WARRENSBURG — Members of the Energy and Sustainability Task Force have a better understanding of the East Mechanical Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Members of the task force took a tour on Dec. 4.

Public Works Director Marvin Coleman, who is since retired, led Mayor Casey Lund, City Council member Scott Holmberg, ESTF Chairman Phil Miller and ESTF member Steve Fox through the plant used to process the sewage produced by the whole east side of Warrensburg.

“The main purpose for me was to explore the site and learn about the feasibility of the city of Warrensburg using solar energy to supply power for part or all of the electricity that is used at the east sewer facility,” Miller said.

The tour began with a look at land adjacent to the plant that is owned by the City of Warrensburg and is leased out for farming.

Coleman said the land generates about $5,000 a year for the city.

The tour continued on to the facility where Coleman explained the process of treating sewage.

The process begins as raw sewage enters the facility where it first passes through a grid or screen to remove larger items that can not be treated.

The sewage enters a Sequencing Batch Reactor that serves to separate the different materials in the sewage, microorganisms breakdown organic material and UV light disinfects.

Heavy metals settle to the bottom as oils and grease rise to the top, separating it from the sewage.

Coleman said a common problem for the facilities is that it has too much copper.

Copper is a pollutant of concern for the Environmental Protection Agency and is strictly monitored, along with lead, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc.

The EPA requires that the pollutants of concern entering wastewater that then flows into sewage be monitored.

The Department of Natural Resources National Pretreatment Program sets restrictions that municipalities must adopt.

Copper from pipes fleck and adhere to the oils and grease present in wastewater, adversely affecting how the copper is processed at the plant.

Coleman said home cooks and restaurants should be vigilant to be sure not to pour oils and grease down the drain.

Coleman said another substance of concern is phosphorus which is produced by soap and detergents and is mostly a concern from industries that rely heavily on the use of detergents, such as car washes.

The sludge is dried in drying beds or used to feed reed beds.

Coleman said the reeds repopulate every year and grow off the sludge.

The reeds and drying beds are used to remove water from the sludge.

Coleman said the remaining material is essentially black soil.

Coleman discussed a few of the difficulties of the plant as occasional power surges from Evergy, non-flushable items found in the sewage and runoff water.

Due to the location of the plant, it occasionally has power surges but the plant is equipped with generators in the case of an emergency.

Coleman said even items that are not designed to be flushed are found at the Wastewater Treatment Facilities, including disposable wipes, applicators for feminine hygiene products and condoms.

“If it’ll flush down a toilet, it ends up here,” Coleman said.

Coleman also discussed how the city has worked to prevent people from directing their downspouts into the wastewater pipes and where older wastewater pipes are broken, introducing water into the system that should be runoff.

“I had a few take-aways,” Miller said. “I learned that there is a good amount of land available for solar. I learned that we have a copper standard for the water the city discharges that is a concern because of copper from the pipes in our homes getting into the water and then attaching itself to grease that is in the water … I learned about how much material that shouldn’t be flushed down our toilets is unfortunately being flushed down.

“One of my hopes for the city is that it can get some value out of the sewage some way, either in money received for the composted materials from the reed bed system we have now, or changing to a new system. One idea would be for the sewage to be used to produce gas that would then be used to generate electricity for the facility. This facility uses a great amount of electricity every month.”

The ESTF discussed the tour and how to educate the public at its Dec. 5 meeting.

“It was fascinating,” Holmberg said. “I learn every time we go. The city is a lot more complex animal to run than people think.”

“I think the low-hanging fruit of what we learned yesterday is the fats, oils and grease and the wet wipes, as far as an educational campaign,” Lund said.

Fox said he is concerned with the amount of runoff that is introduced into the wastewater system from broken clay pipes.

Lund discussed how a rubber coating of wastewater pipes could reduce or prevent wastewater leaks out of the pipes and runoff entering the pipes.

Lund said it was important to know about the land adjacent to the plant as a possible place for solar energy and the importance of improving infrastructure in the city so funds are not expended in processing pollutants of concern and groundwater.

Staff Writer Sara Lawson can be reached by emailing sara.lawson@dsjnow.com or by calling (660) 747-8123.

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