On May 11, 2012, the Sewer District conducted a walking tour for elected officials at its Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant and Renewable Energy Facility in Cuyahoga Heights. Executive Director Ciaccia accompanied the group along with a number of other Sewer District staff.
Tour attendees included (l-r) Cuyahoga County Councilman Pernel Jones, State Rep. Nickie Antonio, Mayor Susan Renda, Mayor Jack Bacci, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman C. Ellen Connally, and Mayor Richard Balbier.
The weather was agreeable—sunny and mild. Attendees began the tour at the Headworks, where the initial step in the wastewater treatment process begins (also called preliminary treatment). At this stage, grit, debris and other large particles are removed from the wastewater. The grit screens were prominent, which act as sieves to catch large floating debris (such as sticks and rags). Before moving on to the Renewable Energy Facility, attendees also saw the Primary Settling Tanks where solid particles are removed through settling and flotation.
The Renewable Energy Facility (REF) was a highlight of the tour and generated much enthusiasm and many questions. Still under construction, attendees were able to see ongoing construction firsthand at the $198 million facility. The project, replacement of four multiple hearth incinerators with three fluidized bed incinerators, construction of a steam turbine generator system that will produce electricity from the excess heat in the incinerator exhaust gases, and a new instrumentation and controls system, will allow the Sewer District to burn sewage sludge more efficiently, and will incorporate environmentally friendly and cost-effective practices. Completion of the project will occur in 2013, though initial work toward ramping up the equipment has already begun.
After viewing the REF, attendees viewed the Second Stage process and the gravity belt thickeners which were a very graphic depiction of exactly what is being treated at the facility. Finally, attendees viewed the outfall, where the urban water cycle begins all over again (effluent from the plant returns from Southerly to the Cuyahoga River).
The Sewer District will continue to conduct tours through October, and at other locations.