By Elizabeth Wilkerson - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Moving from Strasburg's current water plant to a new $14 million facility will be "like going from a Volkswagen to a Suburban," Public Utilities Director Ron Tewalt said.
"Compared to what we have now, it's gonna be huge," Tewalt said of the new plant in a May interview.
On Friday, a group of town officials, staff members and others officially broke ground at the site of Strasburg's new water treatment plant, which will be located near Strasburg High School.
The current plant was built in 1936, Tewalt said, and, because of its location, it couldn't be expanded "to get the quality we need." So, officials decided that if they couldn't expand the current plant, they'd consider the town's future needs when designing the new one, he said.
The new plant will be sized to treat 3 million gallons of water per day, but it can be easily expanded to handle twice that amount, he said. So, if the economy recovers and "we have another boom, we won't have to build a new plant," he said.
The new facility will be "basically the same type of plant," he said, though it will use a different, safer disinfectant. Also, operators will run the new plant with a computer system, he said, and stations will be located throughout the facility.
During a typical day at the water plant, operators monitor the system to be sure they're feeding the right amount of chemicals into it and "basically even everything out," assistant chief operator Paul Nesselrodt said Friday.
"Basically, [you] just drive it like you would a car, you know," he said, and respond to changing conditions and situations.
Operators have their hands full at times, such as during heavy rains when the North Fork of the Shenandoah River "turns into mud," Tewalt said.
"These guys fight battles all the time," Tewalt said, but since they're out of sight, they're often out of mind. Nesselrodt said some residents know where their water comes from, and some don't.
"We try to keep the people informed as much as possible," he said. "Everybody takes too much for granted today. They don't realize what's involved to get things done."
More goes into treating the town's water than going into the plant and turning it on, Nesselrodt said, "especially when it gets muddy" and operators must make changes quickly. The plant is in operation "pretty much round the clock," he said.
Construction should take about 18 months, Town Manager Kevin Fauber said Friday. Tewalt said the town would probably sell the equipment from the old plant to other plants that need it once the new facility is complete.
Nesselrodt said Friday was a "great day for the town, the employees and everybody involved."
"And it's something they really need," he said.