Water Resource Recovery Facility set for Phase I improvements

Mebane's City Council approved earlier this month a series of improvements to the town's Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF). The Phase I improvements, which will cost the city's Utility Fund approximately $583,000, includes a variety of enhancements and improvements to the facility along Corrigidor Street, behind the Mebane Arts and Community Center. One component of the program is a new pilot program using kenaf, a locally-grown plant that cycles into the wastewater system. City officials hope the kenaf will improve Mebane's wastewater treatment capabilities. 

At this month’s Mebane City Council meeting, the elected leaders unanimously approved a proposal to complete Phase I improvements to the town’s Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF). The City will be replacing 25-year-old equipment at the site, which lies along Corrigidor Street behind the Mebane Arts and Community Center. 

“We’ve seen this project coming for a couple of years. It’s been in our long-range plan for a while now, this upgrade,” Mebane Finance Director Jeanne Tate told members of the City Council at their April 1 meeting. “The engineering firm that we’re using, it’s the same firm they used before on the earlier phase of the project. We’re going to establish a new capital project for this, to begin this next phase.”  

This initial budget amendment will transfer $583,000 from Mebane’s Utility Fund into the new capital project to begin the design phase. 

“They expect the design phase to be done next spring,” Tate informed the elected board. 

“This next phase has been a long time coming,” Mebane Water Resources Director Dennis Hodge added. “We’ve been working on this in some form or another since probably 2010. We’ve done quite a bit of work up at the plant. But this phase, we’re really getting into replacing some of our 25-year-old equipment. A big part of it is that.”

Some of the projects scheduled to be completed at the Mebane WRRF as part of this overall Phase I improvement includes the addition of secondary clarifiers and polymer feed upgrades and improvements for enhanced settling and performance, new screening, grit removal, and flow measuring, a new rotary drum for improved sludge thickening, and new diffused aeration, which Hodges hopes will control the odor around the facility and its impact on surrounding neighbors. 

“One big thing, which the public could be concerned about, is the odor,” Hodges said. “We will be putting in new aeration equipment. It may not completely eliminate it (the local odor), but it should definitely reduce the amount of time that it happens.” 

At the WRRF site, Hodges and his staff are implementing a mobile organic biofilm piloting program that uses kenaf, a plant that grows in North Carolina. Part of the money set aside for improvements includes a rotary drum for recycling the kenaf through the wastewater system, with the hope that the kenaf will improve the City’s wastewater treatment capabilities. 

“We are going to be testing a piloting system that uses this plant material. This is called kenaf,” Hodges said. “It’s a plant grown in Eastern North Carolina. It actually looks like marijuana when it’s grown. What it does, this material, it creates this layer. This is a renewable product. This is totally green technology. It’s re-used within the system. As it goes through the system, it has a screen that takes it back through the system. So very little of it is lost. It’s actually used for a lot of different things. Ford Escape and BMW have used it to make the resin in some of the plastic parts. It will start saving a lot of the different petroleum products that we use.”

Mebane was initially considering installing a biological neutron removal system at a cost of $1.8 million. But the City wound up saving that money, as well as some of the operating costs associated to that, which has allowed town officials to look at innovative new technology that is coming down the pipeline.

“Even though this process has been kind of delayed a little bit, it’s really worked to our advantage,” Hodges explained.