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August 27, 2013 | 02:40 PMWALWORTH — The Fontana Walworth Wastewater Treatment Plant flushes two tons of salt down the drain every day.
That salt is not a good thing.
Doug York, plant superintendent, said the state DNR requires the plant to notify the public about the environmental issues concerning the plant.
The salt problem is easily corrected if area homeowners pay attention.
“The main thing that most people can take care of (is their water softener),” York said. “More and more people bring more chloride into our system.”
Water softeners remove rust and other minerals from the water, and salt water is used to flush the softener. All the removed minerals and salt go into the sewer.
“All that really salty water from the softener comes to the plant,” York said.
The plant has no way to remove the salt. What comes in, goes right back out.
“We don’t have a removal system,” York said. “The only way to remove (the salt) is a desalinization system like they use on larger cruise ships or where sea water is used for drinking water. If it comes to us (at the plant) as chloride, it leaves as chloride.”
The solution is to limit salt at the source, residences and industry in the area.
“Industrial chloride competes with residential chloride,” York said. “We’ve talked with the industries here, and they’ve voluntarily complied with our suggestions.”
York said changes can save businesses and homeowners money.
“We remind people they can keep their (water) softeners tuned up and turn them off when they can,” he said. “If the softener runs on a timer, (it) just recycles the water at regular intervals. If they’re at their regular homes in Illinois or elsewhere, (the softener) is wasting salt and adding chloride to the system.”
If the softener is turned off when vacationers leave their summer homes, it saves money on salt and helps reduce the salt put through the water treatment plant.
York said recirculating systems are used in local industries to save money as well.
EPA and DNR
“The (U.S.) EPA just basically noticed how close we (the plant) are to Illinois,” York said. “Illinois’ strict limit is 500 milligrams per liter. (The EPA) wanted us to meet Illinois’ standard.”
The current standard for chloride in the Fontana Walworth plant is 660 mg/L, which was reduced from 770 mg/L in May.
Every five years, the plant receives an operating permit from the DNR. The permit mandates the amount of salt, or chloride, allowed to pass through the plant.
“The state of Wisconsin would like to see 400 mg/L as a maximum discharge,” York said. “Not very many plants can meet that limit. That is the goal, though. On average, our plant releases about 500 mg/L per day. We’re below our limits, but we don’t have a lot of wiggle room in there.”
The location of the plant in relation to Illinois increased the standards, but the plant’s physical location helps it meet the standards.
“We can do that because of the dilution from the drain tiles in the farm fields around here,” York said. “If we release 550 mg/L ... once it leaves our plant, it travels a mile and a half through those farm fields. By the time the water reaches Illinois, in general it’s down to about 150 to 175 mg/L of chloride.” Every day, the plant receives water samples from Fontana, Walworth and the Kikkoman plant.
“From the analysis of those samples, we keep track of the solids, the chloride levels and any contaminants,” York said. “You take the amount of mg/L ... it was just a couple of weeks ago that a lab manager brought the results up. We started looking at historically how we’ve been doing.”
York said the plant has seen reduced chloride levels over the past year, with an increase in the summer.
“It was much worse a few years ago before we starting taking the initiative to go to industries and ask for voluntary cooperation,” York said.