Treatment plant looks like bargain
By Mike Mathes
KIEL WASTEWATER TREATMENT UTILITY STAFF -Rodney Arnold, Noah Mielke, Jesse Valukas, Steve Rabe, Superintendent Kris August and Steve Gaedke.
Linda Baumgart Retiring after 34 years with the Kiel Utilities
John Reiss Retiring after 20 years with the Kiel Utilities

Back in the early 1980’s when Kiel was faced with the prospect of building a new wastewater treatment plant, the cost was imposing. In order to break a DNRimposed moratorium on new building, and to meet treatment standards, the city had to invest millions of dollars to upgrade its facilities.

Local residents and businesses alike were frustrated by some of the highest sewer rates in the area due to the construction.

That was almost 35 years ago.

The scenery has changed. Today, with its’ future vision for wastewater treatment implemented and ever-improving, the utility is enjoying the benefits of that expense.

Kiel no longer has the highest rates among its neighbors, in fact, sewer rates in Kiel rank in the lower 40 percent of current rates.

Constant improvements to the treatment plant and addition of outside treatment customers have helped keep the plant vital three decades after it was opened.

Infiltration issues

August said one of the key issues facing the Kiel wastewater utility is the issue of clear water infiltration.

Infiltration is the leaching of groundwater and storm water into the wastewater system. Most of this comes through older underground laterals and mains, many dating back to the early 1900’s.

Infiltration places an unnecessary burden on the system’s capacity, and the ability of the plant to handle the wastewater load.

Looking forward to potential upgrades through the city’s proposed Tax Incremental District #5, August said much of the oldest part of the wastewater collection system will be addressed under the TID.

“We have the chance to address those issues using TID funds moving forward, instead of putting the cost on the rate structure,” he noted. Much of the work to be done lies in areas west of Fourth Street.

For the past several years, the city has been television portions of the sewer system, capturing the challenges in the system and developing a catalog of the infrastructure. The city recently passed an ordinance requiring the replacement of all lead piping in the oldest parts of the infrastructure. This will upgrade the system, as well as eliminating undesirable lead piping from the system.

Ongoing improvements

August pointed to a series of ongoing upgrades to treatment process.

In addition to television, ordinance upgrades have brought grease trap ordinances up to speed. Clear water inspections are ongoing to assure that there are no direct connections of sanitary sewer systems and groundwater.

Kiel’s wastewater utility is currently upgrading the backup power at its Sheboygan River lift station. The intention is to make the lift station more reliable and increase its capacity. August said the lift station, located along Kiel’s trail system, has been identified as one of the potential bottlenecks that causes system backups during times of high water and heavy rains.

“We think we have enough capacity, and then we get a storm that proves us wrong,” he said. Storms have forced the city to enact sewer bypasses three times in the last five years.

New requirements

Road repairs and new construction have enabled the utility to enforce new construction standards.

All homes being built, and any replacement of sewer mains and laterals require home owners to install back flow check valves. A new ordinance passed this year will require all lead piping to be removed from the sewer and water system as reconstruction projects take place.

Future issues

The next hurdle for the Kiel Wastewater Treatment Plant to cross is the significant reduction of phosphorous in its effluent.

Requirements currently state that each liter effluent may contain up to 1 mg. of phosphorous. That number will be 10 times more restrictive, as the guideline will soon fall to a tenth of a mg. per liter.

Kiel’s treatment plant has been running pilot programs to preview their own capabilities.

“We can get our effluent to about the .3 range, and maybe right to the new limit,” August said. “But we don’t know how the plant flows will influence that and what cost we might incur to meet the rule.”

Material value

August pointed out that the Kiel treatment plant is fortunate on both ends of the treatment spectrum.

Changes enacted over the last two decades have enabled the WWTP to take on additional contract treatment customers.

In addition to the waste from the City of Kiel haulers are also bringing other treatable waste to the plant. The material adds value to the process in that it helps balance the treatment loads. It also provides vital operational revenue to the budget.

On the post-treatment end of the spectrum, the Kiel treatment plant produces a Class A sludge—a solid material with great fertilizer properties.

“Our area farmers are very receptive to using our sludge. We have no problem getting rid of it at this time,” August said.

“At one time, the farmers were apprehensive about taking on the solid by-product of the treatment process, not because of sludge quality, but because of handling costs. To avoid having the farmer undergo the costs of handling and spreading, the treatment utility contracts a hauler to make the transfer and application of the sludge cost-effective.

Changes to the plant made in 1997 enabled the facility to also take on power plant ash to upgrade its sludge. Ash from the Manitowoc Electric Utility plant are added to the sludge, creating heat that kills off pathogens. Previously, quick lime had to be used to knock out the pathogens.