Better With Age

A stable process, sequential upgrades and an award-winning laboratory process keep New Holstein’s treatment plant on track
Better With Age
Water and wastewater foreman Don Lintner, left, and plant operator Kevin Nett check the secondary process at the New Holstein treatment plant. (Photography by Jim Kneiszel)

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The New Holstein (Wis.) Wastewater Treatment Plant sits humbly at the end of a gravel road on the east edge of town.

From the outside, it looks just like many 1970s-era small-community treatment plants, but what leaves the outfall daily is a source of pride to its operating team and should be to this eastern Wisconsin city of 3,300.

The plant, operated by New Holstein Utilities, has been in consistent permit compliance since 1988, and last year it received the 2011 Laboratory of the Year Award for small plants from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Camille Turcotte, DNR Environmental Science Services Section Chief, cited the plant’s commitment to producing high-quality data, demonstrated by “the exceptional quality system that is in place, the organized and detailed maintenance, corrective action, and the chemical records that are maintained.

“This laboratory also analyzes more quality-control samples than required, and they use a verification system to ensure that their Discharge Monitoring Reports are always appropriately qualified,” Turcotte stated.

The credit goes to water and wastewater foreman Don Lintner (named Lake Michigan District Operator of the Year by the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association in 2007) and plant operator Kevin Nett, who is responsible for the lab.

Simple process

New Holstein lies between the 138,000-acre Lake Winnebago (a nationally known walleye fishery) and Lake Michigan. The treatment plant, 1.33 mgd design flow, 0.6 mgd average flow, discharges ultimately to Lake Michigan 20 miles east, via Jordan Creek (its receiving stream), Pine Creek, and the Manitowoc River.

The plant was built in 1939 with primary settling and seepage beds. An upgrade in 1953 added aeration, final clarification, and anaerobic biosolids digestion. The current facility was built in 1973. Its circular two-tank secondary treatment system has aeration basins on the periphery and final clarification in the center. There is no primary settling.

“We’re like a large package plant,” observes Lintner, who joined the New Holstein Utilities as an operator in 1988, became wastewater foreman in 2000, and added the water treatment plant to his responsibilities in 2010. At present, the plant operates only one semi-circular tank, leaving the other half of the circle in reserve for peak loads as needed.

Influent first passes through a Hycor fine screen (Parkson) and a Pista Grit degritter chamber (Smith & Loveless). Two raw sewage pumps (Crane Deming) with Allen-Bradley variable-frequency drives (Rockwell Automation) then lift the water to the aeration basins — there are no primary clarifiers. Ferrous chloride is added for phosphorus removal.

Rubber-membrane fine-bubble diffusers (ITT Water & Wastewater — Sanitaire) aerate the flow. Water from the final clarifiers passes directly to Jordan Creek — disinfection with chlorine gas was discontinued in 1988 when the DNR removed disinfection from the permit requirements. A SCADA system (Telemetry Process Controls) helps the plant team monitor both wastewater and water plant functions.

Biosolids undergo gravity thickening and aerobic digestion before being pumped to a storage lagoon to await land application on winter wheat and other farmland in autumn.

Keeping up

Since he came on board, Lintner has made it a point to keep improving the plant. “Our biggest challenge is age,” he says. “The brick and block structures, the concrete and the tanks are beginning to show their age. We started a program a few years ago in which every couple of years we spray clear sealer on all exposed masonry and caulk the joints on the tanks.”

But Lintner and Nett — classified Grade 4 (highest) for activated sludge and laboratory among their numerous certifications — don’t stop with mere maintenance. The plant has seen a series of substantial improvements, and more are being planned.

“In 1989, we installed the fine-bubble diffusers to replace surface aerators,” says Lintner. “In 1997, we updated the lift station with the variable-frequency drives on the raw sewage pumps. In 2000, we built the new headworks building, remodeled the administration building, and put in the SCADA.

“In 2001, we added a new chemical room. That allowed us to move the chemical tanks and make room for a larger lab next to the office.”

Being accountable

That lab helps the plant team monitor the treatment process and document performance to the DNR. Nett, who took charge of the lab in 2005, tests three times weekly for BOD, TSS, phosphorus and DO, and daily for pH. An outside laboratory handles monthly tests of biosolids and of effluent for chloride and ammonia.

“Once in a while, we run tests on septage loads if we have a suspicion that something is upsetting the process,” Nett says. The plant receives about six to eight truckloads of septage or holding tank waste daily.

Lab procedures became more rigorous with 2008 changes to the state’s NR 149 Laboratory Certification and Registration rules. “It’s about accountability, traceability, and adherence to testing requirements,” Nett says. “For example, for a given reagent, we need to record the lot number, when it was made, and when we received it. When we mix a reagent solution, we record the lot number the material came from and when it expires.”

The regulation is also designed to ensure that plants follow accepted sampling methods and testing procedures. Lintner notes, “The DNR wants to make sure treatment plant lab data is defensible in case someone would raise a question or file a legal action.” NR 149 also requires plant lab manuals to spell out laboratory procedures in detail, so that any qualified professional could follow them to perform a plant’s routine tests properly and accurately.

Flying colors

In response to NR 149, Lintner and Nett took the plant’s existing laboratory, forms and documentation and gave them a thorough upgrade. Lintner wrote a new draft of the manual to incorporate the new requirements and shared it with Nett for comment.

“We had taken some classes on the new regulation, and so we understood what had to be done,” Lintner says.

“Kevin was really instrumental in the process and deserves credit for us receiving the award. After I wrote the draft, the two of us discussed it and he pointed out some items that were missing. I made some changes and asked Kevin to give it a final review. Then we sent it to our auditor at the DNR and got his feedback. We also got input from the Wisconsin Rural Water Association. We worked their recommendations into the final document.”

In a lab audit by the DNR on Sept. 15, 2010, the auditor found no major deficiencies and suggested only minor changes in the manual and procedures. The manual will remain a work in progress, getting annual reviews and updates to keep its contents up to date.

Looking ahead

The entire New Holstein plant remains a work in progress. Lintner notes that a contract has already been let for a new facilities plan, and a new team member, part-time operator Nick Meurer, came on board last summer.

“We plan to redo the solids handling portion of the plant,” says Lintner. “The process will remain essentially the same, but the structures and equipment are starting to show their age. We’d like to get away from the lagoon and add an aboveground storage tank.” Replacement of the aeration basin blowers (1989 vintage) is also on the project list.

“Meeting the state’s new phosphorus regulations down the road is a big item,” Lintner says. “We are probably looking at a limit of 0.075 mg/l. I would expect to add some biological phosphorus removal in addition to our chemical removal, along with filtration of some sort.

“Under the state regulation, there are also adaptive things we can do toward meeting our requirement, such as taking a watershed approach and working with farmers downstream to increase cropland setbacks from the streams.”

The plant’s new permit will not take effect until 2015, so that allows time to devise workable solutions. At present, the team tests monthly samples to monitor phosphorus in Jordan Creek upstream from the plant at two points downstream: in Jordan Creek just before Pine Creek, and in Pine Creek just upstream from the Manitowoc River.

With a solid lab program in place and always with an eye toward updates and improvements, the New Holstein treatment plant team is well positioned to continue protecting water resources in its part of the Lake Michigan basin.


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