A Wastewater All-Star, Part 3

The following is the third and final part in a series about recent upgrades to an Easton wastewater treatment plant, and how these improvements have helped support our clean water efforts. Read the first and second parts in the series.

Comparison--raw sewage, final effluent, dried biosolids
A raw sewage, final effluent, and dried biosolids comparison. Photo by John Page Williams/CBF Staff.
It was clear in 2009 that the Easton plant was going to set a great example of enhanced nutrient removal sewage treatment, but we had an opportunity to stop by in May of 2012 to see how it was faring at the end of its fifth year of operation. "We learn every day," said Doug Abbott with a smile. "Enhanced nutrient removal is new. There isn't a lot of history yet. The challenge is still putting everything together to keep the processes consistent in spite of varying load and weather.

 

"There are many moving parts," he continued. "Every plant has its own characteristics. Our strong monitoring system allows us to tweak it, like fine-tuning a complex machine that also has living creatures that we must keep happy [the bugs]. We have to balance everything, resist the temptation to make changes too quickly when an alarm goes off, and build the history. We can't make a cookbook.

"We are, however, beginning to develop a computer model of the plant to use for predictions and as a 'flight simulator' for training new operators. MDE and the MD Center for Environmental Training (MCET) are supporting that project. And we're exchanging information and visits with other plant operators in both Maryland and Pennsylvania . . . the support we have received from the Town Council and the management of Easton Utilities has been very important. Because EU provides a wide range of services to the community in addition to sewage treatment--electricity, natural gas, drinking water, cable television, and internet connections, it can support our operation in many ways, especially in electrical work and information technology."

Eleven years into the project, Easton Utilities and its town appear to have used their Bay Restoration (AKA "flush fee") Funds well, to benefit the Choptank River and the Chesapeake as well as themselves. Planning ahead, piecing together the funding package, selecting capable engineering and construction firms, and then constantly striving to learn how to get the highest performance out of the plant's design, those elements together make for success. 

CBF's Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard commented further on "how progressive both Easton Utilities and the Town of Easton were in this project, from a process/adoption standpoint. The new treatment plant is a testament to how a few committed folks who want to do the right thing can build the momentum needed for success when they want to."     

It's no accident that both Doug Abbott and Geoff Oxnam bring special enthusiasm to their jobs in an area that many people would prefer not to think about. They are both confirmed water rats and racing sailors. Others on the staff are dedicated Bay anglers. All are proud that Easton's new plant is making a difference for clean water and a healthy Bay.

--John Page Williams
CBF's Senior Naturalist

Learn more about wastewater treatment plant issues here on our website.

Emmy Nicklin

Issues in this Post

Community   Conservation   Sewage & Septic Systems   CBF in Maryland  

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