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Important duties handled every day at treatment plant

Purifying used water from Brookhaven to keep the environmentclean is a serious task for a group of city employees at the WasteWater Treatment Facility on Wilcher Trail, just off Highway 51.

“Our main objective is to protect the environment to assure thatthe used water, when returned to the environment, is safe for thestreams,” said Calvin Carter, facility manager.

The process of cleaning the city’s used water consists ofseveral steps that must be followed precisely.

“There’s a lot involved because the rules and regulations arevery strict,” said Carter, who has been working at the facility for10 years.

The first step of the process is having all the used water pipedto the plant, which lies away from the public’s eye in a restrictedfenced area near the corner of Highways 51 and 84.

After a machine removes the significant debris and grit, thewater is pumped to an aeration basin that holds 2.8 million gallonsof water.

“The aeration basin helps Mother Nature clean the water byproviding oxygen so the micro-organisms can fight off thebacteria,” explained Carter, adding that the oxygen is created whenthe machine agitates the water with constant motion.

Then the water moves to a clarifying machine, which allows themicro-organisms to settle to the bottom, leaving clear waterbehind.

The micro-organisms are then returned via pipe to the aerationbasin to fight more bacteria.

“Then the clear water is sent to the contact chamber, where wedisinfect the clarified water with the use of chlorine,” saidCarter. “The chlorine kills the harmful bacteria down to anacceptable level.”

Carter explained that not all bacteria is killed, because itexists naturally in the environment and plays a vital role.

“We just want to kill enough so we won’t upset the environment,”he said.

The chlorine, though, is not sent into the environment, ratherit is taken out of the water.

The levels of chlorine and oxygen in the water are constantlymeasured throughout the entire process in order to keep a safebalance. The machines at the plant are set to alert the employeesif anything goes wrong.

Employees know the importance of their jobs to the environment,so they frequently monitor the machines and the water. Theemployees are certified in this area, and conduct tests in alaboratory at the plant.

“The machines keep up with everything, but we also take samplesof the water and analyze them every week,” explained Carter, addingthat results are sent to the Environmental Protection Agency andthe Department of Environmental Quality.

After all chlorine and the majority of bacteria have beenremoved, the water that was once considered waste is pumped into anearby stream, where nature will continue the cleaning cycle.

“It’s real important to have good water going back to theriver,” said Edgar Wilcher, who is now retired after working at theplant for 40 years.

The Waste Water Treatment Facility uses the cleaning processcontinuously, treating an average of 1.7 million gallons of water aday. The plant has the capability to clean three milliongallons.

If the plant receives more than the desirable amount, the excessoverflows to an area referred to the lagoon, which borders Highway84.

Water is the main concern at the plant, but it is not the onlytask assigned to employees. The rainfall and temperatures in thearea are also measured and recorded daily and sent to the NationalWeather Service.