Full filtration fulfilled

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, July 12, 2017
West Liberty water has always been safe, but the latest updates to the city’s water filtration plant are bringing out its fullest potential.

The city’s new reverse osmosis (RO) filtration system is officially up an running as of Wednesday, June 28. The result, softer contaminate free water.

“It’s not a hundred percent soft water,” says Water Superintendent George Pearl. “We are blending it, so you still have some hard water going out there.”

About two-thirds of city water now goes through the newly installed RO filtration system, while the other third goes through the iron-removal system.

The water is then blended back together and stored in West Liberty’s water towers until needed by the community members.

Thus, a $3 million five-year long reconstruction project to West Liberty’s water plant has, for the most part, finally come to a close.

“The water was always safe, but if the DNR would come down with more stringent regulations this system should be able to handle any new mandates,” says Pearl.

The city’s new RO system removes up to 98 percent of contaminates in the water, including lead, sulfates, radium, nitrates and hardness through a semipermeable membrane.

The RO system works in tandem with the city’s iron-filtration system, which was installed back in April of 2014.

Actually, it’s all been part of a two-phase reconstruction project that began back in 2010 with an agreement with Coralville-based Veenstra & Kim Inc. to put together a plan.

In 2010 the city’s 24-year-old cascading-type aerator and Tonka dualator gravity water filter was beginning to crack and leak.

The city water plant had also begun to detect larger amounts of lead and radium in the water. It wasn’t deadly, but it was noticeable.

Phase one, completed in April, 2014, installed new primary-water treatment iron filters at the plant.

The $1.3 million phase also included an addition to the 1986 facility for the three primary filter cells to sit in, as well as other various small improvements to the plant.

Phase two, completed in June, 2017, installed secondary-water treatment filters that use reverse osmosis.

The $1.8 million phase also included the addition of a new office space, a foyer, a chemical room and a new master control center.

On an average day around 300,000 to 350,000 gallons of water is filtered through West Liberty’s water plant. It can filter as much as 700,000 gallons.

Demand goes up during summer with the watering of yards and filling of pools. In fact, the city pool takes 322,000 gallons to fill in Kimberly Park.

Water is drawn up from the city’s wells, travels through disinfection and filtration and is stored underground and above ground.

When it comes to the water’s regulation the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at the top.

Under that is Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is what communities like West Liberty look to for regulation requirements.

Primary contaminates have to be monitored, such as lead, copper, arsenic, radium and 99 other contaminants.

West Liberty’s new RO system was built in Florida and shipped in at the beginning of the year. Several old, unused, tanks had to be removed through the ceiling to make room.

While the RO system was online as early as June 22, the system had to go through a series of tests that took them back offline.

“We were making sure it would start up when it’s supposed to and stop when it’s supposed to, it takes several hours for the pumps to run,” says Superintendent Pearl.

However, RO went online full-time Wednesday, June 28 and hasn’t been shut off since.

The water construction project went through several evolutions during its lifespan, at one point the city considered electrodialysis reversal (EDR) instead of reverse osmosis (RO).

However, it made the jump to RO due to the competitive nature of companies installing RO, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

West Liberty also scored a State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan for the second phase of construction, which has a lower interest rate than a typical loan.

Except for some final touches and cleanup, construction has finished at the water plant. With ongoing construction at the wastewater plant and Maxson Street there’s still plenty to keep the city busy.
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