Changes to Water Plant Unveiled
By Caitlin Davis
Sep 14, 2012, 14:07
photo by Cailtin Davis The plant’s filtration system is seen above. Changes to the plant’s filtration system were made as part of the $24.6 million renovation to expand and improve the plant.
Virginia American Water in Hopewell got a $24.6 million upgrade. This upgrade, done over a period of two years, has increased the capacity of the water plant and has improved the water treatment process.
William R. Walsh, President of Virginia American Water, said those at the plant are “really proud” of the expansion. Walsh, who has been with Virginia American Water for over 28 years, said when he first started, improvements to the Hopewell plant were already being discussed.
“To finally see it finished after all that time,” Walsh said. “It is really an accomplishment for us.”
With the new plant expansion and upgrade, customers will not see a dramatic rate increase.
“I would say at this point the majority of that’s already built into the rates,” Walsh said. “There’s not a huge rate increase coming down the road as a result of that.”
Some of the improvements to the plant include increased capacity in the drinking water treatment facilities from 12 million gallons per day to 18 million gallons per day gallons, an additional 2.5 million gallon storage tank and improvements to the chemical feed systems.
photo by Caitlin Davis
The taste of the water provided by the company should be an additional improvement, plant officials said.
Doug Woodhouse, Operations Manager, said many of the improvements were made to not only help create a more efficient treatment process, but to help the taste of the water.
“We wanted to help mitigate some of the taste and odor issues,” Woodhouse said.
Woodhouse said the taste issue was caused by an increased level of algae in the Appomattox River in 2010.
“We have put in good, reliable equipment that will serve the community for years to come,” Woodhouse said.
The most recent round of changes follows a major one that the plant went through almost 10 years ago. The plant was essentially split down the middle to produce two different grades of water, potable, drinking water and non-potable, industrial water.
photo by Caitlin Davis
“It is a very conventional treatment process,” Walsh said. “...it’s complex water to treat.”
A big improvement to the plant was replacing wood tub filters, which were more than 100 years old.
“The filter material gets changed out,” Walsh said. “The actual box that’s holding the filters weren’t changed out.”
Walsh noted that the old filters could not quite meet today’s standards for drinking water and were being used for industrial grade water.
“[Filters] are a lot more efficient and do a better job,” Walsh said. “For 100 years they’ve served their useful life.”
American Water provides water to almost 10,000 customers in Hopewell, portions of Prince George County and Ft. Lee. The water filtered into the plant comes from the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers, with the pump located near the Hopewell City Marina.
The water treatment process is one that involves multiple steps. First, the water is pumped from the rivers and into VA American Water Treatment Plant. Next, the water undergoes a treatment process to remove dirt particles. Then, it goes through a filtration system that removes smaller particles. After the second filtration process, the water is disinfected and treated to help improve the water quality. Finally the water comes out of the pipes and into customers’ homes.
photo by Caitlin Davis
Many of the upgrades to the plant involved the treatment of potable, drinking, water. Upgrades included improvements made to the settling basin, the chemical feed system, the addition of two new filters, a installation of a new 2.5 million gallon storage tank, the addition and replacement of distribution pumps and four carbon contactors.
“We’ve increased filter capacity, storage and pumping and increased the overall plant capacity,” Walsh said.
Another change to the plant was made to the billing. Starting Oct. 1, VA American Water will no longer be billing sewage to their customers. Now residents can except to see two bills in the mail, one for water usage and another for sewage.
Walsh said this change was decided over a year ago. He said it was no longer practical for the company to be billing for sewage.
“This was predicated on the software system we’re using,” Walsh said. “It wasn’t set up to handle third party billing.”
Walsh said if the company had decided to keep the software and continue billing for sewage it would have incurred millions of dollars in order to keep putting the usage into one bill.
“I think there was a time when it made sense,” Walsh said. “Water bills and sewage bills were so small they were billed quarterly. And even then, it was so small it was hard to justify putting together the costs to mail out a bill.”
Walsh said times have changed tremendously in terms of water costs, which have gone up over the years.
“Bills have gone up tremendously and continue to go up,” Walsh said.
Even with costs rising, Walsh noted water is still fairly cheap compared to other bills customers may see in their mailboxes.
“The reality is when you look at your monthly bills, this is very small,” Walsh said.
VA American Water has estimated that a customer’s water service costs a penny a gallon.
“By doing this, we hope customers see the value of water and that water is a fairly inexpensive commodity,” Walsh said.