Screw Pumps Back Online
As of Friday, September 14, three of four screw pumps at the Duck Island wastewater treatment plant were back online after experiencing malfunctions recently. The fourth unit is expected to be repaired by early October.
The massive screw pumps begin the treatment process by lifting raw sewage from the influent wetwell into bar screens that sift out large trash particles, sticks and rags. While the facility can operate and process normal discharges with one screw pump, additional pumps provide backup for maintenance, repairs and wet weather flows.
City officials are working with the manufacturer and general contractor to determine the cause of the pump failures and to identify measures to be taken to avoid further problems.
Septage Service Generates Earned Revenue
Residents may notice septic trucks with New Hampshire and possibly Vermont plates as well as Massachusetts entering the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility. Since most surrounding towns as well as a few residents in Lowell are not connected to a sewer system, the Wastewater Utility is equipped to provide this service and to generate non-tax revenue for the city.
Septage haulers are charged $.07 per gallon to discharge their septage generating $1.5 million last year. Revenues for this fiscal year (July 1 to September 14) have topped $330,000.
Recent upgrades to the plant allow us to receive and treat both residential and commercial septage waste from multiple trucks simultaneously, shortening the time to discharge and the time trucks need to be on site. This has enhanced the Utility’s ability to receive more septage and makes the Utility a preferable location for septage haulers. Currently, approximately thirty septage haulers are permitted with the City of Lowell.
The Utility continues to explore ways to increase non-tax revenue streams.
Odor Complaints Plummet
With new odor control systems in place, complaints about noxious stenches have taken, well, a “nose dive.” Over the last year, the Wastewater Utility reported no complaints due to treatment processes. A few complaints have been received that were attributable to sludge hauling and the wastewater collection system but these were minor in intensity, duration and reach.
New odor control technologies were installed as part of capital upgrades which also included installation of energy efficient mechanical systems, solar energy panels and other infrastructure improvements.