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County to quadruple size of wastewater treatment plant

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To handle expected growth...

By PENNY FLETCHER

RUSKIN — Construction started in April after nearly five years of planning but just recently became visible from Interstate 75.

As trees came down and land cleared, the open area just north of the Ruskin interstate exit became larger and larger, and heavy equipment was brought on site.

Residents asked, “is it a new housing development?”

Others asked if it was a shopping plaza.

I decided to find out.

County spokeswoman Michelle Van Dyke said it was a large expansion of the South County Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant and was quick to find the proper person for me to interview. As it turned out, that person is project manager and degreed civil engineer, Lisa Murrin.

Murrin met me on site and showed me around what is soon to be a very, very large expansion of the plant, done in two phases.

“We now treat 4 ½ million gallons,” Murrin told me. “After this part of the expansion we’ll be able to treat 10 million gallons a day.”

Another expansion is planned as well, which will bring the capacity of the plant to 16 million gallons a day.

This is because of growth expected by the county, Murrin said.

The DRIs are there for a lot of industrial growth. DRIs are “Development Regional Impact” plans that were mapped out in the late 1980s and early 1990s that mark areas permitted densities and use under land management codes. These were done before any of the Community Plans were made.

Planning for the current phase of the wastewater treatment plant expansion began Jan. 8, 2007 and the design was done Aug. 6, 2008, Murrin said.

Lenore Horton, the head project manager for HDR Consulting and Design firm was in charge of the expansion design.

Construction, which started April 2, is supposed to last for 850 days at a total cost of just over $65 million, which is a Capital Improvement Project that was approved by County Commissioners and is paid for with Capital Improvement funds.

“There is another expansion already in the queue that will make this a 16-gallon a day plant,” Murrin continued. That project is slated to begin by October 2014 but workers say it will probably be delayed.

“The expansion is being done because we’re regulated to meet the demands and the projections are that we will need a plant of this size to accommodate growth,” Murrin said.

The wastewater treatment plant does not produce drinking or cooking water. This is not water that will show up in our faucets.

Water that is flushed from residents’ toilets is pumped through a gravity-sewer system through a network of screenings and then into a main “headwork” (large tubs) for longer term screening, where solids are settled and the water is treated biologically.

I asked if that meant with bacteria.

The answer is yes.

Using bacteria is a way of treating the water with fewer chemicals, Murrin said.

Eventually, the water is fit for use to irrigate lawns and for many industrial uses saving billions of gallons of potable water from uses other than drinking, bathing and cooking.

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