Strasburg plant upgrade on track

Jay McKinley, interim Strasburg town manager, stands outside the oxidation ditch at the town's wastewater sewer plant. New construction upgrades include a system being constructed that cleans the water by removing nitrogen and phosphorous. Rich Cooley/Daily

Work on a $22 million upgrade to Strasburg’s wastewater treatment plant remains on track.

Crews with English Construction, the contracted building firm on the project, were on site Wednesday despite the snowfall from earlier in the day.

Director of Public Works Jay McKinley gave an update on the project’s construction at the site Wednesday. Work began on the upgrade almost 40 weeks ago.

The project aims to increase the amount of wastewater treated from 0.975 million gallons per day to 2.0 million gallons per day. The town needs to expand the plant not just to meet federal regulations but also to prepare for the future growth in the North Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park, McKinley said. The upgrade should suffice for the town for 20 years, he said.

“We want to have that capacity there to pull in businesses,” McKinley said. “We don’t want to have to turn somebody away just because we don’t have the infrastructure capacity.”

Town Councilman Rich Orndorff Jr. concurred.

“As the town expands and grows, you know, we’re assuming that residential growth will pick up again,” Orndorff said at the site, adding that Strasburg needs to be ready for businesses coming to the industrial park.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also requires municipalities to start planning for upgrades when plants near their capacity.

The design calls for upgrades to be built in various spots around the existing plant site. The main treatment facility will consist of several different-sized tanks that McKinley said will allow the plant flexibility. The facility will replace the oxidation ditches in which wastewater is treated with microorganisms.

In another section, crews are building the new, larger outfall line — essentially the pipe from which the clean, treated wastewater is released into Shenandoah River. The expanded capacity of the plant required that it have a much larger outfall line pipe.

The town also is having a force main installed from the new water treatment plant along the riverwalk trail to take sludge from that facility to the wastewater plant.

The influent pump station takes wastewater from the town at the beginning of the treatment process. McKinley described the new system, to be built adjacent to the existing station, as a suction-lift pump station that allows for easier access. The upgrade will expand the plant’s capacity from 2 million gallons per day to 10 million gallons per day. The town likely would only need the higher capacity during heavy rains, McKinley said.

The town faced the challenge of designing upgrades that would fit within the confines of the plant site. The facility abuts the town park and ball fields.

The town couldn’t have expanded outside the facility without removing the park or encroaching on the floodplain by the river, Orndorff said.

“We had to shoehorn this in,” McKinley said.

The contract calls for the project’s completion by October 2016. Town Council recently extended the contract by 42 days to account for time lost when the former Public Works building had to be demolished.

Stricter federal regulations for the treatment of wastewater released back into the Shenandoah River forced the town to upgrade the plant. Specifically, the town needed to decrease the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus — both nutrients targeted by environmental regulations.

The project initially came with a price tag of more than $30 million but Town Council and officials went back to the drawing board. Leaders decided to use the Virginia Public-Private Educational Facilities and Infrastructure Act when a firm offered to build the upgrade project. The town eventually went with Wendell Construction as the designer of the upgrade with English Construction as the builder.

The project also calls for the creation of a new Public Works Department building on land in the industrial park. The town had to have the building demolished last year after an inspection revealed problems with the structure. McKinley said the remaining concrete slab likely will support another building for the treatment plant operations.

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