Monday, July 09, 2007

Is Connecticut's Clean Water Fund a Waste of Effort and Money?

A fellow named Grant Weaver, who is president of a company in New London that does wastewater treatment plant operations and c onsulting, says Connecticut's Clean Water Fund results in pork barrel spending that isn't really necessary for treatment plants to do nitrogen removal. Here is part of what he wrote, in yesterday's New London Day:

If not lobby for more money for more equipment, what are the friends of Long Island Sound to do? Short answer: Raise your expectations. Empower wastewater personnel and expect them to be more successful. The results — as I have observed in Norwich, Willimantic, Waterbury, Cranston, R.I., Newport, R.I., and elsewhere — will be dramatic. The people who operate and maintain wastewater treatment equipment convert sewage into clean water. Most are proud of their work. The machinery that Clean Water Funds provide merely processes waste.

One of The Day articles used the Mystic wastewater treatment plant as an example. For years, the facility was not adequately serving the needs of Mystic. Six years of recently concluded planning shows that a $15 million Clean Water Fund expenditure is needed for the Mystic sewage treatment plant “to improve water quality.”

While the experts were doing their planning, the treatment plant staff took it upon themselves to make the facility work better. Today, with little to no investment in new equipment, the Mystic wastewater treatment plant is doing a very good job protecting the environment. This summer's nitrogen discharge is just one-third of last year's. Using the equipment on hand, an educated, dedicated wastewater treatment plant work force made changes. How? Why? Because they stubbornly believed they could.

The Mystic story has been repeated elsewhere. Six years ago, a minor investment in the Willimantic wastewater treatment plant provided the equipment for that facility's staff to bring the nitrogen discharge under state requirements. No Clean Water Funds were used.

Michael Gerardi, Penn State University professor and author of “Nitrification and Denitrification in the Activated Sludge Process,” is working with the Farmington wastewater-treatment-plant staff to reduce the release of nitrogen at little to no capital expense. His work is not complete, but the early efforts are encouraging. Because he has been successful at dozens of treatment plants around the country, I am confident that he and the Farmington treatment plant staff will, before the end of summer, reduce the nitrogen to state guidelines.

Unfortunately these are the kinds of assertions that I'm in no position to contradict or confirm. But perhaps someone in the Connecticut DEP or at Connecticut Fund for the Environment has an opinion on it?



Anonymous robert said...

Its very hard to judge the accuracy of Mr. Weaver's claims because no specifics were provided. For example:

"Using the equipment on hand, an educated, dedicated [Mystic] wastewater treatment plant work force made changes. How? Why? Because they stubbornly believed they could."

I guess its sort of like when Wendy learns to fly. But its that Pixie Dust I want to hear more about.

Seriously, there are many improvements a wastewater treatment plant can achieve by tweaking the existing facility. But in the case of nitrogen removals down to the levlels required by the LIS TMDL, often capital improvements are

If Mr. Weaver claims substantial capital improvements are not needed to reduce nitrogen discharge to the mandated levels at any of the treatment plants now discharging to the Sound, he is wrong.

5:34 PM  

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