When Energy Efficiency Becomes Your Plant's Priority

Ken Noyes and his team set energy efficiency as a top priority while making systematic upgrades to the Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility.
When Energy Efficiency Becomes Your Plant's Priority
Kenneth Noyes, chief operator, Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility.

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Energy efficiency is part of the discussion in almost every upgrade at the Franklin (New Hampshire) Wastewater Treatment Facility.

It may not be the sole deciding factor, but it has been a key consideration in projects from aeration upgrades to dewatering improvements, pumping retrofits and roof replacements.

“Everybody is energy-conscious now,” says Kenneth Noyes, chief operator at the plant. “In everything we do, we’re trying to reduce energy consumption. I’m sure every treatment plant in the state and every plant in the country tries to do that. It’s an easy way to reduce costs, especially here in New England, where we have some of the highest energy rates around.”

The Franklin plant team has been steadily at work upgrading a facility built in 1979. Now, they’re preparing to deal with an effluent phosphorus limit that could be included in the plant’s next NPDES permit.

Regional treatment

The Franklin plant (11.5 mgd design flow, 5.5 mgd average) is part of the Winnipesaukee River Basin Program, a state-owned collections and treatment system serving 10 communities in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region with a total resident population of about 62,000 that swells dramatically during summer and winter tourist seasons.

The plant receives wastewater through 50 miles of interceptor sewers, fed by the community collections systems. The network includes 14 pump stations, all controlled by a SCADA system. Influent is largely residential. Noyes and his team, all employees of the state Department of Environmental Services, run the plant with a $4.2 million operating budget.

Noyes grew up and graduated from high school in Tilton, the “next town over” from Franklin. He worked for several years with an electronics company in roles that included industrial pretreatment. When that company closed up shop 27 years ago, he landed a second-shift operator position at the Franklin plant.

He took night classes through a community college to gain certification, ultimately earning Grade IV wastewater operator and Grade II collections system licenses. He progressed to Operator II and first-shift operations supervisor before taking his present position 10 years ago.

Conventional process

Today he oversees a basic activated sludge process. After a flume where influent flow is measured, the wastewater passes through two mechanical bar racks manufactured by E & I Corporation with 1.5-inch bars screens, followed by two aerated grit chambers (Sanitaire – a Xylem brand).

The rest of the process includes two primary clarifiers (750,000 gallons each), four aeration tanks with three bays each and two secondary clarifiers (1 million gallons each). After UV disinfection (Ozonia), effluent is discharged to the Merrimack River. Effluent averages 12 mg/L CBOD (permit 25 mg/L monthly average) and 11 mg/L TSS (permit 30 mg/L). At present, the plant is required only to report ammonia and phosphorus levels.

Primary and waste activated sludges, blended with septage (4.5 million gallons per year), are thickened and sent to two inground primary anaerobic digesters, followed by two secondary digesters with floating covers. Solids reduction averages 50 to 55 percent. Biogas from the digesters is burned to heat the main plant buildings and to supply process heat to the digesters.

“All last winter, we only used 270 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil for heating everything here,” says Noyes. “We would need 15,000 to 30,000 gallons if not for the digester methane.” The team has looked into adding generator sets for combined heat and power; so far that has not proven economically feasible.

Two centrifuges (GEA Westfalia) dewater the biosolids to about 25 percent solids. All of the Class B cake (597 dry tons last year) is applied to hay and cornfields by private contractor Resource Management, which handles all site selection and permitting.

Steady progress

Starting long before Noyes became chief operator, the Franklin plant has seen multiple improvements. “Around 1990, we changed from coarse-bubble to fine-bubble diffusers [Sanitaire],” says Noyes. “We paid for that upgrade in one year in reduced energy costs.”

Another project replaced nine centrifugal pumps used for moving sludges around the facility with positive displacement pumps (Moyno). Along with that project came a complete upgrade of the plant heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system by McQuay.

“In 2008, we replaced our plate-and-frame filter presses with the Westfalia centrifuges,” says Noyes. “The centrifuges consume more electricity, but they produce a drier cake and enable us to speed up production. We used to have a split shift working the presses until 9 p.m. from July to December, and we also had to work some Saturdays to keep up. With the centrifuges, we’re only running one shift and not putting in overtime. So it’s a net positive.”

The plant’s biggest energy project to date included the 2008 replacement of four aging positive displacement blowers with two 100 hp and two 150 hp high-speed turbo blowers. “We reduced our aeration energy consumption by about 50 percent and total facility energy consumption by 20 percent, while providing better system control,” Noyes says. “We reduced our annual power costs by $63,000 and cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 300 tons.”

The project cost $2 million, but half was covered by a grant under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (federal stimulus) and another $100,000 by an energy efficiency rebate from Public Service of New Hampshire (now Eversource Energy). “So the entire project cost us $900,000, and the payback on our blower investment was about four years,” says Noyes.

Career satisfaction

Saving energy is just one of the rewards Noyes finds in his profession. Another is leading an experienced and dedicated team. Arthur O’Connell, operations supervisor, has a Grade 3 wastewater license and functions as operator in charge when Noyes is away. Mark Corliss, an Operator II, also serves in a supervisory role.

“Most of our people have been here more than 10 years,” Noyes says. “They’re all good people. They like their work. We shift people around so they’re not on the same job all the time. I don’t have to tell them what to do. They know their responsibilities. If something goes wrong, we all jump in. We all get our feet wet.”

Like many operators, Noyes came to the profession by happenstance but quickly fell in love with it: “I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a treatment plant operator.’ I didn’t either. It’s something we fall into. I came to this plant and saw the tunnels with all the piping and electrical systems, and all the equipment. I learned that other than chlorine, no chemicals were used to treat the wastewater — it was all done with microorganisms. It was just fascinating.

“I also liked the idea of helping the environment. At the time I grew up, you didn’t swim in the rivers up here. The cities and towns and paper mills pretty much just dumped sewage into the water. If you looked in the river you’d see toilet paper going by. If the woolen mill was using orange dye one day, the river would be orange.”

Today, he says, the Pemigewasset, Winnipesaukee and Merrimack rivers are thriving: “They all have rainbow, brook and brown trout in them. Atlantic salmon were stocked in the Merrimack River close to where we discharge until last year when the government ended the program.”

The Franklin plant goes beyond its treatment function in helping protect the rivers. The team supports the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program by taking water samples upstream and downstream from the plant. In addition, the plant lab runs E. coli tests at no charge on samples taken each year by volunteers from 17 sampling sites on the river.

Plant team members and other volunteers also place rock baskets in the river above and below the outfall for several weeks each summer. Macroinvertebrates that colonize the rocks are later counted and identified to help create a comprehensive, long-term picture of the river’s health.

Inspiring others

In his spare time, Noyes serves on the five-member state certification committee for wastewater operator licensing. The committee interviews all licensees who pass Grade II and above, and Noyes uses that as a chance to offer a little inspiration. “I tell them I love the job I’m doing,” he says. “I tell them there are a lot of opportunities in the wastewater field: operations, lab, electronics, electrical, maintenance. It’s a big, diverse, great career. I can tell you there are some nice treatment plant operators coming up through the ranks.

“I also love giving tours of the treatment plant. People are always amazed at what happens here.  Most people never give it a thought of what happens after it leaves their house.”

As a member of the New Hampshire Water Pollution Control Association, Noyes takes opportunities to visit other plants: “Four times a year we have functions where we go meet other operators. If ever I have a question about some piece of equipment, I can call anyone in the state who has that same equipment and they’ll tell me the truth. That’s what’s nice about the network.

“The people who work in this industry are some of the best, in my book. I haven’t met a bad operator in the wastewater field.”

It Takes a Team

Ken Noyes received the 2014 New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) Operator of the Year award for New Hampshire. If he had his way, he would slice it up into 18 pieces for his colleagues at the Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility.

“I have a hard time with individual awards,” he says. “It takes everybody to run a treatment plant. I can’t do it on my own. My team members are all good people. They all should get awards. That’s the way I feel.”

Indeed, the entire team has won recognition by way of other awards citing the whole plant’s accomplishments. They include:

  • 2014 NEWEA George W. Burke, Jr. Safety Award
  • 2012 Governor’s Excellence in Energy Efficiency Award
  • 2006 U.S. EPA First Place Award in Plant Operations and Maintenance (large secondary plant category)
  • 1995 U.S. EPA Second Place Award in Outstanding Pretreatment Program

Noyes’ operations team includes Arthur O’Connell, operations supervisor; Mark Corliss, plant operator II; and operators Alan Kjellander, Kevin Whelan, Jason Young and Richard Brock.

The plant team also includes Kelly Potter, lab scientist; Don Watson, engineering technician; Craig Shippee, Stephen Sawicki, Tim Pelletier and Gary Grant, plant maintenance engineers; Stan Mitchell, John Spadafore, Jeff Winchell and Tony Brown, electrical/electronics team members; and Barbara Aube and Sharon McMillin, administration.

Greening the Roof

When replacing the 30-year-old original roof on the main building at the Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility, Ken Noyes and his team decided to go green. The new roof,
installed in 2009, includes a 200- by 75-foot section of vegetated green roof that covers half of the flat roof’s total surface. The
rest is covered by an energy-efficient, reflective white “cool roof” material.  

“A green roof minimizes stormwater runoff and helps reduce building cooling and heating loads,” says Noyes, chief operator at the plant. “It’s covered with plants native to New Hampshire.” Those include four varieties of sedum, a quick-growing ground cover with colorful flowers.

The green roof had to be limited in size because the gravel base and soil place a heavier load on the structure than a conventional roof. “It does look pretty when the plants flower,” Noyes says. “It’s built with cups that collect rainwater to sustain the plants through short dry spells. We water it every couple of weeks if we’re not getting enough rain.”

At the time of the green roof project, the main building also received a lighting upgrade to high-efficiency fluorescent lamps.


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