News Briefs: Operators Say Hand-Washing, Bleaching Is Affecting WWTP Bacteria

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, utility workers for El Paso (Texas) Water say they’ve had to unclog a lift station pump more than 20 times in a 24-hour period due to residents flushing PPE

Wastewater treatment plant operators at the Liberty Lake (Washington) Sewer and Water District are speculating that all the hand-washing and sanitizing during the COVID-19 pandemic is thinning out the wastewater plant’s bacteria.

The bacterial colonies that aid the treatment processes are dying off as a result of all the soaps and disinfectants being used in people’s homes.

“We’re a little at a loss, because we can’t tell people, stop washing your hands or using bleach,” Adams tells the Spokesman-Review. “What we’re trying to do now is wait out the storm, if you will.”

Officials at Liberty Lake have notified the Washington Department of Ecology about the problem, and now the department is looking for others in the state with similar experiences.

See Photos of Decommissioned WWTP Demolition

In early May, the City of Bloomington (Indiana) Utilities Department started demolition on its decommissioned Griffy Water Treatment Plant this week. The plant supplied drinking water sourced from Griffy Lake from 1925 until 1996, when Lake Monroe became Bloomington’s sole water source and the plant was taken out of service.

The demolition of the structure is scheduled for substantial completion within 90 days, after which the site will be restored to a natural meadow that can be enjoyed by visitors to the Cascades Park Trail and, when complete, the Griffy Loop Trail.

“CBU has been committed to the remediation of the Griffy site, and we are glad to resolve it safely after almost three years,” says Utilities Director Vic Kelson. “Although we wish it had been practical to preserve the structure for a new use, we’re pleased that the site will be restored to a natural landscape and serve our community as a recreational area.” 

If you scroll down past the press release on this page, Jeremy Hogan of the Bloomingtonian took some great photos of the decommissioned plant during demolition.

El Paso Lift Station Sees 20 PPE Clogs in 24 Hours

Utility workers for El Paso (Texas) Water say they’ve had to unclog pumps at one of its lift stations more than 20 times in a single 24-hour period due to residents flushing wipes, face coverings and latex gloves.

The infrastructure at the lift station is state-of-the-art, according to water officials, and is only two years old. They hadn’t experienced any problems prior to the quarantine.

“All the problems we've had at this lift station have started since everybody started working and practicing safe practices at home,” utility spokesperson Carlos Briano says, according to Newsweek. “We want people to continue to do that. Continue to stay at home, continue to go to school at home. Just don’t flush anything down the system that is not toilet paper or something your body made.”

California Representative Urges Congress to Fund Water Infrastructure

Rep. TJ Cox of California led seven of his colleagues in sending a letter to House of Representatives leadership calling for any COVID-19 infrastructure stimulus package to include Bureau of Reclamation infrastructure. 

Bureau of Reclamation facilities supply drinking water for 31 million people.

“As Congress continues working to respond to the economic impacts of the pandemic, we must include funding for Bureau of Reclamation projects, especially those that increase our water storage capacity,” says Cox. “Upgrading water infrastructure in the Central Valley is overdue and the economic recovery is an opportunity to address these critical needs.”


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