Perryville residents take look at new water treatment plant

Saturday, August 17, 2002

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Directing water flow with efficiency and high technology, the staff of Perryville's new water treatment plant showed guests Friday just what the facility is capable of doing.

Residents toured the inner workings of the $8.8 million project their tax dollars paid for, which also includes a new water tank, two new wells and additional distribution lines. The plant sits just to the north side of town on Highway T. It has been in operation since January, but finishing the setup on the computer monitoring system took until just recently, said public works director Charles LaRose.

The project was paid for with a loan from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and bonds were approved by voters in 1998 to pay back the loan. As part of the bond ballot issue, voters approved an increase of Perryville's sales and property taxes, said city administrator Craig Lindsley.

The city recently increased water rates for customers by 22 percent. The increase was unrelated to the costs of the new treatment plant, which started construction in July 2000, Lindsley said. The change in water rates was made to align the customer rates with the city's expenses in providing service, which had not gone up in eight and a half years.

The plant was sorely needed by the city's 3,500 water customers, Lindsley said. The old plant, sitting down a hillside from the new one, processed 1.2 million gallons per day, but the new plant is designed to handle up to almost twice that, flowing 500 to 2,200 gallons per minute.

Higher quality standards

With a need for more water by its customers and the increasingly strict requirements of government water quality standards, Perryville had to find a way to build the project, LaRose said.

"We got to the point of having trouble with meeting our capacity needs and the needs of federal rules and regulations," Lindsley said. "This plant not only doubles our capacity, but now we can comply with environmental laws."

Two full-time operators and one backup operator make up the plant's team, headed by Jeremy Meyer. The staff uses a sophisticated lab and computers to test water samples that are constantly drawn by hoses from 12 points in the system.

The computer system also shows the plant's schematics on a single screen and allows an operator to zoom in on a specific area. If an alert become necessary, the computer automatically calls an operator's pager.

The building was designed for easy removal and replacement of its enormous tanks and pumps, with several automatic garage-style doors located throughout the structure.

The plant's chlorine supply, which is housed in a separate building for safety, is used more efficiently than at the old facility, LaRose said. Now, because of the smarter design of the new plant, operators don't have to constantly add chlorine during the process to keep it at a certain level.

Water from the South Fork Saline Creek is pumped to the new plant, where it is sent through mixers and clarifiers and chemically treated for purity.

On Friday, Perryville's new plant was processing water at a sediment level of .042 percent, lower than the state's mandatory limit of .50 percent and strong evidence the plant is doing a great job, LaRose said.

"In the old days, we were fine most of the time, but if the creek got muddy, we'd have to shut down," LaRose said. "We don't have to do that anymore."

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