Calera treatment facility facing stricter standards

Calera officials will soon be facing stricter water quality guidelines at one of the city’s wastewater treatment facilities.

Beginning this summer, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management will be requiring Calera to limit phosphorous content in water at the city’s treatment facility on Buxahatchee Creek to about 0.06 parts per million, City Engineer Chris Pappas said Doug Smedley, director of the city’s sewer and wastewater operations.

The new requirements would be down from the station’s current limit of 0.57 parts per million.

Although the city recently upgraded equipment at the treatment plant, the new phosphorous limits will be too low for the station to achieve, City Engineer Chris Pappas said, noting phosphorous is a byproduct of sewage.

“We have a state-of-the-art facility over there, but we can’t get that low with the equipment we have,” Pappas told the Calera City Council during its March 15 meeting.

Upgrading the treatment facility equipment to reach the new phosphorous levels will likely cost the city between $3.5 million-$4 million, Smedley said.

News of the new levels came after Smedley and Pappas met with Alabama Department of Environmental Management representatives March 17.

“They said they were going to put the new levels on our permit in July or August of this year,” Smedley said. “They didn’t say they were going to enforce the levels right away, but if it’s on our permit, it’s definitely enforceable.

“We are going to have to find some money to make that happen,” Smedley added.

The city may use a system developed by Massachusetts-based Cambridge Water Technologies, called CoMag, to reach the new phosphorous limits, Pappas said.

“It usually costs $8,000 for them to bring their pilot testing system down from Massachusetts, but they are actually pilot testing in Helena right now,” Pappas said. “If we get on the list now, it will only cost us $4,000 to bring the pilot testing program here on March 29.”

The council voted unanimously to allow Smedley and Pappas to spend the $4,000 necessary to bring the CoMag pilot testing system to the Calera treatment plant.

“We already produce beautiful water, but we are the only source they (ADEM) can regulate on the Buxahatchee Creek,” Smedley said. “Cows, agricultural runoff and other things like that are also sources of phosphorous along the creek.

“But our water has to be so good that it makes up the difference from all those other sources,” Smedley added.