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New plant watering future growth

Cliff Thompson

Most residents didn’t notice when the new, 5-million-gallons-per-day water plant in Edwards came online last October.

The new $12 million microfiltration plant is expected to produce enough water to meet demands for the next decade, depending on the pace of development, says Dennis Gelvin, general manager of Eagle River Water and Sanitation, which operates the plant.

When more growth uses up the excess capacity and expansion is needed, additional filter banks and pumps will be installed, bringing the plant’s capacity to 10 million gallons per day.

The new plant is online in time to service the summer irrigation season, when water demand is at its greatest.

A maze of pipes

Board members of the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority toured the plant Thursday morning. The 16,000-square-foot facility is a maze of pipes and lines and computers. There’s more than two miles of water mains and smaller pipes curling throughout the building, monitored by banks of computers and sensors and electrical boards.

Powering it all is a series of massive, but quiet, 350-horsepower electric pumps that can push up to 3.5 million gallons of water per day each through the system, Fiddler said. The system operates at 45 pounds per square inch, are roughly household water pressure..

Operated by a small staff, the plant has the technological capability for remote operation, Gelvin says.

The art of water treatment

Treating water is part chemistry, part biology and part fluid dynamics. Raw water enters the plant near The Reserve subdivision in Edwards and is first pre-treated with chlorine to remove iron and to disinfect it; then it is treated with potassium permanganate to remove manganese. From the there, the water is run through a series of microfiltration banks that take out particles as small as one micron. That’s made possible by high-tech plastic filters with a seven-year operating life. The filters even remove giardia, a naturally occurring parasite found in rivers and streams that can cause intestinal distress.

The filters are backflushed every 90 minutes to clean them, says Tom Fiddler, water management supervisor for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. They’re also periodically chemically cleaned to remove organic and metals that have accumulated, Fiddler says. Those chemicals are refurbished and reused. The material cleaned from the filters is piped to the Squaw Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The process is constantly monitored for fluxuations in its turbidity and makeup, and the treatment adjusts according to what the raw water supply is doing. During spring runoff, the water quality changes constantly.

Redundancy is good

To make sure the plant is as reliable as it can be, most of the systems have double redundancy – some even have triple redundancy. If the electricity to the plant ceases, a diesel generator instantly kicks in to keep it operating.

The addition of another water plant into the loop of the valley’s water distribution system also gives the entire system redundancy. In February, the value of that was demonstrated when the Avon Water Treatment Plant was taken off-line for maintenance and the new Edwards plant encountered difficulties and also was taken off-line, leaving only the East Vail wells to supply the entire eastern half of the county for a day until the plants were returned to service.

Fiddler’s computer has an interactive graphic of all the systems of the plant. Each can be queried from the screen and adjustments to operating protocol also can be made.

To save money the plant is operated on a minimal basis until electric usage rates change later in the day, says the district’s Steve Wilson.

“We then max out operations while rates are cheap for maximum efficiency,” Wilson says.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com.


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