Local wastewater treatment plant turns sewage into useful products

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The City of Eau Claire is bringing a more efficient way to treat sewage after overhauling its wastewater treatment plant in 2016.

Ty Fadness is a utility chemist for the City of Eau Claire.

“It’s about 8 million gallons that come here every day and all 8 million are going back into the Chippewa River,” he said. “Our main mission is to clean the water as greatly as possible so when it enters the Chippewa River, it is improving the life and the habitat along the Chippewa River.”

He said the newer process of treating sewage is nearly perfect.

“Our treatment has greatly improved with the activated sludge system; we remove about 99% of solids, 99% of carbon and over 95% of phosphorus and nitrogen,” he said.

The city began construction on the plant in 2013 and finished in 2016. The cost of the project was $40 million dollars. Utilities Manager Lane Berg said it was worth every penny.

“We see 99% efficiencies of removal of materials and organic matter.”

According to Fadness, the science backs it up.

“Since bacteria are what are doing the treatment of the water, we want to create an environment where the right bacteria are proliferating,” he said. “If we don’t get the right bacteria, we won’t get the right treatment.”

Berg said the process is so effective; the water discharged is cleaner than the water in the Chippewa River.

“We did some whole effluent toxicity testing, or W.E.T testing, as it’s called. We take samples of our effluent and raw water samples from the Chippewa River and we send that to the DNR where they raise minnows in those environments. Our effluent was almost 100% survivability and the actual Chippewa River water was not nearly as good.”

Utilities Engineer Cole Cloutier said the plant takes pride in their work.

“There is a fairly small group of guys down here at the plant that keep the whole entire sewer system operational,” he said. “We take what you flush down the toilet and turn it into good products.”

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