Heated streets in Avon may help Eagle River | VailDaily.com

Heated streets in Avon may help Eagle River

Matt Terrell
Avon, CO Colorado
People have been flushing more than usual amounts of disinfecting wipes and other non-flushable material. People need to stop doing that.
Kristin Anderson

AVON, Colorado ” Fish in the Eagle River could benefit from a proposed project in Avon, Colorado that would use excess heat created by the wastewater treatment plant to melt snow on the town’s future Main Street.

It takes a lot of energy to treat water and solid waste, and there’s a lot of heat that’s generated, but not reused.

By capturing this heat and transferring it to a chemical mixture that would be pumped to downtown Avon beneath the streets, the sidewalks could be ice-free and safer to walk on, all without creating nearly as much pollution as a traditional system run entirely by gas fired boilers. The town also wants to use the system to heat the recreation center pool.

An overlooked benefit though is how this system could make the Eagle River a much more hospitable place for fish.

The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which runs the wastewater plant, says this system could be a good way to cool off water before it’s put back in the Eagle River. Cooler water is better for fish, but the plant’s effluent, or treated water, is often warmer than the river.

It’s possible that the state will soon set temperature standards for the river, and this would be a way to plan for those possible regulations, said Diane Johnson, community relations manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

“When we get rid of that excess heat and it’s cooled, that’s good for the environment and health of the river,” Johnson said.

It’s possible the sanitation district could also save money on operating costs. There are stages of water treatment that require lots of heat, and reusing it could make everything more efficient. The district may be able to reduce the amount of expensive polymers used to treat solid waste.

“There’s part of our process where we need a lot of heat, and if we can get that heat by capturing it form elsewhere, that’s great,” she said. “It’s taking the heat away from where you don’t want it, and putting it places where you do need it.”

Last week, Gov. Bill Ritter announced this heat-recovery project would be awarded a $1.4 million grant through the New Energy Communities Initiative ” a program designed to promote energy efficient projects.

“Despite tight economic conditions, this project received significant support because of the project scope, degree of innovation, and because we have already demonstrated our other sustainability efforts,” said Jenny Strehler, Avon’s Director of Public Works and Transportation.

Without the grant, Avon likely would have to back out of the snowmelt project because of the expense, town manager Larry Brooks said.

The heat recovery snowmelt system would cost around $3.68 million to install. This would be $1.2 million more than a traditional snowmelt system with gas-fired boilers would cost. Traditional snowmelt, while cheaper to install, would have too large a carbon footprint, Brooks said.

The project isn’t a done deal yet. The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District Board is still mulling over how big a role it wants in the project, and how the cost would be shared between the district and Avon. While the benefits to Avon have been easy to see, the benefits to the treatment plant relative to the cost are still being debated, Johnson said.

“The initial project has lots of benefits for Avon, which are apparent and we’re supportive of, but not necessarily at lots of cost for the district,” Johnson said. “We’re looking at what other benefits are there for the district, and in order to achieve hose savings, how much more does it cost.”

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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