By Jeri Borst
Changes have been made to the way Mena Water Utilities treats wastewater and continued progress is underway.
For many years, treating waste water with chlorine was the standard operation across the country but now, Charles Pitman, general manager for Mena Water, says that has changed.
“The EPA learned that chlorine is not as safe as it was once thought,” Pitman said. “We were using it because that what was always used and was common practice. It was great because it was inexpensive.”
Changing to a new way of treating water will not be as cost effective, Pitman said, noting the new chemical is peracetic acid.
“It replaces chlorine gas which we were spending less than $2,000 a year to purchase,” Pitman said, noting the new chemical is forecast to cost $3,000.
The added cost of treating water to EPA standards, it is expected to be reflected in rate increases, though not immediately. Pitman said to raise rates, audits are performed to insure rates are not raised extraneously.
Limits are also set on how much utilities can charge based on area household income, which is why Pitman is reminding people to fill out the census.
“There won’t be an immediate increase on customer’s bills but eventually the direct costs to treat wastewater will increase,” Pitman said. “On the plus side, it was easy set up and easy to operate.”
Because the current wastewater plant was build with the use of chlorine in mind, it will not be able to be used for the new process, and a new plant will be built. The project is expected to cost $15 million and includes a new plant and line repairs.
Pitman said test of the new process have already begun.
“The trial start wasn’t without it’s hiccups but we believe that we have everything up and running good now,” Pitman said. The preliminary lab results are promising..