New plant's odor control worries Oakville citizens
September 28, 2005 - By LAURA UHLMANSIEK
Oakville residents last week raised concerns about odor control for the Lower Meramec Wastewater Treatment Plant being constructed near Rogers El-ementary School.
A representative of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District discussed the treatment plant during a Sept. 22 town-hall meeting sponsored by County Council Chairman John Campisi, R-south county.
The treatment plant, expected to be op-erational by the fall of 2006, will clean wastewater before discharging it into the Mississippi River. It will replace the Me-ramec and Baumgartner lagoons and eventually the Grand Glaize and Fenton treatment plants.
When complete, the regional treatment plant will be able to process 60 million gallons of wastewater per day. When the plant begins treating wastewater next fall, it will operate at only a quarter of its ca-pacity — 15 million gallons per day.
Oakville residents attending the town-hall meeting said they are concerned about odor emanating from the plant, especially after learning that nearly $5 million in odor control equipment has been eliminated from the first phase of the project.
But Maureen Collins, MSD assistant di-rector of engineering, explained the $4.7 million in odor control equipment that was cut will not be necessary for the first stage of the project, but will be added later be-fore the plant is at full capacity.
"So some of the components that were taken out in the original part of it were odor processes that weren't going to be fully utilized," she said. "We felt in part if we build them today, and they weren't being fully utilized, 10 years from now when we really need that process, it's not going to be the latest state of the art, it's going to be a 10-year-old process. In this business, things change and get better every year, so we wanted to wait until we felt that we needed the additional odor control and then put in that at the time that we need it."
But residents said they were concerned about the odors from the project and the health risks to surrounding residents and children attending Rogers Elementary School.
"My suggestion is to use the $5 million now and to apply more to it later on," said Joe Guelbert of Oakville.
Residents also questioned how MSD would gauge if additional odor controls are needed if the equipment installed in this first stage is not enough.
Collins replied that she was not aware of a way to measure the level of odors surrounding a treatment plant.
"There is no way you can ever — the current state of technology that we have — that you're ever going to eliminate odors coming from a treatment plant," Collins said. "There's just no way that 100 percent, you're never going to smell it. It's sewage.
"We believe very strongly, and we wouldn't have made the decision to delay the construction of some of the odor controls if we didn't feel that it would be at an acceptable level. And once it goes into process, if it's not, the issue will be revisited,'' she said.
MSD spokesman Lance LeComb told the Call that the district's Board of Trus-tees had decided to make the cutback in 2003 because of a discrepancy between the design construction estimate of the dis-trict's consultant, CH2M HILL, and the actual construction costs.
"At that point, we had to make some tough choices regarding what we could or could not afford," LeComb said. "What we decided was that we could make some cost savings with the odor control."
The district will delay constructing the $3.5 million biofilters for the biofilter building, the $750,000 covers for the primary clarifiers, which are vats that allow the solids in the wastewater to settle to the bottom, and $500,000 of associated equipment, such as pipes, according to Le-Comb.
He told the Call that the first phase of the construction still will include odor control equipment that is appropriate for its capacity and that controls odors for the processes that produce most of the odors.
For example, LeComb said the budget includes retaining the covers for the gravity thickeners, which thickens the sludge from the wastewater, and the trickling filters, which wastewater passes through as micro-organisms consume most of the re-maining organic matter. He also said the plan also includes biofilters for the treatment plant.
In addition, MSD designed the plant to keep most of the treatment processes in-doors to minimize odors because of the plant's proximity to residents.
"We still will have (in the first phase) more odor control technology at this plant than at any of the other plants," LeComb told the Call.
Construction of the Lower Meramec Wastewater Treatment Plant began in the fall of 2003 on the 200-acre site near Rog-ers Elementary School.
The first phase of the project will be used to treat wastewater from the Lower Meramec watershed area in south county and to eliminate use of the Baumgartner and Meramec lagoons. A nearly four-mile-long tunnel that will carry wastewater from the Baumgartner Lagoon to the new treatment plant is being constructed roughly 200 feet underground.
The district is under an administrative order from the Missouri Department of Na-tural Resources to clear out the Baumgart-ner and Meramec lagoons by December of next year or be penalized up to $10,000 per day.
The first phase of the project will cost $223 million, which includes the treatment plant, the tunnel, lift station, site work and electrical supply to the site. It also includes a wetlands mitigation project and an educational/recreational facility.
The district plans to eventually take the Grand Glaize and Fenton treatment plants off line and extend the Lower Meramec Treatment program to treat the wastewater from those areas, which would bring the plant to its full capacity.
LeComb told the Call that MSD has no projected cost estimates or project date at this time. He said it could be 10 to 20 years before the project begins.
MSD voters last year approved a $500 million bond issue to help fund the first phase of $3.7 billion worth of sewer system improvements over the next 20 years.
The first phase of improvements will cost $647 million, which includes the Lower Meramec Wastewater Treatment Plan, over a three-year period.
The additional $147 million will be paid through a rate increase that was effective last year.