This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Open house, water treatment plant

The water treatment plant next to Iroquois Park had an open house on Thursday to let the public see what the renovation of the plant had accomplished. Over the past few years I have occasionally mentioned the treatment the water gets in Rensselaer as well as a few posts about the renovation. However, most of the work was done inside and so did not lend itself to pictures by a curious citizen.

I was eager to see what had been done inside, and the first stop on the tour was the chlorine room. Chlorine is the active ingredient in bleach, but household bleach is about 95% water. The chlorine in the tanks is 100% chlorine. Its purpose is to kill any microbes that are in the water. The presence of chlorine in the water makes it taste bad, so if you do not like tap water, it is probably because of the chlorine. (However, it you put a bottle of tap water in the refrigerator for a day, the chlorine oxidizes out and you no longer have the bad taste. It is a lot cheaper than buying bottled water.)
The next stop on the tour was the room the contained a barrel of fluoride, an additive that hardens tooth enamel. (I suspect that a reason that I ended up with as many fillings as I did was because I grew up before adding fluoride was routine.)
There is also a small laboratory for testing the water.
At the end of the hallway are two brine pumps. The brine pool is outside of the building and its construction was one of the few parts of the project that was visible to the public. The two metal boxes are dehumidifiers. One of the improvements of the project was better control of humidity, which will reduce corrosion of pipes and equipment.
Then it was time to go upstairs. The old plant had a large pool that looked like an indoor swimming pool. This was a sedimentation pond that allowed sand to settle out. The old pump houses produced water with a lot of sand. The two new pump houses, which draw the water from a deeper depth extend into bedrock, do not produce much sand, so the sedimentation ponds were no longer needed. The space that they formerly occupied is now used for other purposes. On the upper level the space is used for an office. However, the noise from the equipment makes the space less than ideal for office use, and the desks may end up in different locations.

The entire water pumping and treatment system is automated and it can be monitored and controlled from the office. The two water towers that Rensselaer has store water and maintain water pressure. The newer one south of town has a capacity of 400,000 gallons and the older one has a capacity of 200,000 gallons. The level of water in the older water tower controls the pumps in the water treatment plant.
Another screen shows a schematic of the entire system.
Here is a summary of how the system works. When the water in the water tower falls below a certain level, it triggers the start up of a pump in the water treatment plant. That pump takes water from one of the two clear wells, which are storage tanks under on the east end of the treatment plant that hold about 400,000 gallons of water, and forces it through a filter system and a water softener and into the water pipes leading to the water towers. When the water in the clear wells falls below a certain level, the pumps at the pump houses are turned on and water flows to the water treatment plant. It enters through an aerator on the roof of the west end of the building and then flows into one of the clear wells. The purpose of the aerator is to remove the hydrogen sulfide from the water. With the new wells there is not much hydrogen sulfide in our water, but the old wells produced water that had a lot.

A small room on the second floor is full of electrical circuit boxes and controls. The box below contains a lot of the wiring that allows the whole system to work automatically.
The second floor room on the east end of the building contains most of the equipment that treats the water. Notice that the pipes have three different colors. The green pipes contain water that is fresh from the clear wells. (I had to ask about the term "clear well." It simply refers a reservoir of water.) After if goes through the filtration system, on the right of the picture, it comes out in the light blue pipes. It then enters the water softeners and it emerges from them in the darker blue pipes. The tan pipe on the right is used to flush the water filters--it is the way that they are cleaned. They drain into a pit at the end if the building.
The filtering tanks are mostly outside of the building and can be seen on the south side. However, you will not normally get this view--the public is not supposed to be here except on special occasions like an open house. During the renovation, these tanks were cut open and cleaned, and then welded back together.
On west end of the treatment hall is equipment to regulate humidity and temperature, something that was lacking.
This is a peek into one of the clear wells. There is water down there somewhere.
These are the pumps that push water through the treatment equipment and out into the water distribution pipes. They can operate a variable speeds, which saves electricity.
After the tour I stopped by the building next to the treatment plant, a building that used to be part of the treatment system to enjoy some snacks and to talk to people. Notice the picture displays. They contained a complete explanation of what had been done. I hope that they can be shown at some other venues for people who did not get a chance to visit the plant today. I got to talk to a representative from the engineering firm that designed the plant and asked how other communities treated their water. She said that it varied a lot from community to community. Some places get water from lakes or rivers, and their treatment is completely different. The filtration takes out iron and manganese and if Rensselaer had slightly lower iron levels, we could do without the filtration. The water softening is not necessary but is an option the community has chosen. If the city did not soften water, many households would do it instead. The city eliminates the need for households to soften their own water.
The Donna C brought out the guest book from the open house that the water treatment plant had when it opened in 1979. I was able to find my name in it and added my name again on the pages for the 2013 open house.

I missed the ribbon cutting because I had to be somewhere else this morning. I am glad I was able to attend the open house.

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