PALMETTO -- A decade-old wastewater management project to bring an alternate sustainable water supply to Palmetto is close to completion.
Within two years, a 500-foot aquifer storage recovery, or ASR, well is expected to be fully functional at the city's wastewater treatment facility. The well will allow the city to store reclaimed water and cut expenses for discharging surplus water.
Under the system, treated wastewater is pumped into the aquifer for storage, then drawn through the city's water reuse system for irrigation or potable use. ASR wells can be used for potable, reclaimed or partially treated surface water.
After being fined $96,200 by the state Department of Environmental Protection in 1999 for discharging treated wastewater with higher-than-allowed amounts of copper and nickel into Terra Ceia Bay, the city has worked to install the well.
Palmetto completed a reclaimed
water ASR feasibility study in October 2005 that recommended the city develop the well to provide wet weather storage at its treatment plant site.
Allen Tusing, Palmetto's public works director, said testing and other operations are the last remaining stages of the project. Crews detected arsenic in the well's ground water and the city must push water into the ground to make rock formations release the arsenic chemicals. Tusing said the city will also inject sodium bisulfate into the well to strip oxygen from the water.
The ASR well will store an estimated 144 million gallons of reclaimed water during wet weather periods to help offset future groundwater supply. If water stored in the aquifer is for potable supply, it is disinfected when it is withdrawn from storage, retreated if necessary and pumped into the distribution system.
Tusing said the well must be able to sustain 30 million gallons of water for 30 days before the city can withdraw, per DEP rules.
"It can take a long time to put that much water in," he said.
The total project cost for the well is $2.3 million, with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the city splitting the cost, said Susana Tarokh, district spokeswoman. The Manasota Basin contributed $389,000 for the design and permitting of the well in 2007 and an additional $272,000 in 2008. In addition, the Water Protection Sustainability Trust Fund contributed a combined $208,000 between 2007 and 2008 and SWFWMD approved $405,000 in additional funds late last year.
"Currently, when it rains we generate more water than customers can use and we have to discharge it to Terra Ceia Bay," Tusing said. "It's a waste of good water."
Tusing said the city discharges hundreds of thousands of gallons of reclaimed water in the bay and the process costs the city thousands of dollars.
"We try very hard not to because it costs us more money when we discharge because we have to do different processes," he said. "We have to do more testing for the state for our permit. As long as we don't discharge, those costs go away."
The city's treatment plant last discharged into the bay 18 month ago, Tusing said. An alternative supply would aid the city during the dry months.
"When we go through a dry spell and it doesn't rain, and the demand is high, I don't have enough water to give to everybody," Tusing said. "By putting it in the ground, we can store it and when the dry spell comes we can pull it out and use it. Our alternate water supply becomes more dependable. When we use non-potable water, it makes our reservoir last longer, makes everything last longer if we're able to use reclaimed water."
The city has requested an additional $450,000 for 2014, which will be finalized at the end of September.
The original Palmetto wastewater treatment plant opened 1960 and was upgraded to an advanced waste water facility in 1979.
Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams