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The New Falcon Herald
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
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  Volume No. 11 Issue No. 4 April 2014  

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Feature Stories
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Jason Gray
  Behind the scenes at the Falcon lift station
  The inside scoop on wastewater
  By Jason Gray
  Photos by Jason Gray

   The new, state-of-the-art wastewater lift station behind Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant on McLaughlin Road in Falcon has been completed, after 18 months under construction. Construction on the station, which serves the Meridian Service Metropolitan District and the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District, began when the Mexican restaurant was still Poblano’s.
   A lift station is a pumping facility designed to take wastewater from gravity-fed pipes, partially filter the effluent, and then pump the water to a higher point where gravity can take over again on its way to the treatment plant. The Meridian Ranch portion of the water goes to the district's new facility, built in cooperation with the Cherokee Metropolitan District, 22 miles southeast. The Woodmen Hills portion is pumped back to that district's facility in Falcon.
   Why it is needed
   The station was built to accommodate the needs of the growing communities north of Woodmen Road in Falcon. Tim Hunker, manager of the Meridian Service Metro District, said it will handle the current needs, as well as any future growth over the next decades. “We're currently sending 140,000 gallons of wastewater per day to our treatment plant, and Woodmen Hills is sending 500,000 gallons to their own facility,” Hunker said.
   With about 2,500 homes in Woodmen Hills and 1,200 homes in Meridian Ranch, an average of 160 gallons of waste is created per home, Hunker said. “We need 200 gallons per home per day peak capacity, which is what is generated when everyone is home for a full day like Super Bowl Sunday,” he said. “Otherwise, since we're a bedroom community, part of the residents' waste is taken care of at work.”
   The construction
   The station stands on a compact piece of land owned by Woodmen Hills, between McLaughlin Road and the satellite dish farm owned by Falcon Broadband. The tight space led to creative construction methods and a longer build. The station extends three stories underground. “With things like commercial buildings, they can put them up pretty quick because they're just concrete panels. Something like this you can't lift in a 2-foot thick 26-foot tall concrete wall,” said Jeff Scheble of Fischer Construction, contractor for the project. “It had to be poured in place and allowed to cure. It's lots of steel and lots of concrete; 30,000 tons of steel and 2,500 yards of concrete went into this.”
   The need to build down to fit produced unusual design features. “Some things have never been done before, like stacking the equalization tank and the emergency tank. You can have 300,000 gallons of water and 2 feet of concrete in one tank and be able to walk around underneath that,” Scheble said.
   The metro district tried to lessen the impacts on their neighbors during the build and in the final design, said Doug Woods, developer of Meridian Ranch. “The county had us put plants and grass inside the fence line since the nearby houses can look down into the property,” he said. Odor and noise were also considered in the design. “We put ozone into the discharge of the ventilation system, so there will not be any smell for the neighbors,” Hunker said. The massive ventilation system in the machinery rooms exchanges the air within the building five times each hour, Scheble said.
   Some aspects of the construction did impact the neighboring businesses. The access road from McLaughlin Road to Hope Montessori and Guadalajara was closed until November. Crane lifts sometimes interfered with Falcon Broadband's satellite feeds. “We had a couple times that there were service interruptions because a big item was in the way of our satellite feed, but once we got up here and realized what was going on, we were able to work with them to make sure they didn't pass in front of the receivers,” said Brandon DeYoung, network manager at Falcon Broadband.
   How it works
   The station partially filters the wastewater before pumping it to the treatment plants to be finished. “This is what you would see at the start of a wastewater treatment plant,” Hunker said. “We do it here so our pipelines stay somewhat clean and last longer. You're not getting everything out of it, but we get rid of all the grit and heavier stuff since our pipelines are so long.”
   Downstairs from the control room is the first part of the process. “First, the water comes in from the districts through a mechanical grid that gets rid of large items like textiles. A conveyor system drags that upstairs to a bagging machine so it can be sent to a landfill,” Hunker said. “Then, we flow to the Pista Grit system that removes your eggshells, organics, sand and dirt. It allows everything to settle out. That material gets de-watered and into the bagging system.”
   Four large pumps, two each dedicated to the two metro districts served, pump the filtered wastewater to the two plants, where it is treated and filtered to meet environmental standards to be released back into the water cycle.
   “The plant runs free from human interaction,” Scheble said. “There are ultrasonic sensors that sense materials packing against the screens; detect any water rise and turn on the screens or pumps.” Hunker said the touchscreen panel in the control room can be mirrored on laptops at the districts' offices, so routine faults can be solved without someone driving to the station.
   Safety and redundancy built in
   The odorous and dangerous consequences of a failure led to many security and redundant systems built into the process. Some are simpler than others. “If the large item grate or Pista Grit system fails, there's a mechanical solution,” Hunker said, pointing to a long-handled rake leaning against the wall. Surveillance cameras and keypad entry doors prevent tampering.
   There is 500,000 gallons of underground storage tank capacity ready for pump failures or other breakdowns. Sensors in the wet wells turn on emergency diversion and automatically alert district officials. “Between here and the plants, there is four days of storage we can use before we have to tell people they can't take a shower,” Schelbe said. “Between the plants' simple designs and the station's off-the-shelf replaceable parts, we can't think of anything that could break that we couldn't at least get a Band-Aid fix on in four days.”
   “As their closest neighbor, we're particularly concerned about making sure there isn't a risk of a release,” DeYoung said. “But with four pumps going somewhere, you could have a pretty catastrophic failure; and they could take care of things even before the emergency tanks start filling.”
   Built for the future
   The facility was designed to fill the needs of Meridian Ranch and Woodmen Hills at full capacity, as well as additional homes eventually built in the Falcon area. There is room to add pumps and use the 300,000-gallon equalization tank to balance peak and off-peak times. “Fifteen or 20 years down the line, we can add the machinery to do that,” Hunker said. “In the meantime, it gives us plenty of storage space for stuff.”
   “It's not gold plated or anything, but it is a solid, effective and efficient plant that we think will last a long time,” Woods said.


Tim Hunker and Jeff Scheble of Fischer Construction examine the touchscreen panel that can control the entire station.

Tim Hunker of Meridian Metropolitan District shows off one of the station's four powerful pumps.

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