Award-Winning Indiana Plant Maintains Tough Standards

Accomplishments for the team in Brownsburg, Indiana, include consistent permit compliance, an award-winning safety program and CSO reduction.
Award-Winning Indiana Plant Maintains Tough Standards
Bill Shaw Jr. (left) and Steve Wyland of the Brownsburg Wastewater Treatment Plant empty the facility’s Vac-Con combination truck after servicing area sewer systems.

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Low crime, good schools and economic growth make Brownsburg one of the best places to live in Indiana — it ranks 33rd in the United States, according to Money magazine.

If wastewater treatment had been part of the evaluation, the town might have placed even higher. Under Kathy Dillon, superintendent, and a hardworking and dedicated collections and treatment team, the Brownsburg Wastewater Treatment Department keeps its sewer system and 3.5 mgd (design) treatment facility operating at peak efficiency.

“We do the best we can to serve our community,” says Dillon. Their efforts have been recognized with multiple awards for safety, laboratory performance and collections system operation and maintenance.

Two major stations

Living near Indianapolis, Brownsburg residents enjoy the amenities of a small town with the attractions of the metro area. The population is young (median age 36) and growing, and public schools’ achievement scores all top the state averages. The unemployment rate is below the national average.

To help support this quality of life, the Wastewater Treatment Department operates a 100-mile sanitary sewer system. The staff also maintains 120 miles of separated storm sewers and several miles of combined sewers, significantly less than a few years ago as Dillon’s team works steadily to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

Two large pumping stations deliver wastewater to the treatment plant. The West Regional Lift Station serves an area with no combined sewers and pumps wastewater directly to the plant headworks. The Main Pumping Station receives a portion of its flow from combined sewers and contains its own headworks. It includes two swirl concentrators to remove large objects and debris, a Muffin Monster auger grinder (JWC Environmental), a Hycor mechanically cleaned bar screen (Parkson Corp.) and a Hydrogritter grit removal system (WEMCO).

At the treatment plant, the flow from the West Regional Lift Station passes through a Muffin Monster and a Hycor mechanically cleaned bar screen. The flows from the two pumping stations are then divided equally between the plant’s north and south processes. Each process contains a Parshall flume, a conditioner equipped with mixers (Philadelphia Mixing Solutions) that begins treating wastewater to prevent sludge bulking and minimize filamentous growth, and a pair of oval closed-loop reactor oxidation ditches (Lakeside Equipment Corporation).

Each ditch is aerated by three 40 hp horizontal-bladed Magna Rotors (Lakeside Equipment Corporation). At the end of each process, flow from the ditches settles in two perimeter-feed Envirex circular clarifiers (Evoqua Water Technologies), each 55 feet in diameter.

Return activated sludge is discharged to the influent channel before the conditioners. Clarifier effluent flows into one of two junction boxes. All belt press wash water is effluent, and a small amount of effluent is used for chlorination and clarifier hosing. “Without tertiary filtration, the solids content of the effluent prevents more reuse,” Dillon explains.

Final effluent is chlorinated in a 1.25 mgd chlorine contact pond, then dechlorinated with liquid sodium bisulfite. In summer the flow to the pond is pre-dosed with gaseous chlorine.

Tough standards

The disinfected effluent travels through a flowmeter and then a 24-inch pipe to a series of two-step concrete cascades that further oxygenate the water before discharge to White Lick Creek. Effluent standards are tight — 10 mg/L BOD and 12 mg/L TSS in summer — because the creek is a zero-discharge stream.

It’s an efficient process that continues to get more so. David Humpal, assistant superintendent, says the department acquired a grant to replace all existing plant motors (12 40 hp units, four 50 hp and one 60 hp) with high-efficiency models.

Most of Brownsburg’s Class B biosolids are land-applied. Solids from the final clarifiers are wasted into two 450,000-gallon aerated holding tanks equipped with Roots blowers (GE Energy) and Universal Blower Pac blowers. The decant liquid is returned to the treatment works while solids are transferred to a pair of aerobic digesters. After that, the material can be dewatered or thickened on a belt press (Komline-Sanderson).

Thickened material is pumped back into the digester. Dewatered biosolids (13 percent solids) are stored on drying beds or on a covered storage pad, then hauled by a contractor to cropland or to a landfill.

Stressing safety

For the Brownsburg team, it’s not enough to meet treatment requirements. Besides Dillon and Humpal, the team includes Shawn Pabst, field supervisor; Pat Duncan and Shane Russell, operators; Lisa Christie, stormwater coordinator; Butch Barger, laboratory manager; and Matt Huckstep, Steve Wyland, Richard Keeton, Bill Shaw Jr. and Nick Sparks, laborers.

The Wastewater Department has gone the extra mile to ensure the safety of its employees and has set the standard for laboratory excellence. The Indiana Water Environment Association has recognized those efforts with its Safety Award for the past 15 consecutive years and the Laboratory Excellence Award seven times in the last 10 years. Dillon is proud that the awards are based on peer review — the judgment of other professionals in the field.

Safety is always top-of-mind. The town has an extensive safety program, but rather than simply accept that as the standard, Dillon and her crew have used the plan as a base and modified it for the treatment plant. “We understand the work conditions here — lockout/tagout and confined-space entry, for example,” says Dillon.

“We build safety into our own standard operating procedures. It’s a team effort. We watch each other and try to keep everyone safe.”

The approach helps new employees know what to expect and what to be aware of. Knowledge gets shared. “Not everybody knows everything you know,” Dillon says. “We concentrate on what employees need to think about and what might happen as they go about their tasks. We have bimonthly safety meetings with all departments. The meetings involve employees, not management. We bring back suggestions that are then followed up on by managers.”

Laboratory operations follow a similar route: People are the key. “We’re very fortunate to have the people we have,” says Dillon. “They do a spectacular job, not just complying with Indiana Department of Environmental Management standards but staying on top of new procedures and new requirements. We’re improving all the time.”

One example is quality assurance/quality control testing. Barger, lab manager, does the tests quarterly even though they are required just once a year. “By doing them quarterly we can better track proper methods and the status of our equipment,” says Dillon. “We cross-train our people in lab procedures so we can cover during holiday breaks or other situations.”

Collections excellence

The collections system gets the same high-quality attention as the treatment plant and its lab. Brownsburg has won the Indiana WEA’s Small Facility Collections Award. That’s partly for its success in reducing CSOs.

In the past, Brownsburg might have seen as many as 40 CSOs per year, but Dillon’s department has significantly reduced that number: “It’s now less than 10 a year, and our goal is zero.” Part of the solution is a million-gallon overflow tank, constructed in 2010 near the Main Pumping Station as part of the town’s long-term control plan.

Before the tank was built, wet-weather flows could exceed the pumping stations’ capacity and overflow to White Lick Creek. Now excess flows are directed to the tank, held there and routed back through the pumping station to the treatment plant when the storm ends.

A truck-mounted Rovver camera system (Envirosight) purchased in 2010 is another improvement, enabling personnel to inspect the sewers and determine the condition of the system. A new portable camera (UEMSI Procam) helps the team troubleshoot lateral lines and settle issues with property owners.

“Before, we might have to make several trips and calls to try to determine if a blockage was on our property or private property,” Dillon says. “The camera has saved us a lot of time and expense. We shoot it, locate the blockage and that’s it.” The Wastewater Department has also added a new combination sewer cleaning truck (Vac-Con) and relegated its 1999 model to backup duty and especially dirty jobs.

Managing data

In addition, the team has improved data management through a series of spreadsheets developed by Pabst, field supervisor. “Shawn has done a great job of organizing our data,” Dillon says. “It enables us to do a better job of sending out our crews and interacting with the homeowners.”

More precise location of force main relief valves is another benefit of the data management system. “We’ve captured that data,” Dillon explains. “We know the precise location and the standard operating procedures for repair or changeout. We’re not relying on memory.”

Brownsburg is not sitting on its laurels (or award plaques, if you will). Major challenges lie ahead. “We’ll be very busy in the next three years with a 44-acre sewer separation project,” says Dillon. “It will include new sidewalks, curbs, stormwater lines and widening of the street. Several departments will work together to minimize traffic disruptions while accomplishing everyone’s goals.”

The treatment plant will see some action, too. In addition to anticipated new phosphorus requirements, a replacement of the disinfection system and the contact pond is under design for construction two to three years out. “We will use a cloth-style filter followed by UV disinfection,” Dillon says. “This will be a modern, more reliable and safer approach to achieving compliance.

“We are also adding screening to the sanitary flows coming from the west side of the community” because, at present, there is no way to remove items such as baby wipes from that part of town. “We anticipate a reduction in pump clogging and possibly regaining plant capacity as a result of adding the screening process,” says Dillon.

It’s just another in a long line of improvements that help protect the environment and sustain a high quality of life for Brownsburg residents.



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