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JBLM wastewater plant to get upgrade

JBLM officials break ground on treatment facility’s $91 million improvement project

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:58PM May 22nd, 2014

Most people don’t think of wastewater treatment plants as attractive.

Then again, most people haven’t seen Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s. And plans were enacted last week to make the facility even more appealing.

Officials broke ground May 16 on an upgrade of the base’s wastewater treatment facility, a $91 million project that promises to meet JBLM’s future needs while satisfying its current ones.

Installation commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. welcomed several dozen officials to the ground breaking “and the prettiest wastewater treatment facility location in the continental United States.”

Jokes aside, Hodges said the facility was necessary to meet the growing demands of Washington’s seventh largest “city,” with more than 100,000 service members, family members and civilians.

“Like many cities, we grew as a population, but we’re now playing catch up with our infrastructure,” Hodges said. “So over the past 10 years it wasn’t, ‘We will build it,they will come,’ it’s ‘they’re here, what are you gonna do about it?’”

Ken Weaver, manager of the upgrade project for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the plant is 60 years old and has been refitted several times to keep it within its treatment permit requirements.

However, water quality standards are more stringent than they were in the 1950s. The upgrade “will set us up for the next 60 years,” Weaver said.

That includes technology consistent with other treatment facilities across Western Washington, including polymer membrane filtration for increased nitrogen removal and ultraviolet light disinfection instead of chemical additives.

That means the plant will discharge Class A reclaimable water, the highest standard in the state.

Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 director Dennis McLerran said the upgrade will decrease the impact of the plant’s discharge on Puget Sound, especially dissolved oxygen and flame retardants.

Phase 2 of the upgrade project is the installation of a piping system to reclaim some of that water for nondrinking purposes, but Weaver said Congress hasn’t paid for that yet.

The corps also will increase the plant’s capacity up to 6.7 million gallons a day, which can be boosted to a peak of 12 million gallons a day.

Weaver said it’s unique for the Army Corps of Engineers to be taking on a “process facility” project, when “most of our stuff is boxes on the ground.”

Because of that, Weaver said the facility has a performance warranty with the corps’ contractor.

“If things are in trouble, we have that warranty to make sure things are right,” Weaver said.

Hodges thanked retired Congressman Norm Dicks, who also attended the ground breaking. Dicks sat on the House Appropriations Committee and helped secure the money for the plant upgrade.

Dicks said the plant stood out as one of the facilities that had a pressing need to be upgraded.

“It was essential that we get this thing started,” Dicks said.

The plant is scheduled to start operation in 2016, Weaver said.