2010-03-11 / Front Page

Wastewater treatment facility wins prestigious EPA award

By Liza Yorks

Paul Robertson, plant operator of the Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Facility, checks the aeration tank. Last year, 195 million gallons of sewage water were treated. Photo by Jeff McDonough Paul Robertson, plant operator of the Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Facility, checks the aeration tank. Last year, 195 million gallons of sewage water were treated. Photo by Jeff McDonough The staff at the Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Facility has gone above and beyond, grabbing the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a positive way.

The result?

A small, but modern plant receives a not-so-small award – one worth bragging about.

In mid-January, the facility was honored by the U.S. EPA in recognition of its superior operations and ongoing improvement and maintenance of the plant, which treats approximately 350,000 gallons of sewage per day, according to plant Superintendent Douglas Ouellette. Ouellette said the plant has received other operations awards in the past, but this was their first time being honored with the U.S. EPA Award in his 10 years as the plant’s superintendent.

Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Facility Superintendent Douglas Ouellette inspects the plant’s operation panel. The facility was recently honored by the U.S. EPA in recognition of its superior operations and ongoing improvement and maintenance. Photo by Jeff McDonough Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Facility Superintendent Douglas Ouellette inspects the plant’s operation panel. The facility was recently honored by the U.S. EPA in recognition of its superior operations and ongoing improvement and maintenance. Photo by Jeff McDonough “We were thrilled,” he said. “This is the big one.”

Ouellette attributes the plant’s success to having a staff of operators who are both conscientious and educated when it comes to running the plant smoothly and efficiently. They include David Greene, assistant superintendent; Paul Robertson, plant operator; and Bill Petrarca, the Saturday operator.

The entire staff has been certifi ed by the state of R.I. to work in a wastewater treatment facility. In addition, staff members regularly attend continuing education courses to brush up on their knowledge of wastewater treatment technology.

In 2008, the plant received a collections and facilities upgrade. Everything is new, from the pumping equipment to the computer maintenance program, Ouellette said.

“The equipment definitely contributed to us getting the award,” he said. “It’s top of the line. It’s pretty much the best stuff you can get. I have to give the town credit for that.”

Ouellette said the staff’s routine maintenance of the plant’s equipment was also crucial to receiving the EPA award. He said he regularly authorizes routine checks to be sure all plant equipment is in top working order.

As for whether the plant will need increased funding, Ouellette said, “There is always room for improvements.”

Currently, he said, he and his staff are looking for ways to improve the collections (pipe) system.

The plant, which is located by Taylor Point under the Newport Pell Bridge, was first built in 1979.

“It’s a small facility compared to surrounding communities,” said Ouellette, who estimates that a city like Providence treats approximately 20 to 30 million gallons of sewage a day.

Unlike some other communities, Jamestown does not operate under a combined sewer system, in which the sewage system shares its pipes with the storm sewers. Rather, the town operates under what Ouellette calls a “sanitary system” – one that does not share lines with the storm sewers.

As a wastewater treatment plant, the facility’s main focus is on the treatment of residential domestic waste.

“Basically, it includes any water being pumped out of a home’s toilet, shower or sink,” he said.

The process of sanitizing the water is arduous, but Ouellette still doesn’t qualify the fi- nal product as safe for human consumption. After the town’s sewage water is collected at the head works (from about 15 miles of pipeline and four pumping stations), the water then goes through several processes of filtration. It begins in the grit tank, where it is mixed with activated sludge, followed by the aeration basin, the secondary clarifiers and finally, the contact tank. The final product is treated with sodium hypochlorite and is then sanitary enough to be discharged into Narragansett Bay, just north of the Newport Pell Bridge.

So is the water clean enough to drink at this point?

Not exactly. “I wouldn’t, just because of the virtue of where it comes from,” he said. “Is it clean enough to go into the golf course pond or is it clean enough to go into the bay and not make anyone sick or have an impact on the environment? Yes.”

Last year, 195 million gallons of sewage water were treated by Jamestown’s Wastewater Treatment Facility.

During this time, Ouellette requested that the town send notices to residents, asking them to remove any sump pumps that were still tied into the sewer system. Leftover sump pumps can be problematic, he said, as when storm water leeches into basements, that water gets pumped directly into the sewers.

“You don’t want to treat water you don’t have to treat, like storm water. You just want to treat the sewage,” he said.

Eventually, Ouellette and his team will scour out and remove the remainder of homes that still have illegal sump pumps connected to the sewer system.

Ouellette estimates that Jamestown’s recent bouts of snow and rain have accounted for approximately 11,400,000 additional gallons of water.

The peak flow of water will generally take place during the springtime, from March to May.

Not to mention during the week between the hours of 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., he said.

At the wastewater treatment plant, this part of the day is known as the “morning slug” – the peak time during which residents are showering, using sinks and flushing toilets.

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