The Big Flush – Alabaster celebrates expansion of treatment plant

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 15, 2004

They called it the &uot;Big Flush.&uot;

On Saturday, June 12, the city of Alabaster dedicated its newly expanded 7.6 million gallon capacity wastewater treatment plant.

The facility opened to the public was built for the contract cost of $10.3 million. But with engineering fees and other costs added in, the expansion came to a total of $11.9 million according to

Kenneth Hill Jr., director of environmental services.

&uot;Three and a half years ago, we were out of sewer capacity. And in order to grow retail and residential (developments) you have to have sewer. If we had not figured out how to build this plant we wouldn’t have retail such as Colonial,&uot; said Alabaster City Councilmember Tommy Ryals.

Ryals, who serves on the Alabaster Sewer Committee, said, &uot;The sewer (capacity) dictates you residential and commercial growth.&uot;

Alabaster Mayor David Frings noted with the plant expansion, &uot;We have the largest (wastewater treatment) capacity on the Buck Creek System.&uot;

And he said the expansion provides the necessary facilities to handle the potential growth of the city.

As a testament to the future growth potential of Alabaster, Hill said the expansion allows Alabaster the capacity to treat 7.6 million gallons of wastewater per day while the plant currently averages only about 2.3 million gallons of wastewater treatment per day.

To help pay for the expansion, Frings said sewer rates were raised on commercial customers. Residential rates, he said, were raised by a previous City Council.

&uot;Now the sewer plant pays for itself by funds from sewer revenues,&uot; Frings said.

Colonial Trust Properties is building what is being touted as the largest shopping center in Shelby County in the Interstate 65, Exit 238 re-development area of Alabaster.

The land may also be the site of a city center will city hall, police station and other facilities, according to comprehensive plan suggestions.

According to information provided by Hill, Alabaster’s environmental services are divided into two operational units … environmental collections and wastewater treatment.

Collections is responsible for a network of sewer lines (main and secondary) and pump stations.

Alabaster has about 100 miles of main line and about 150 miles of secondary lines spread mostly throughout subdivisions.

Pump stations are used to pump wastewater to the treatment plant when gravity cannot maintain the flow.

Alabaster has a gravity sewer line which runs from the Shelby County Airport to the treatment plant. And there are 48 pumps stations for the system with two pumps per station.

As new subdivisions are developed and current subdivisions continue to grow, new pump stations will be constructed and upgraded, said Hill.

Environmental collections performs cleaning of main sewer lines, maintenance of pump stations and taking video images of the main sewer, which is used to ensure proper installation of lines in new subdivisions as well as to maintain a video record of sewer laterals.

The wastewater treatment facility purifies sewage to an acceptable standard mandated by the state and discharges the effluent (treated wastewater) back into the natural water flow.

The treatment process begins when sewage enters the treatment plant, passing through a preliminary grit remover. Next the sewage enters a rotomat which removes non-biodegradable solid waste material.

The sewage then enters a pump station where it is split into aeration zones in which oxygen is added to stabilize a biological reaction. Bugs, only visible through a microscope, breakdown the solid waste which is passed on to a settling process during which solid waste sludge is removed.

After clarification, the wastewater passes through sand filters and an ultraviolet disinfecting system which kills any pathogens that remain.

The wastewater then passes through a cascade to increase the dissolved oxygen content before the final product is discharged back into the natural water flow.

The waste/sludge next enters a press in which a polymer is added to assist in the separation from the wastewater and from which the sludge taken to the Shelby County landfill.

The wastewater taken from the sludge then enters the preliminary unit of the treatment plant where the whole process starts again.

According to Hill, the expanded wastewater facility now includes a state-of-the-art laboratory in which all state required lab test and quality control testing can be done in house.

Hill reported the environmental services office is open 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday while the treatment plant is manned 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

According to Hill environmental services is staffed by 17 employees, five Grade IV (highest certification available in Alabama), two grade II and three grade IC (minimum certification) personnel, six laborer and one office clerk.

&uot;We appreciate the mayor and council for their vision into the future and the future growth both residential and commercial of the city of Alabaster,&uot; Hill said.

Hill said at the end of May 2004, the plant processed 6,992 residential and 369 commercial customers. The expanded facility officially opened on June 12