Turn on the waterworks

Chrisman wastewater plant reaches substantial completion, minor repairs remain

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 1/27/20

CHRISMAN – The years and years long project to bring the Chrisman wastewater treatment plant into compliance with environmental regulations is coming to an end.

Matt Johnson with Fehr Graham …

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Turn on the waterworks

Chrisman wastewater plant reaches substantial completion, minor repairs remain

Posted

CHRISMAN – The years and years long project to bring the Chrisman wastewater treatment plant into compliance with environmental regulations is coming to an end.

Matt Johnson with Fehr Graham Engineering & Environmental discussed the construction work at the plant during the Tuesday, Jan. 21, city council meeting.

“The flow meter in the clarifier is working now,” said Johnson. “That was something that was keeping us from reaching substantial completion.”

Johnson explained attaining substantial completion is a significant point because it means the plant can now operate under the new design protocols, but some work remains yet.

He said a sludge line is not operating properly and the main contractor has the responsibility to get that cleaned out and working. Fehr Grahm wants to add a manually operated pinch valve to slow the flow of water into the treatment plant during a period of heavy rain.

“It does require attention. It’s a manual system,” Johnson said of the pinch valve. “If it is not operated properly the excess flow will wash out the treatment plant as it did in the past.”

The council approved Johnson’s request for a no-cost change order extending the substantial completion date to Feb. 29 and the final completion date to June 1 as a benefit to the contractor and the engineering firm.

“The dirt work has to be done and the grass getting green to have final completion,” said Johnson. “The contractor has to show it works for a year without a problem before they are off the hook.”

Fehr Graham modified Chrisman’s wastewater treatment plant to use a combination of gravity settlement and chemical injection to treat wastewater before it is discharged into Brouilletts Creek. The chemical being used is a dry chlorine, which Johnson said is no different than material used in home swimming pools.

Once the new plant is in a balanced operation mode the city will no longer need the expensive sand filters for cleaning the discharge water. Johnson said the media currently in the sand filters has been there approximately three times longer than recommended. The media has a useful life of 10 years and costs more than $100,000 to replace every decade.

Johnson is confident the changes made to the treatment plant will eliminate that major expense every 10 years.

“Now that Phase 1 is completed at the treatment plant we need to look at Phase 2 at the lift station,” said Johnson. “It takes time to get these things done.”

The lift station was built sometime in the 1970s to help move liquid through the system. All of the equipment is original and starting to show its age.

Commissioner Brian Haddix said a motor operating one of the two lift station pumps was just rebuilt for $3,000 and he questioned the wisdom of continuing to repair old equipment.

Johnson echoed that concern.

“You are currently running two pumps that can’t keep up with heavy rain, and those situations are becoming more common,” said Johnson, adding it is better to be proactive on making changes than it is to wait for something to fail and then make decisions on an emergency basis.

The council authorized Johnson to prepare a proposal outlining the scope of work needed to modernize the lift station. Such a proposal will include an estimated cost and the likely impact on water rates in the city.

Haddix returned to a theme of old equipment costing the city money. He said a repair service recently charged $2,675 to fix a pump on the city’s 20-year-old jetter — a machine used to clear blockages in the sanitary and storm

sewers.

That repair, he said, did not put the jetter back into service because the machine refused to start. An examination revealed burned wiring and the need to rebuild the starting harness. City workers are waiting for parts to begin that project.

Problems with the jetter prompted Commissioner Thad Crispin to price a device that uses a pressure washer and vacuum operation to break up and suction out blockages. He added this tool is also capable of using pressurized water for excavations where buried infrastructure hinders digging. The $43,000 price tag, however, is a serious hurdle.

“Things need replaced in this town,” said Crispin, acknowledging he does not know where money can be found in the city coffers to start replacing aged equipment.

Costs for employee health insurance was back on the table for discussion. Last year the renewal for one of the employees was going to be more than he made and the council decided at that time to help cover some of the premium costs.

A slightly different problem was discussed Tuesday.

Commissioner Tyler Alexander reported new public works supervisor Thad Arrasmith was shocked when he found out how much it will cost to add his wife to his employee health insurance.

According to Alexander, the monthly cost of adding Arrasmith’s wife to the policy is almost equivalent to the employee’s take home pay.

“If he knew that, he probably wouldn’t have accepted the job,” said Alexander.

Arrasmith said his prior employer contributed to a family plan that helped make spouse insurance affordable, and Alexander asked if the city should also contribute to the premium costs for adding employee’s family members to the health insurance coverage.

The discussion that followed revealed the inconsistency in how employers handle providing health insurance.

“Where I work, the employer pays for the employee, but the employee has to pay for his wife,” said Mayor Dan Owen.

Alexander said his employer has an employee plus one contribution plan.

“Regardless of what we do, it’s a raise,” said Owen.

The matter was tabled to gather more information for the February city meeting.