How a California WWTP Solved Its Debris Problem

The City of Ukiah, California, is a modest community of about 16,000 people set in the heart of Mendocino County. Construction of the city’s wastewater treatment plant was completed in 1958 when the city had a population of around 9,000. 

Since then, the population has grown by about 78% to a total of 16,000 residents. The plant’s five pumps are equipped to handle 2.8 mgd of dry weather flow, and 20 mgd of wet weather flow.

The challenge of unwanted debris

The problem of solid non-organic waste became an issue. Plant Supervisor Alan Hodge notes that “if it can get flushed down a toilet or sent into a manhole or a drain, we get it. Gravel, rocks, toys, potato chip bags, garbage, you name it.” Hodge reveals that when faced with this obstacle, they only had two solutions: manual removal or pump replacement.

Manual removal means sending in an operator to clear the debris. This is not only time- consuming, but dangerous as well. The alternative is to replace the whole pump once it has received extensive damage from clogging. Although it’s safer than manual removal, it’s very costly. 

“With the pumps taking in so much trash they would invariably fail at least once a year,” says Hodge. “They would fail and cause us to have to rebuild each one of those pumps literally once a year at the tune of about $100,000 apiece. So right there is a half million dollars to rebuild five pumps almost every single year.”

The Aqualitec solution

The solution was Aqualitec’s Screentec bar screen: a vertical bar screen filter system designed to remove any solid objects from wastewater and protect pumps from clogging. Aqualitec’s proprietary bar screen is vertically designed to fit headworks, pump stations, lift stations, wet wells and manholes. 

A stainless steel rake collects unwanted debris at the bottom of the frame, which can then be ejected upwards and prepared for disposal. This product proved to be a great solution for Hodge. “Since the Aqualitec bar screen was installed, we haven’t had to rebuild any of the pumps.” 

The Screentec Aqualitec becomes the first level of filtration used by wastewater treatment plants, and extends pumps’ life cycle while also improving the quality of wastewater treatment. And with no moving parts at the bottom of the frame, it can safely be operated from the top.

An affordable, quality solution

Screentec’s versatile design meant that it could be easily installed in Alan’s plant with minimal retrofitting needed. It also spared the danger of manual maintenance, while at the same time protecting expensive equipment. 

“The only manufacturer that provided a bar screen that could be installed and accommodate this plant design was Aqualitec. I’m very happy that we have this bar screen,” Hodge says. “That money is now allocated to training and maintenance issues with other equipment throughout.”

The Screentec design proved to be a good investment. By getting rid of its clogging issues, the Ukiah Wastewater Treatment Plant was able to save over half a million dollars every year, according to Hodge. Aqualitec’s solution meets the needs for reduced manual labor, lessens risk to operators, offers equipment reliability and increases protection of expensive pumps.

Aqualitec Corp. has been a worldwide leader in providing bar screens for pump stations and headworks to thousands of utilities for more than 30 years.

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