Westwego — Westwego’s testing of a new, faster, drinking-water treatment system is finished, according to the city’s engineering consultant, and now city officials are waiting for state approval to build a plant featuring the technology.
Westwego has been testing the new water treatment system at its venerable water plant since March in a pilot program approved by the state Department of Health and Hospitals designed to determine if the technology could handle Mississippi River water. Veolia Water Solutions, and its subsidiary Kruger Water Technologies, are handling the testing, which features pre-fabricated treatment plants that would be connected to Westwego’s current water distribution system.
Westwego is considering the new process, which combines the current method of removing solids from water with a technique using sand, because it would allow the city to overhaul its troubled water treatment facility at a fraction of the previously projected $10 million cost. The price of installing a pre-fabricated plant that can produce 4 million gallons of water per day has been estimated at $2.5 million to $3 million. Westwego would be the first municipality or parish in the state to use the new technology.
Mo Saleh, a city engineering consultant, said the second round of testing under the pilot program wrapped up in August, and he is assembling the results of the tests to forward to the state. The pilot program treated river water when it was at its warmest and coldest, to get a sense of how the new technology handles the differences in temperature and “turbidity” in the water. Turbidity relates to the amount of solids in the water.
Based on both rounds of testing, Saleh said the new process was a rousing success. Not only did it treat water faster, but it also did a better job of removing solids than Westwego’s current system, he said.
“The results were really positive,” Saleh said. “(The particles) were way below the standards that are set.”
He said the technology improves greatly upon the method currently used in the city’s plant, which was constructed in the 1950s. In addition, the package plant would feature more automation and alarm systems, which could improve efficiency and quality. Saleh is hoping that once he gets the results to the state, officials there will move quickly.
But, Jake Causey, the state’s chief engineer for the drinking water program, expects that the review of Westwego’s proposal will be a slow process. Causey said the state will be reviewing not just the results from the pilot program, but how the process would work on a larger scale.
Officials will review the full project specifications and training for Westwego’s employees. Due to the higher rate at which the plant would produce water, Westwego’s employees will need more safeguards. Causey said that while the new technology seems like an improvement over what’s currently used in the state, those results must be verified.
“In our review these are things we’re going to go through very slowly,” Causey said.
Westwego’s water plant has been a contentious issue for years, and Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said he is pleased a possible solution is in sight. Although the city’s general fund has very little free cash, Shaddinger said that if the project is approved, the city will find a way to pay for it.
“No one else in the whole state of Louisiana is using this type of concept,” Shaddinger said. “We are going to be the model for other municipalities and parishes.”
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved