By Nancy Covert
Anyone who’s had the opportunity to travel by train along the shoreline past Chambers Creek Golf Course or walk the new bridge to the beach has a better idea of the in-progress expansion at the county’s wastewater treatment plant, located nearby. Much of the soil removed from the eastern side of the operation this past fall has been relocated to the water side of the 220-acre site as part of the planned treatment facility expansion.
Additional trails for walkers are planned there once the expansion is finished.
Driving along Chambers Creek Road and viewing the jute/straw-covered hillside just doesn’t answer the questions.
Recently Plant Superintendent Larry Ekstrom gave an overview of what’s happening at the site.
The facility treats wastewater for Lakewood, University Place, DuPont, Steilacoom, and the unincorporated areas of the county (Midland, Parkland, Spanaway, South Hill and the Fredericksen Industrial area) according to Ekstrom.
When the expansion is completed, the plant will be able to handle 55 MGD (million gallons per day) of wastewater, up from the current 28.7 MGD.
Besides the expansion that, by 2015, will double the treatment plant’s capacity, a pilot program known as DEMON — short for “Deammonification” — is scheduled to be delivered this month.
Pierce County’s Chamber’s Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant is the first site on the west coast to trial a pilot study for this process, Ekstrom continued. The process also will be used at the Washington D.C. wastewater treatment plant.
DEMON has been successfully used at nine full-scale locations in Europe, such as Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.
Deammonification, Ekstrom explained, “will augment conventional biological nutrient removal and decrease the amount of energy and chemicals required to convert ammonia-nitrogen to nitrogen gas, significantly reducing nitrogen-loading to the marine environment.”
Ammonia, Ekstrom continued, “is a form of Nitrogen, the main pollutant that causes low dissolved oxygen levels: Discharges from wastewater treatment plants, septic systems and other sources add nitrogen to Puget Sound.
“Excess nitrogen causes excess algae growth. As algae dies and decays, they rob the water of dissolved oxygen. Once released into Puget Sound, nitrogen moves around. Nitrogen discharged at one spot may cause low dissolved oxygen levels many miles away.”
The treatment plant regularly tests for all those chemicals at their in-house laboratory.
The county’s facility is a top-notch lab, accredited by the Department of Ecology. The lab has won many awards for its stewardship over the area’s wastewater treatment process.
A detailed explanation of the plant’s expansion can be viewed at here.
According to information provided by Stefan Kamieniecki, Sewer Utility Senior Planner for PCPWU, the Utility and the City of University Place has monitored the western slope along Chambers Creek Road ever since the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and “has been able to identify movement in the slope, movement that if remained unchecked, could fail and again damage the road.”
Replanting is expected to begin in April and be completed by October, Ekstrom added.
Tours of the facility can be arranged by phoning (253) 798-3013.