RICHMOND—After more than 10 years of actively struggling to meet wastewater standards, Richmond has been recognized by the Rural Water Association of Utah (RWAU) as the city with the most improved water system in Utah.
Mayor Mike Hall, Councilman Brad Jensen, and Scott Ball, the wastewater plant operator, received the award at the RWAU annual conference banquet in St. George on March 3.
Richmond’s wastewater problems can be traced back to as early 1982, when the population had grown enough that the city had to discharge waste water into the Cub River. In order to discharge into any body of water in the United States, a city must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. These permits are only awarded if the city meets standards set and enforced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Division of Water Quality. Richmond’s original sewer system discharged the waste into ponds designed for evaporation, and no permit was needed at that time.
The City Council and employees worked for years to come up with the most effective and sustainable way to meet permit requirements. One major plan was implemented in 1998, but ultimately failed. Seeing how many fines and penalties come with not meeting permit standards, the council spent a few years researching and debating different options. They decided on a membrane bioreactor (MBR) plant, a rapidly growing water treatment option. They felt it would be able to meet the permit requirements for the longest amount of time.
The city was able to obtain a no-interest bond through the state revolving fund and grant money from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to fund the $5.5 million project.
Councilman Brad Jensen, the council member over sewer and water, said the city put an advertisement in the newspaper for the plant operator position and found Scott Ball. A resident of Trenton, Ball had a good background in sewer and water systems and spent months shadowing Kevin Maughan, the plant operator at Hyrum city’s MBR plant.
“We made improvements on their plan and learned from their mistakes,” Jensen said.
The council members are pleased with how well the plant is working.
“The system’s working just the way it’s designed to,” Jensen said, mentioning that any small problems they’ve had with the plant have been taken care of. The council members are also excited about the plant’s provision of secondary water for gardens, resident’s yards, and irrigation systems.
Richmond was awarded a plaque for their achievement. All of the struggling paid off. “If you get a chance to go and take a tour, you should,” Jensen said of the plant. “It’s pretty amazing.”