A new Westminster water treatment facility should go along Westminster Boulevard and the Boulder Turnpike, according to a city committee. City staff will take that recommendation to the City Council …
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A new Westminster water treatment facility should go along Westminster Boulevard and the Boulder Turnpike, according to a city committee.
City staff will take that recommendation to the City Council and residents at a City Council study session meeting June 17.
“At this point, it’s just a recommendation to City Council from the Water 2025 Steering Committee,” Public Works Director Max Kirschbaum said. “The next step, to proceed forward, will be come back in July and have the council formally approve moving forward.”
Kirschbaum said the recommendation puts the city a step closer opening up a new treatment facility according to schedule. If councilors approve the site, staff would begin designing the facility in 2021 with a plan of opening it in 2025.
“We started this back in 2014,” he said. “It’ll be 11 years of effort getting to that first drop of water.”
Westminster is served by two drinking water treatment facilities, the smaller Northwest Water Treatment Facility on 104th and Wadsworth Boulevard that treats about 15 million gallons of water daily and the Semper Facility on 88th Avenue at Lamar. The Semper facility treats about 44 million gallons daily.
Both facilities are surrounded by private development or flood plains and can’t be expanded.
The Northwest facility came online in about 2001, but the Semper facility began its life in 1969.
A new facility is meant to replace the city’s aging Semper Water Treatment Facility.
The city began looking for a location for a new drinking water treatment facility in 2018 and narrowed the list to two locations — southeast of 108th Avenue and Dover Street or in the open space east of U.S. 36 or Westminster Boulevard, south of 104th.
The city created an online community survey to gauge residents opinions, and the Westminster Boulevard option was the favorite. It’s currently open space, and that did factor into the steering committee’s recommendation.
“We determined early on in the process that everything should be on the table and nothing should be prohibited,” Kirschbaum said. “We even considered sites outside of city boundaries but contiguous, that could be annexed for this process. So we cast the widest net possible.”
One reason the Westminster Boulevard site rose to the top because it has better access.
“Even though both sites were accessible, the road access to the Westminster Boulevard is a little better and a little easier,” he said. “That counts for construction purposes to be sure, but also it’s a site where we will have periodic deliveries. You have to think about getting tanker trucks in and out easily. Also, this had potentially more acreage available and that gives us options into the future when a second phase of construction could be needed.”
If councilors approve the site in July, Kirschbaum said the city will need to decide what kind of water treatment technology the new facility will use. The Semper Facility uses traditional filtering and relies on sand and carbon to treat the water. The Northwest Plant uses more expensive membrane filtration.
“It operates differently and the building has a smaller footprint,” he said.
The water is also treated with chlorine and ammonia.
Kirschbaum said the city hopes to set up a pilot testing program in the Semper facility to compare different filtration and treatment methods in the next year.
“It’s likely we won’t use the same traditional type of filtration,” he said. “One of the things we want is the ability to successfully treat more challenging raw water. We want to treat water that could come from something like a fire in our watershed.”
A mountain fire leaving ash in the water supply could overwhelm the Semper Facility, he said.
“The pilot testing we’re doing will be critical,” he said. “We’ll test water that reflects those conditions.”
Kirschbaum said pilot facility should open sometime in 2020 and be in operation for at least 10 months.
“We want to be able to test all of the challenging water changes that occur throughout the cycle of a year,” he said.
Testing could include various types of filtration and disinfectants, including ultra-violet light.
“I think the trick will be to put certain pieces together, so one piece can deal with a heavy load of organic pollution, like a forest fire, with something else,” he said. “We’ll start determining what pieces we want to model and test in the next few months.”
Results from that test will determine what the new plant will look like and how it will operate.
“Until we go through that piece and determine what technology we’ll use, we won’t know what the building footprint will look like.”
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