Readers Respond To Column On “The Reclamation Imperative”

On the reclamation imperative

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” — Benjamin Franklin

Since I live in a desert and manage a facility that produces drinking-quality water from raw wastewater, I am obviously going to be biased toward reclamation being the default (“The Reclamation Imperative,” TPO, August 2014).

Treatment to a higher level is not cheap by any means. However, we should not compare that cost to what it takes to pump and disinfect groundwater or treat surface water. The justification is based on future costs, when (in our case) desalination or source water importation may be required. All clean water produced at this facility goes to reuse, whether for power plant cooling, irrigation, construction, or reinjection into groundwater. We have been doing this for 29 years without issue. This is considered indirect potable reuse because the water is delivered to the aquifer before being recovered as potable.

As you stated, the typical quality of treatment plant effluent is very good and getting better. All four wastewater treatment plants in this city have been producing and dispensing reclaimed water for quite a long time, but we can think of taking this even further. Our utility is planning additional treatment capability at our largest clean-water plant. The intent is to produce drinking-quality water for direct potable reuse.

There are several direct potable reuse projects permitted in Texas. One is the result of an emergency permit due to the drought conditions. Those folks are starting to realize the true worth of water. Does it not make sense for us to maximize our resources earlier rather than later to avoid emergencies?

I was recently on a shuttle bus and overheard two gentlemen who were residents of that community. This was a few days before the water utility there was to start delivering treated effluent directly to the town’s drinking water distribution system.

The terms these men used when referring to the treated effluent were disparaging, to say the least. They were obviously not happy with the notion that wastewater plant effluent was to piped directly to their homes and workplaces. I cannot really blame them if they have not been informed of the quality of the water produced, the qualifications of the treatment professionals involved and of the monitoring requirements imposed by regulations.

I was at this water reclamation plant on day one of water production and am still here three decades later. I have intimate knowledge of the operation and maintenance costs of recycling this precious resource. But this is not much different than using preventive maintenance to extend the useful life of plant equipment, or personal equipment such as a car. It involves either investing a little more now, or much more later. And this has to include education of the general public, tying closely to the Fire Chief Project. Convince the general public that funding these efforts is good for all, before the well is dry.

I did comment to the guys on the shuttle bus that they could rest assured that highly qualified professionals stand vigilant over the processes necessary to ensure the quality of the water delivered to their homes.

Vick Pedregon, Superintendent

Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant

El Paso, Texas

Just too costly

Here’s my two cents on the reclaimed water issue. I already have provision in my NJPDES discharge permit for what the state calls “beneficial reuse” (reclaimed water). However, depending on the intended use of this water, there are different quality standards it must meet.

If it is to be used for irrigation where the public could come in contact with it, I must treat it to an even higher degree than is required to just discharge it into the receiving stream. I operate an 8 mgd tertiary nitrification process.

The ammonia levels in our effluent are generally below 0.1 mg/L, but our effluent nitrogen levels average about 30 mg/L to achieve this. I have a stringent ammonia limit in the summer months, but no nitrogen limit (yet). The beneficial reuse requirements are 10 mg/L of total nitrogen, so I would have to initiate denitrification. There are similar issues with fecal coliform and TSS.

The WMUA did a study on potential customers for reclaimed water in our area, and there were a lot of zeroes on the end of the price tag to build the infrastructure to get it there. No one wanted to pick up the tab. While the shortage of water in some areas of the U.S., like the Southwest and Florida, is driving this concept there, water supply is not an issue in central New Jersey at this time.

So, bottom line, unless there is a market for the water and someone is willing to pay for the infrastructure and production costs, it doesn’t work for us. However, several miles downstream from my outfall is a water treatment plant, so in a way, our effluent is being reclaimed.

Dane Martindell, Facilities Manager

Western Monmouth Utilities Authority

Manalapan, N.J.


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