"The big hole"

Commonly referred to as "the big hole," construction for the new $17 million Salida Wastewater Treatment Plant started here. The new plant will use fewer chemicals and will treat 1.5 million more gallons per day than the existing facility.

With the new $17 million Salida Wastewater Treatment Plant, processing sewage will be faster and require fewer chemicals upon plant completion estimated for mid 2013.

After groundbreaking Sept. 27, employees of Moltz Construction, Inc. of Salida have been working five days a week, despite snow and freezing temperatures.

Randy Sack, plant manager, told The Mountain Mail Tuesday he believes construction is ahead of schedule.

He said the plan is to have some new features operational by the middle of 2012 with total completion set for mid 2013.

The existing plant treats 1.2 million gallons a day, but the new one will have capacity to treat 2.7 million gallons a day.

Switching the old plant to the new one will be done in stages and handled "with kid gloves," Sack said, because "we're changing the way we treat wastewater."

Sack said the new system, activated sludge process, will replace the existing method of secondary treatment.

Pre-treatment and digestive process will remain, but rotating biochemical contactors will be removed, he said.

Activated sludge process, also known as Ifast, will speed the purifying process and ammonia won't be used anymore, he said.

A phosphorous filter isn't yet required for wastewater treatment. However, Sack said it will be required in about four or five years, so it is being added.

He said officials are "thinking ahead of the game" with the new treatment plant.

Ultraviolet light will be the new disinfection method, replacing the use of chlorine gas and sulfa dioxide.

Everything will be computerized, so if needed, Sack could log on from his computer at home to see how the process is operating.

Before construction a "big hole" was dug about 100 yards wide, 27-feet deep and 300 yards long on the existing plant site.

So far Moltz workers have poured about 2,000 yards of concrete, with about 2,500 more yards planned.

About 35,000 yards of old concrete have been removed from the big hole.

Chad Carter, construction superintendent, said, "It's been a little tough on the guys because it's so cold this year. We've had a couple late nights, but we're doing fine."

There are about 21 Moltz workers, 10 rebar tiers and three electricians working at the site.

Sack, who has worked at the plant 33 years, said climbing around the dirt berms and equipment - especially in the snow - makes running the current plant difficult at times, but said everyone "is really excited about" the extent of the project.

Included in plans are an office complex, workshop, conference room, showers and a reception area.

Sack smiled when he said he'll "finally" have his own office.

"It's been pretty cramped quarters for four people, but when it's finished we'll each have our own office space," he said.

The laboratory where water samples are tested for the plant, and for more than five other small plants in the area, will be expanded.

A sprinkler system and about 150 new trees and shrubs will be added to enhance the landscape around the plant, he said.

"We're really anxious to get this project done," Sack said.

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