“This is a victory for King and all of water customers.”
That was the message King Mayor Jack Warren had Friday as local officials gathered to officially cut the ribbon on King’s new $12.7 million water treatment plant.
The new plant will replace the city’s older system which had been in operation since the 1960s, providing a new state-of-the-art system capable of producing 3 million gallons of fresh water a day.
“It is a great comfort to have this given the water supply issues they are having in other parts of the country,” said Warren, thanking city staff for their hard work on the project. “Scott Barrow has done a great job working with the contractors and our council to make sure this job was done and done right.”
“We have done a lot here to have good water for the city of King,” said Scott Snyder, who served as lead engineer for the project. “We have increased the storage, we have increased the treatment capacity. We have built an entirely new treatment chain adjacent to the existing facility. There is a new pumping station, new sedimentation basins, new filters. Everything is s new system.
“All of the new pump stations also have an open slot in them for an additional pump if they expand in the future,” he added, “and there is a new million gallon storage tank at Newsome Road.”
Snyder said building a new system in conjunction with the existing facility had presented some challenges, but noted that both the city and the contractor on the job, Garney Construction, had been excellent to work with.
“When you work with a facility like this that has had three upgrades over a 50 to 60 year period, as soon as you start digging you will find things that you had no idea was there,” he said.
Water Treatment Plant Supervisor Ben Marion said the new facility had been built alongside the existing plant to allow the city a chance for future expansion.
“This is Phase 3 of a five phase project,” he explained. “Phase 1 was to put in a belt press system and figure out how to handle our waste here at the plant. Phase 2 was to install the piping to King. Phase # was the construction of the new treatment train. Phase 4, which has not been completed yet, will be to redo the old filters and make them like the new ones and Phase 5 would be to either rehab the old basins or build new ones and put in an additional storage tank.”
He said when all phase were completed the plant could generate 6 million gallons of water a day, but noted that even at its current state it had more than enough capacity to supply water for its current customers in Rural Hall, Pfafftown, Pinnacle, Tobaccoville and King.
“It has been along time coming, but it is great,” he said. “The system is up-to-date. We do not have to be running around all the time. Now we can monitor things from inside the building and the water quality is going ot be 100 percent better. It has really helped us out and it will be better for the customers. It is good step toward being one of the best water plants in the state. That is what we are shooting for.”
He said the old plant had been taken off line during the summer as the city transitioned customers to supply from the new facility.
How the new plant works
Marion provided tours of the facility Friday explaining the process water goes through before it comes out of the tap.
“We have two new pump stations that bring water from the Yadkin River right up to the front of the plant,” he said, noting that since the water source is the river, plant operators frequently have to deal with rapidly changing turbidity. “The pumps are high enough that they can never bee overflowed by the river. They are capable of doing 2,200 gallons per minute.”
Once water arrives at the site it goes into new sedimentation basins where chemicals are added to the water to help settle out any mid or debris from the river.
“They make the mud stick together like glue and settle out,” said Marion, adding that a series of tanks first mix the water and chemicals and then slow the flow down to allow the sediment to settle out. “In the old basins settlement would build up very often and we had to wash them by hand. We would have to drain them and then go in with fire hoses and wash all the mud down the drain. The new system has a system like a vacuum cleaner that collects all of the mud and discharges it to our waste well. It does it once a day and we don’t have to drain them anymore.”
Marion said the water is then treated with a concentration bleach solution.
“With the old system we were using chlorine gas, but it was very volatile and dangerous,” he said, “so with the new system we switched to bleach which has about the same effectiveness but is not nearly as dangerous.”
The water is then pumped into a filtration system housed with in the main plant building.
“This is the heart of the plant,” said Marion. “It is the same concept as a britta filter, just on a much larger scale. We have media inside the filters and the water comes in, goes through the media, gets cleaned up and then goes out into a storage tank.”
He said the new system transitioned the filtration process from a cumbersome, hands-on system to a fully automated computerized process.
“We have to clean the filters every 96 hours,” he explained. “With the old filters you had shut the entire plant down by hand with a system of valves, wash the filters, and rewash them by hand. Now we have another line set up so we can switch between filters and never have to shut down. It is all controlled electronically, but we also have manual controls downstairs if anything goes wrong.”
He said the whole system is tied together through a computer system which can even send notifications of potential problems by phone.
“I can see what is going on at the plant on my phone while I am sitting at my house,” he said.
After being filtered, the water is treated with a number of additional chemicals, all controlled through a special chemical pump room.
“We feed in fluoride for your teeth,” said Marion. “We also add caustic soda for PH control and add phosphate.”
He said afte the water is treated it is stored in on site, noting they have the capacity to store 2.5 million gallons on site and then an additional 3 million storage tank on Newsome Road.
“We have enough storage to run for 5 days without pumping water from the river,” said Marion. “Two to three years ago we could only go for about a day and half.”
He said another part of the expansion project included installing two high service pumps to pump water into King.
“We had three high service pumps to begin with, but they were worn out and in really bad shape,” said Marion. “They could do about 2,700 gallons a minute. The new ones will do 4,800 gallons minute.”
He added that while all of the new equipment was a major improvement, the staff of six employees at the plant were key to its success.
“People do not realize how much work goes into this,” said Marion. “We run tests every morning for bacteria. We also check for alkalinity, hardness, and carbon dioxide to make sure our levels are in rang. Then they monitor the plant every two hours to check to make sure everything is running properly. They check every two hours, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We never shut down.
“There are 25,000 users on our system, and if you mess up one time you could make them all sick,” he added. “Our guys take a lot of pride in their job.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.