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Carbon talks wastewater solutions

Friday, November 18, 2011

Carbon residents Doug Clodfelter and Liz McFaddin listen as Commonwealth Engineering, Inc. Vice President Mark Sullivan discussed possible solutions to the wastewater treatment problem regarding new state requirements concerning controlling ammonia levels during a Carbon Town Council meeting Wednesday evening. To meet the new requirements, Carbon would have to change to a mechanical plant, but the town can't afford to do so. Therefore, Sullivan discussed other options.
The state granted the Town of Carbon an extension until spring 2012 to formulate a solution surrounding their wastewater treatment and ammonia maintenance problems.

Commonwealth Engineers, Inc. Vice President Mark Sullivan addressed members of the Carbon Town Council Wednesday evening, suggesting possible solutions to solve the wastewater maintenance issues.

Since September, council members expressed they are worried that Carbon doesn't have enough funding to meet the water quality standard improvements the state is mandating.

Effective Jan. 1, 2009, the State of Indiana added two new criteria standards which requires a limit of discharge for ammonia and E. coli levels.

Currently, Carbon's waste stabilization lagoons are in violation of the new standards.

Although this violation doesn't pose a threat to any citizens, the town is still responsible for solving the issue.

The existing lagoons are not designed to effectively treat ammonia in cold weather.

Council members said the current system meets the state's ammonia standards for the majority of the year, but when temperatures drop during winter months ammonia levels increase.

"To treat ammonia, there has to be sufficient ammonia-eating bacteria, which isn't able to exist in colder temperatures," Sullivan said. "There are three main concerns: Aeration, warm temperatures and long detention times."

Sullivan added the winter climate isn't warm enough around the lagoon ponds to treat these pollutants.

"The lagoon pond temperatures need to be upwards of 50 degrees and above," Sullivan said. "The current lagoons just can't achieve the level of ammonia the state is mandating."

The ideal solution to meeting the new state requirements year-round is for Carbon to move from a lagoon system to a mechanical system.

However, financially, a mechanical system is not financially feasible for Carbon.

"The cost to make these upgrades would be slightly less than $1 million," Sullivan explained. "Even if the treatment center was given free of cost to the town, the cost for operation and maintenance would be much too high for the town to afford."

Council members have already stated they are against moving to a mechanical treatment plant because of money.

"This is a package-type plant specifically designed to treat all common wastewater pollutants," Sullivan said, "including ammonia and E. coli, which are the pollutants that have been specifically addressed in the Town's Agreed Order from the State of Indiana."

In addition, Sullivan also told council members they have the option to take no action.

Council members have negotiated with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for an extension.

Sullivan discussed several options to council members during the meeting including the addition of a fourth lagoon tank to hold wastewater flows in the winter months, allowing for discharge to the receiving stream only during warmer weather months.

Another possible solution Sullivan suggested to the council is to install a Submerged Activated Growth Reactor (SAGR) unit.

"This is a mechanical process designed to specifically provide treatment of wastewater pollutants in conjunction with the existing waste stabilization lagoons during the cold weather months," Sullivan said.

He added Commonwealth is installing a SAGR unit for the Town of Jasonville, but the project is $3.6 million, which is also not feasible for Carbon.

"All of the alternatives, except the no action alternative, will put an extreme financial hardship on the community of Carbon," Sullivan said.

The Carbon Town Council meets regularly the first Monday of each month.

However, council members have scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 4:30 p.m., in the Carbon Town Hall, 14678 N Locust St.

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