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Indian Hills ready for royal flush

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

The Indian Hills General Improvement District’s new sewer plant is nearly finished, and it’s brought up an interesting question.

“How do you celebrate the opening of a sewer plant?” mused district manager Jim Bentley. “Do you have a luncheon or a ribbon cutting or what?”

A royal flush might be in order. Whatever the solution, Bentley and other improvement district officials are pleased the $1.6 million project will be completed on time, and they are preparing to switch more than 1,600 customers to it.

“This is a a major project for the district,” said Bentley. “The old system was getting extremely old and expensive to fix. This can handle an extra 100,000 gallons a day, which is another 400 customers.”

The existing plant, in operation since the 1970s, can handle 500,000 gallons of wastewater a day. It used a series of ponds to hold sludge, but some of those ponds have already been cleaned out and will now be used to hold treated wastewater from the new plant.

Bentley said the wastewater will meet requirements known as “10-10-10,” shorthand for a technical number that reflects the amount of dissolved solids left in sewage.

“This will produce effluent that is much cleaner than what is required now, and if the regulations get tightened, we can probably meet them,” said Bentley. “The old system just couldn’t do that.”

Parts of the system are being tested. Bentley said the headworks, where the sewage enters the plant, were turned on Thursday. Monday, the diffusers will be started.

At the headworks, the sewage is filtered and sent to one of two reactor basins.

The basins can each hold 300,000 gallons. They contain aerators that will filter the water, and bacteria will be used to clean it. Bentley said the system is designed so the clean water moves to the top.

When the top layer of water reaches “10-10-10” status, a mechanical decanter moves it into a storage basin.

The plant has an on-site laboratory and its own telemetry system. Its work can be monitored remotely, but one person is still needed to operate it.

Bentley predicted work should be complete by Wednesday. The plant will need 30 to 60 days before it is operating fully so that the managers can make sure everything works properly and perfect the bacterial treatment mix.

The district borrowed $1.3 million and paid for the rest using existing sewer plant reserve funds. Bentley said the project shouldn’t mean any rate increases for sewer customers.