New system conserves water

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Estimates reveal 12 million gallons of water will be saved annually

By Kirsten Laskey

A waste treatment plant is rarely a popular topic. After all, it’s not a pretty sight – from the gurgling, bubbling aeration basins to the slowly shifting clarifiers.
It’s a dirty business, but Los Alamos Wastewater Treatment Plant will soon feature an environmentally clean component through its new wash water system.
The wash water system will have the capability to recycle water and use the treated water for operations at the plant, said Clay Moseley,
Department of Public Utilities associated engineer and GIS services.
The wash water system will wash down screens and filters in the treatment plant as well as provide clarification.
The new system will save 12 million gallons of water a year.
The system, Julie-Williams-Hill, DPU public relations manager, said, will “help us conserve water and conserve energy.”
The New Mexico Environmental Department and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are funding the project, which cost $330,000. Moseley said the federal government made dollars available to different public works departments.
Moseley said the system is expected to be up and running in early December.
The waste treatment plant, which opened in 2007, always had the capability to recycle water but Moseley said DPU could not afford the major component for the wash water system.
As a result, he said potable water or water suitable for drinking is currently being used in the wash water system. The water, which is treated, is then either discharged to the Rio Grande River or it is used for irrigation for the North Mesa ball fields or the Los Alamos Golf Course.   
The new system is in the construction phase, Moseley said. The pumps used in the system are being tuned and a final inspection from the state is needed.
So far, the state Environment Department has been impressed with what they have seen, he said.
“The State Environment Department is quite impressed with this plant … they’ve been very supportive in having us design and build because anything that conserves water in New Mexico, the state is very interested in,” Moseley said. “They saw a huge opportunity in a project that lives up to their mission. They have been very efficient in helping the project … (they) helped with funds (and) just supported in entire process.”
While the water will be used in the wash water system, portions of it will continue to be used for irrigation and discharged into the Rio Grande.
To get the wastewater to the point where it can be used for cleaning the plant, it first enters the clarifiers, which are huge, circular basins. The clarifiers separate the liquids from solids. The effluent is then sent on to an ultra- violet treatment, which disinfects it.
Afterwards, the water is sent to a splitter box, which discharges the water to the river, pumps it into a holding tank for irrigation or it goes to a disinfected tank to be used in the wash water system.
Moseley said “state of the art controls” operate the wash water system. “(It is) an extremely beautiful system the way we can control the pumps now.”