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WGK, City of Morton earn recognition with project award for wastewater

MortonMMLaward.jpg

WGK, Inc, picked up its fifth wastewater engineering award in four years this summer when a project to upgrade the Morton Wastewater Treatment Plant was named best in its class by the Mississippi Municipal League.

An MML Excellence Award was given to the "SRF Wastewater Improvements Project" in Public Works, Population Under 10,000 category at the league's 82nd annual summer conference, recognizing advances made at the plant that have allowed operators to control processes like never before and slashed energy expenses by 10 percent. WGK Principal Greg Gearhart, PE, BCEE, said the award was a testament to city leaders' vision and serves as an example for other cities to follow when dealing with complicated wastewater treatment issues.

"The City of Morton's leadership showed some real grit to go out there and take on a half-million-dollar state loan for this project," he said. "It can be hard to commit yourself to that kind of deal, but they looked into the future and made the right call, and now the project is paying for itself."

Quite literally: since the completion of the SRF Wastewater Improvements Project in the summer of 2012, the plant's power bill has decreased an average of around 8 percent per month, saving approximately 21,500 kilowatt hours, or 13 percent of the plant's previous monthly energy consumption. The decreased power bills are generating enough monetary savings to cover the cost of the monthly loan pay-back.

The savings are attributable to two main components of the upgrade: replacement of the four outdated aeration blowers with modern, energy-efficient counterparts, and the installation of dissolved oxygen probes in each of the plant's sequencing batch reactors. Previously, plant operators were forced to run the big aeration blowers day and night to ensure oxygen levels in the batches stayed at permitted levels, creating huge energy demands. The new dissolved oxygen probes constantly measure the oxygen content of each batch and automatically power up the aeration blowers only when oxygen levels begin to fall, allowing the big motors to stay silent most of the time.

The process is monitored via the plant's updated SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system. A new lime feed system, flash mixer motor and other small upgrades were also part of the SRF Wastewater Improvements Project, which had a construction cost of around $400,000. The project qualified under "green" infrastructure guidelines and 20 percent of the loan was forgiven.

Maintenance of the 3.5 MGD plant is critical to the city's economic future. The reason the small city's big plant treats roughly 10 times the wastewater a similar population would produce is because the load is 85 percent commercial wastewater, generated by a large and expanding food processing industry.

"Without our wastewater treatment plant, there's no way we could take care of our industries," said Morton Mayor Greg Butler. "It has not only allowed us to continue providing wastewater treatment services for our industries and citizens, but we've seen a 30 percent increase in capacity over the last few years, and that's allowed us to gain a little revenue as well."

The impact of the project was enough to impress the five national and local MML judges who reviewed project applications and handed out the Excellence Awards, which MML Special Projects Coordinator Laverne Stegall said are meant to encourage cities and towns to meet their challgnes.

"By recognizing the 'best of the best,' all Mississippi cities and towns share and learn from these achievements," she said. "We are fortunate to be able to offer this type of awards program incentive which showcases the achievements and efforts made each year from our municipalities.”

With the 2013 MML Excellence Award, the Morton SRF Wastewater Improvements Project becomes the fifth wastewater engineering project designed by WGK to garner such accolades in four years.

In 2008, the Clinton Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant - designed by WGK and built in 2001 - was named Plant of the Year for Operations and Performance by the Mississippi Water Environment Association. The plant had previously won the American Council of Engineering Companies’ Grand Award for Creative Design in 2002.

The WGK-designed Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center Wastewater Treatment Lagoon won the American Council of Engineering Companies' Engineering Excellence Grand Award in 2009, and the Clinton Southside plant was back in the spotlight in 2011, winning an MML Excellence Award for a WGK project to use SRF funding to construct a solar dryer system to turn troublesome sludge into Class A Exceptional Quality Biosolids.

An identical biosolids project at the Natchez Wastewater Treatment Plant earned WGK's highest honors last year when ACEC handed down the 2012 Grand Conceptor Award. The identical projects in Clinton and Natchez have made those plants the most advanced in Mississippi and have brought national attention from the wastewater industry.