Owen City Council tours water and wastewater facilities

By Cindy Cardinal
Posted 6/5/24

During many city council meetings, information is given about various things happening with water and sewer. In an effort to help council members better understand what is being talked about, they …

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Owen City Council tours water and wastewater facilities


During many city council meetings, information is given about various things happening with water and sewer. In an effort to help council members better understand what is being talked about, they toured the various water and sewer facilities during their May 28 meeting.

The first stop was Well #7, which pumps an average of just over 15 gallons per minute. Well #3 pumps direct to the water tower, while the other wells pump to the booster station for disinfection and pH adjustment. That water then goes to the ground reservoir, where it is stored until it is needed in the tower. The wells are 130-200 feet deep.

DPW Chad Smith explained that water is tested for chlorine, ortho, and pH levels three times per week and tested for bacteria at two locations once a month. In addition nitrates are tested once per quarter and disinfection byproducts once a year. Water also gets tested for asbestos, benzo, cyanide, dioxin, EDB/DBCP, industrial chemicals, synthetic organics, lead, copper, and PFAS. Some tests were waived this year because of past good results. Smith said he keeps paper copies of all the data in addition to data stored in the SCADA system.

The next stop was the Ground Reservoir and Booster Station. The booster pumps can pump 450 gallons of water per minute to the water tower. Typically Owen uses 80-160 thousand gallons of water per day. The ground reservoir can hold 100,000 gallons of water. It was built in 1907 and will need to be replaced in the near future. The booster station treats incoming water from four wells and pumps water to the tower as needed. This is where chemicals like chlorine, caustic, and sodium hydrochloride are added.

The next visit was to the water tower. The tower is 166 feet high and can store 250,000 gallons of water. Normal water pressure in Owen is 58 to 69 PSI and can vary depending on barometric pressure. The tower is almost 25 years old. It is capable of doing its own deicing in the winter and recirculates water in the summer. This is done through a process of spraying water to keep the water moving. The tower also has a basement.

Owen Lift Station #1 was the next site on the tour. This is just one of five lift stations in the system. The other lift stations in Owen pump sewage to this one using force mains. After leaving this lift station, sewage is pumped to the lift station in Withee and on to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Lift Station #3 in Withee was also visited. After leaving this site, sewage has a four mile trip to the treatment plant.

The Valve Structure and Metering Station were driven past. The valve structure controls the flow of water from Withee and also the flow of water from the tower. The metering station controls water moving between Owen and Withee.

At one time wastewater was treated in the city limits. The current treatment plant was built in 1985 and has had some updates since then. Sewage flows through 10-12” pipes. The plant has a treatment capacity of 488,000 gallons. There are four treatment ponds, each 4.5 acres in size. Each pond can hold over three million gallons.

Wastewater is typically held in the ponds for about 3½ days. There are mechanisms in place to keep wastewater from backflowing into Withee. The standpipe also helps keep the force main from collapsing.

There are allowed amounts for total suspended solids (TSS) and biological oxygen demand (BOD). TSS is measurable amounts of solid particles in wastewater thar are not dissolved and can be trapped in a filter. Some examples are algae, leaves, grass, sand, clay and minerals. Some of the ways that these are controlled is through aeration, cleaning, reducing fats, oil and grease, and backwashing filters. The reason for removing TSS is it can make water less clear, decrease photosynthesis, increase water temperature, and impact aquatic life.

BOD is a measurement of how much oxygen is needed to break down organic matter in water. Excessive organic matter and industrial waste can cause high BOD numbers. If it becomes too high, it will deplete oxygen and kill organisms. High levels of ammonia can also cause ecological damage. Ammonia is removed through a process of biological nitrification. Nitrifying bacteria break down nitrite and turn it into nitrate, which is then released into the atmosphere as a gas. Cold weather and other conditions can slow down the process.

The last step in the process before being released into the Black River is to go through a series of UV lights to kill anything remaining.

Smith said he would like to be able to do more of the lab work in-house as the lab at the treatment plant is certified. They currently have a phosphorus limit of 0.80 mg/L with their average upon discharge being 0.23 mg/L. E.coli can’t go over a 400 colony count and the monthly average here is less than 1.

Overall, the tour provided a lot of information and showed the amount of testing that is done to make sure water is safe to drink and the treated sewage discharged to the river isn’t creating environmental issues.