Attention to the Basics Drives Success for Two Clean-Water Plants in a Suburban Phoenix Community

Two water reclamation plants in a growing Phoenix suburb are facing expansion. Energetic operations teams keep them running smoothly.

Attention to the Basics Drives Success for Two Clean-Water Plants in a Suburban Phoenix Community

Lonnie Minton, operator II, at the Beardsley Water Reclamation Facility in Peoria, Arizona.

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When Hector Delgadillo talks about meat and potatoes, he doesn’t mean dinner.

He’s talking about his staff at the Jomax and Beardsley Water Reclamation Facilities serving Peoria, Arizona. “They do a great job day in and day out,” Delgadillo says. “They take pride in what they do. I can’t say enough about them.”

Delgadillo, water treatment supervisor, oversees the plants, both activated sludge facilities. Jomax (2.25 mgd design) serves the community of Vistancia, just west of the Agua Fria River. Beardsley (4.0 mgd design) serves the northwest portion of Peoria. Both reclaim 100% of their effluent, and both face expansion as this suburban Phoenix community continues to grow while water resources remain scarce.

And that staff Delgadillo is so proud of? At Jomax, Tom Jessing is the lead operator, with operators Crystal Roy, Jonathon Heyland and David Schroeder. At Beardsley, the lead operator is Jacob Hunter with operators Lonnie Minton, Randy Loehr and Lisbeth Cresbo. “They are as good as they come,” Delgadillo says.

Advanced processes

The two plants are designed for biological nutrient removal using extended aeration and sand filtration. Both produce a Class A-plus water quality for reuse, following water quality standards for the highest classification set by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

At Jomax, wastewater enters through an influent pumping station. In the headworks, a Muffin Monster grinder (JWC Environmental) chews up rags and other solids and compacts them. That is followed by a mechanical screen (Parkson Corp.) a grit classifier (Lakeside).

Paddle mixers and a splitter box follow, directing the water to three intermittent-cycle aeration basins that operate in the extended aeration mode and are equipped with APG-Neuros Turbo Blowers. Gardner Denver centrifugal blowers serve as backup.

The basins accomplish nitrification and denitrification before the water passes to a pair of clarifiers. Three travelling bridge shallow-bed sand filters remove remaining solids; the effluent is UV disinfected (Trojan Technologies) with sodium hypochlorite addition as needed. Biosolids are centrifuged (GEA Group) to 18-20% solids and landfilled.

Final effluent is discharged to a 1.5 million-gallon nonpotable reservoir and then piped to the Vistancia development for irrigation of golf courses, highway landscapes and parks, and for water features. Reuse demand is steady during summer, but in winter some effluent is discharged to the McMicken Wash.

The pace of development at Vistancia dictates development at Jomax. At present the plant treats 1 mgd on average. Phased expansions will increase design capacity to 3 mgd and finally 6 mgd.

A recent improvement at the plant has reduced energy costs and maintenance. Operator Crystal Roy explains that every couple of years the mechanical mixers in the return activated sludge basin had to be replaced or rebuilt, at a cost of about $10,000. “We did a search online and found an aeration cylinder called Well Wizard [Reliant Water Technologies],” she says.

One was placed in the return activated sludge tank and a second in the aeration basin, with good operating results and significant power savings, Roy reports.

For performance and improvements like that, the Jomax plant received the 2021 Small Treatment Plant of the Year award from the Arizona Water Environment Association. “It was a nice thing,” says Delgadillo. “With only four operators, the plant is compliant, super clean and very well cared for. And it’s providing A-plus quality water for reuse.” 

Similar process

The Beardsley plant is older but similar. The main difference is a single large aeration basin, instead of three, for biological nutrient removal. Lead operator Jake Hunter says the plant is nearing its 4 mgd capacity and is being expanded to 6 mgd as 2021 ends: “We’re running at 3-4 mgd depending on the day, or about 90% of capacity.”  

Influent first passes through an automatic bar screen (Parkson) and a vortex grit system (John Meunier). The single aeration basin can be set up to run in several different modes. “It’s kind of neat,” says Hunter. “It’s customizable, depending on RAS and influent flows.”

As of fall 2021, it was being operated in an anoxic-anoxic-aerated configuration with Hibon - Ingersoll Rand and Hoffman & Lamson centrifugal blowers and diffused membrane aerators (Sanitaire, a Xylem brand). Three secondary clarifiers follow, and effluent is filtered in three veteran travelling bridge sand filters. A Trojan4000UV system disinfects the final flow.

The effluent passes to one or more of nine nearby recharge basins. While the quality is A-plus by Arizona standards, only B-plus quality is required.

Improved odor control is an important recent development at Beardsley. Previously a wet chemical scrubber was used, but it’s been replaced with a BOHN BIOFILTER bio scrubber. The operators like the new unit, which saves 50% on chemicals. Until the next expansion, Beardsley has no biosolids treatment; the material is sent to the city’s Butler treatment facility for processing before landfilling.

Future challenges

As the community grows and the need for reclaimed water increases, innovations and improvements lie ahead for both plants. At Jomax, along with the increase in capacity, the plant is slated for a new biological earthen odor scrubber. Additional recharge basins will be constructed, and aeration systems will be automated.

But the change the staff most eagerly awaits is a new 10,000-square-foot operations center. For now the team works out of a modified double-wide trailer. “We’re catering to a new generation of operators,” says Delgadillo. “The new building will feature ergonomic seating and open areas for meetings.”

It will also contain multi-use rooms, an operator gym and coffee bar, outside patio seating, rainwater harvesting, electric cart and vehicle charging stations, and solar panels.

At Beardsley, the expansion to 6 mgd means keeping everything running while the work takes place. Hunter says the team must decide which equipment to keep until the expansion is competed, and which to replace now because it’s reached the end of its useful life:

“It’s a question of where and when to spend the money.”

Effluent from the Butler treatment plant will be sent to Beardsley in the future, to produce more high-quality reclaimed water. A 9-mile pipeline will direct Beardsley effluent to new recharge basins in Paloma Park in the northern section of the region. Odor control will also be upgraded at Beardsley.

At both plants, there are plans to reduce power consumption. “The blowers take a lot of energy,” says Delgadillo. “At Beardsley, we’re looking at taking out the old centrifugal blowers in favor of APG-Neuros turbo blowers.” Both plants will also get TrojanSigmaUV systems.

Training and learning

The staffs at Jomax and Beardsley will have no trouble learning the ropes of any new processes or management techniques: The city provides training through Peoria Service Excellence University courses. The online program allows city employees to study communication and leadership, management and supervision, city finance, and more for professional development.

“The operator supervisory academy is a one- to two-year program, with certification at the end,” Delgadillo says, “It allows the operators to hone their skills, take on future leadership roles and fill vacancies left by retiring employees.”

Peoria also takes full advantage of vendor training and enthusiastically practices mentorship: “Our people share their experience with new operators. In some cases, I do it too.”

Maintenance and process troubleshooting is well organized as well. The plants rely on a computerized maintenance management system (Hanson) that produces work orders and records follow-up.

Family atmosphere

While the plant of the year award and the excellent training are highlights at Peoria, It’s the staff that makes things tick. It begins with Delgadillo, who years ago took his brother’s advice to look at wastewater for a career. He self-studied, passed the state exams, and now has 25 years of experience in everything from oxidation ditches to membranes. He still gets excited watching the microorganisms in the microscope.

That level of experience and know-how extends throughout the Jomax and Beardsley staffs.

At Jomax plant, lead operator Tom Jessings started with the city 19 years ago in wastewater collections. He took training courses, eventually achieved his Grade 4 certification, and was involved in the startup of the Jomax plant. He worked his way up to lead operator.

Roy is also in charge of the laboratory. “In school we took a field trip to a constructed wetland,” she recalls. “I was interested and got a position as an intern, and that got my foot in the door.” She came to Jomax after experience in large and small plants in Arizona and California.

John Heyland holds Grade 4 certification and six years of experience in the industry. David Schroeder joined the staff as an intern and has 12 years of experience. He has Grade 2 wastewater, Class 4 collection, and Class 3 distribution certifications.

Beardsley lead operator Jake Hunter (Grade 4) has 13 years in the industry with experience in industrial and private wastewater operations. Lonnie Minton (Grade 3) had a long career in operations including five years in Peoria. Randy Loehr (Grade 3) is also a longtime city team member who has worked in the engineering department.

Lisbeth Cresbo (Grade 2) came to the plant nearly two years ago; she took an interest in wastewater treatment while working for the janitorial service that cleans the Peoria plants. She recently acquired her Grade 2 operator classification.

Mutual trust

“It’s a small crew and we rely on each other,” says Hunter. “There’s no one here I don’t trust.”

Robert Garcia, utilities operations manager, observes, “Peoria team members pride themselves on quality service to the community. We live by the motto, ‘PEORIA: Professional, Ethical, Open, Responsible, Innovative, and Accountable.’”

That’s the way Delgadillo feels about the entire team: “We strive for everyone to get certified and advance their careers. I care for each one as if they were my family, brothers and sisters.”   


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