Escalating Effluent--Rooting out sewer problems in the new industrial park

By Mike Kroll

The exciting prospect of the new Industrial Park southeast of Galesburg must be tempered some nagging realities. Not only do prospective tenants need to be sold on locating their facilities in the park, the volume and nature of the wastewater such tenants may need to dispose of must be accommodated. Unfortunately, the Galesburg Sanitary District’s existing treatment plant is all the way across town and facing capacity limitations. Even a single prospective tenant whose processes would generate substantial wastewater could well exceed the system capacity available today.

The prospective solutions include: construction of a second GSD plant immediately west of Gates Rubber, significantly expanding Knoxville’s present wastewater treatment plant, or the combination of a less ambitious expansion of the Knoxville plant with improvements at the existing GSD plant west of town. None of these alternatives will come cheap. In fact, according to GSD Director Steve Davis, whichever solution is chosen will most likely cost at least five times as much as the purchase price for the 400 acres of ground.

Davis says that even before the infamous Maytag announcement in October the GSD was committed to studying the feasibility of building a second wastewater treatment plant south of Galesburg. The current plant is aging despite the GSD’s efforts to update and maintain it. Furthermore, the average daily flow in 2001 was at 87.6 percent of the plant’s permitted capacity of 11 million gallons per day. Such sustained usage leaves an uncomfortably margin for growth even without the additional flow that may be created by the new Industrial Park.

And the GSD’s problems go beyond just the capacity and relative location of the existing plant. Much of the infrastructure of sanitary sewers throughout Galesburg is getting very old. The sanitary district has attempted to anticipate problems and embark upon a program of maintenance and replacement according to Davis but meeting the escalating costs of such a program challenges the GSD budgeting process. To build a new plant little more than one-sixth the size of the existing plant could cost as much as $27.34 million according to study by Springfield engineering firm Crawford, Murphy & Tilly.

"The fact is the cost in both time and money to build a new plant from scratch is far greater than that involved in expanding an existing plant," explained Davis. "We can get far more bang for our taxpayer’s buck by improving capacity and efficiency of the existing system rather than building a second plant. Assuming everything went smoothly with the design and permitting process we are looking at a minimum of about six years before such a plant could be operational and our engineers believe that is a very optimistic timeline. Even if construction cost and schedule weren’t an issue there would still be the substantial added operational costs of operating two geographically separated plants." From Davis’ perspective the cost-benefit of building a second plant just isn’t there and he reports that his board shares this view.

At present the Knoxville wastewater treatment plant has a rated capacity of only 0.66 MGD. This is about adequate for a residential community Knoxville’s size but clearly inadequate to accommodate substantial amounts of additional industrial wastewater. For example, at the present time Davis estimates that the Maytag plant generates between 300-400,000 gallons of wastewater per day; that’s more than half Knoxville’s plant capacity for a process that isn’t even that water intensive. Many manufacturing processes can generate upwards of half a million gallons per day of wastewater in one plant alone.

The CMT feasibility study states: "Upgrading Knoxville’s plant to meet the requirements of Galesburg would result in an expansion that would be four time Knoxville’s current capacity. The cost of expansion would be somewhat less than construction on a ‘green grass’ site, but due to the magnitude of the expansion required, most of the facilities processes would need replacement." CMT did not develop specific dollar estimates for upgrading the Knoxville plant as it was beyond the purview of their study but that town’s board is currently deliberating the value of contracting just such a study in the very near future.

Davis and the GSD board would like to see expansion and improvements made to both the GSD and Knoxville wastewater treatment plants such that they share the volume of wastewater that may be created within the new Industrial Park. "Until we know exactly who will be going into this park and the nature of their processes it is impossible to really anticipate the magnitude of wastewater needs that must accommodated," according to Davis. "There is no question that our existing infrastructure is aging and in need of improvements anyway regardless of the new needs created by the Industrial Park. While I just don’t see the availability of funds to for a new plant I do believe that the Sanitary District in concert with Knoxville can obtain a number of smaller grants for specific improvements if everyone involved cooperates. The best part to such an approach is that these types of improvements benefit the entire system and all of our users in Galesburg and Knoxville."