. And, it can still serve the purpose it was originally intended for — a backup to our deep-well injection system.”


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