STANFORD — An approximately $7 million upgrade to Stanford's wastewater treatment plant that began in mid 2011 is all but complete, providing the city with about half again as much sewer capacity as before.
Water Department Manager Ryan Owens said it should only take a few more weeks to make final "tweaks" to the system and wrap up the project.
The upgrade includes a digester and "rotary fan press" for compressing sludge — the final, mud-like substance leftover after processing sewage — for transport to a landfill, Water Department employee John Crowe said.
Crowe said Stanford's fan press is one of only two he knows of in the whole state. Most facilities use "belt presses," which consume much larger amounts of water and require constant monitoring while in operation, he added.
Prior to constructing the on-site processing facilities, Stanford had to pay private companies to process the waste.
The project also included installation of a new ultraviolet water-sterilization system, a 5.5-million-gallon overflow lagoon and additional processing facilities.
When everything is completed, the total processing capability of the plant will be expanded from around 832,000 gallons of sewage per day up to approximately 1.2 million gallons, Owens said.
Crowe said the addition of another ditch for processing sewage has boosted the amount of oxygen in the water discharged from the plant.
Prior to the upgrade, water leaving the plant had an oxygen-content rating of about eight parts per million. Now, the oxygen content is about 10 parts per million, he said.
The plant's permit requires it output water with an oxygen content of at least six parts per million.
Other, smaller upgrades include the addition of two non-potable water pumps that reduce the amount of drinkable water the plant consumes and a filter screen, which catches trash that winds up in the sewer system.
Crowe said employees previously had to manually clear away trash and the many strange things — including a baby cow and an orange jumpsuit from the Lincoln jail — that would somehow find their way to the plant through the sewer pipes.
The plant upgrade began in May 2011, about a year and a half after the state issued a ban on any new connections to Stanford's sewage system because it was overloaded.
The plant had been operating at or above capacity since 2006, according to The Interior Journal's archives.
Stanford received more than $2 million in grant funding for the project from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. It also received about $4.2 million in low-interest loans that were intended to be paid back over the course of 40 years.
Owens said the plant now has enough capacity to serve Stanford's needs for the next 15-20 years, depending on population growth.