Ann Arbor has launched a planning project to rehabilitate the city’s 84-year-old Water Treatment Plant (WTP). The two-year project, called the WTP Facility Plan
, will take into account regulatory requirements, emerging contaminants, and the cost and maintenance of plant operations.
"The goal is to create a roadmap and define the scope for future design and construction phases,'' says Glen Wiczorek, WTP's engineer and the plan's project manager. "It's really about positioning the water plant to handle the new challenges for the next several decades."
Wiczorek shares that a main driver of the project is the need to address the plant's aging infrastructure. The city is honing in on the rehabilitation, or replacement, of elements that have been around since the plant's inception.
"At the heart of the project is the replacement of our lime softening basins," he says. "These are some of the main components of the original 1938 construction, and one of the critical steps of our water treatment process."
The facility plan will also address new regulatory requirements in emerging contaminants, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – which have been detected in the Huron River in recent years
. The 2018 and 2019 installations of new granular-activated carbon in WTP filters have already proven effective in managing PFAS. Levels of two PFAS-related chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, in the city's drinking water have not been detected since this change. Wiczorek says the city's continuing PFAS treatment efforts will likely result in filter improvements at the WTP. He adds that other community contaminants, like Ann Arbor and Scio Township's 1,4 dioxane plume
and a recent chromium spill
in the Huron River, will "provide a roadmap for the water plant to address these contaminants in our raw water sources moving forward."
Wiczorek says public engagement during the two-year WTP study phase is "a high priority" for the city. Currently, the city provides drinking water to approximately 125,000 people residing in Ann Arbor, Scio Township, and Ann Arbor Township. Expanding the WTP's physical footprint is impossible, meaning that new improvements have to be built in and around the existing infrastructure.
"We started on a very comprehensive and potentially transformative study phase that has a lot of challenges," Wiczorek says. "There's going to be a vast amount of information and resources for residents, and we're really encouraging people to visit the project online and share their input
Jaishree Drepaul is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of the city of Ann Arbor.