New wastewater facilities boast sterling record in Pal
After an era of neglect and occasional noncompliance, Palmyra’s wastewater treatment plant is well within the stringent Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management guidelines regulating its sinkhole discharge.
A small group of Palmyra town officials, employees and guests gathered Saturday morning to celebrate the conclusion of a $1.5 million project resulting in infrastructure repairs and improvements inside town limits and expansion and upgrades to the McCraken Road plant.
In contrast to the lack of attention the plant had received in years past, members of the current town board were ‘fanatical’ in pursuing the sewer project, said Luke Clippinger, district director for Indiana Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill. Town trustees are president Roy (Speedy) McClanahan, George Morgan and Carol Rowe.
The result of their tenacity was a $500,000 grant from the Indiana Dept. of Commerce and an additional $1 million from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Development department which was delivered as nearly half grant money and half a low-interest loan.
The new system went online Dec. 8 and the monthly averages for discharges in the various categories regulated by IDEM fell well within limits that month and each month since. A comparison to figures from March 2001 with March 2003, supplied by wastewater treatment plant operator James Pevlor, shows a remarkable contrast.
Suspended solids ‘ the most difficult waste for treatment facilities to remove because they can’t be skimmed from the surface or allowed to settle ‘ reached a maximum weekly average of 38.8 milligrams per liter during March 2001 at the old facility and a 14.9 mpl monthly average. IDEM allows a monthly average of 12.0 mpl.
Also during that month, ammonia and nitrogen levels averaged 9.8 mpl with 1.3 mpl allowed. The biological oxygen demand, the amount of oxygen lacking in the treated water, averaged 15.8 mpl with 8.3 mpl allowed.
During March 2003, the new facility and improved infrastructure reported monthly averages in mpl of .44 for suspended solids, .075 for ammonia and nitrogen, and .52 for biological oxygen demand. Since 2001, IDEM toughened the standard for ammonia and nitrogen to 1.1 mpl, but the other standards remain the same.
Requirements for the Palmyra plant are tougher than for plants like Corydon’s which discharges into Little Indian Creek. Palmyra’s treated wastewater discharges into Blue River via a sinkhole and natural limestone pipeline.
Corydon radiates the water with ultraviolet light before release to kill pathogens that might be harmful to those using the creek for recreation. IDEM does not mandate the practice in winter months, but for Palmyra’s sinkhole discharge, radiating with ultraviolet light is required year round, Pevlor said.
A number of factors, such as inefficient design, contributed to failings at the former plant, Pevlor said. But, he and George Morgan, the Palmyra town board trustee who oversaw the project, agreed that violations at the plant were mostly the result of rainwater entering breaks in the collection system and overwhelming the treatment process.
The former plant was registered to treat 99,000 gallons a day. Between two and three times that amount had passed through the plant during heavy rains and snow meltings. The new system is registered to treat 140,000 gallons per day.
Thanks to repairs to leaky manholes and breaks in sewer lines, the town expects growth, instead of rainwater, to push those limits in the future.
‘With a little creative work, we can double the capacity and still meet limits, and it’s designed to do that,’ Pevlor said.
The plant is experimenting with using surplus capacity to treat waste extracted from septic tanks at private residences in order to offset possible future increases in sewer rates, Pevlor said.