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Strasburg water plant nears completion

Chris Ritenour, chief operator of the Strasburg water treatment plant, stands by a reservoir at the town's new, larger facility set to start running in the next month or two. Alex Bridges/Daily

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg's new $12 million water treatment plant could come online for testing as early as next week. But those necessary tests could take weeks and consumers may not see water from the facility until December, according to Chief Operator Chris Ritenour.

While workers on Monday continued to put finishing touches on the construction of the plant, tanker-trailers hauled deliveries of chemicals used to treat the water taken from the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

The plant must undergo numerous evaluations and the department needs to obtain a waterworks operation permit from the Virginia Department of Health before the facility can distribute water to the town's users, Ritenour explained.

Members of the Town Council's infrastructure committee heard the update from Ritenour at their meeting Monday. Ritenour told the panel some of the plant processes could begin by the end of the week. Testing and other preliminary operations depend on deliveries of the chemicals used in the processes, according to Ritenour. Some of the chemicals have been delivered.

"It appears that we could be producing water as early as mid-November," Ritenour said of when he expects to fill the plant's tanks and clear wells and conduct bacteriological testing.

In response to a question from Councilman Don Le Vine, Ritenour acknowledged the facility should produce and distribute water to consumers by December.

Councilwoman Sarah Mauck compared the pending start-up of the plant to waiting for the birth of a baby and pushing back the due date. Mauck suggested the start-up date could come as late as January, though Ritenour expressed hope that would not happen.

"It was a beautiful sight seeing a delivery truck standing in front of a tank," Ritenour said.

The staff also will need to undergo three to four days of training at the new plant.

Plant construction is behind schedule, but not by the industry standards, Ritenour said early Monday at the plant. Construction of projects of this size tend to continue for about a year after the estimated completion and work on some facilities have gone well beyond that, Ritenour said.

"As that goes I think we're doing pretty well," Ritenour added.

As the operator noted, Strasburg benefits from having an existing water treatment plant online that meets the demands of the town and remains within compliance of the applicable regulations.

"We're not pushed and we don't get a rushed job," Ritenour said. "We get a job that's been thoroughly taken care of."

Ritenour noted that should the town staff discover problems with the new facility, they can shut it down and restart the current plant.

The facility continues to receive shipments of the chemicals needed in the treatment processes, a good sign the plant's completion lies near, according to Ritenour. But the operator noted the difficulty in determining short-term, minimal orders for chemicals for the current facility.

Staff coordinates operations through a main center. The site includes other storage and maintenance buildings, separate tanks for chemicals and water.

Plant workers plan to test water from the source -- the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Ritenour said.

"It's just a chain of events that we have to go through to bring it up online," Ritenour said. "I have never been a part of starting a facility from scratch, so it's going to be a major challenge for me and my staff members."

Efforts to build a new facility began in 2008 after the existing plant reached 80 percent operational capacity. Water supply regulations required the town to look into expanding its capacity, Ritenour explained.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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